Monday, 5 January 2015

A walk to the pub

I have mentioned before that some good "adventures" can often be had locally, and this month's was very local indeed! The last part of my 2014 birthday celebration to fall into place was a trip on a preserved railway, in the form of an "experience voucher" for a trip on a steam train. One of the railways involved was the Nene Valley Railway at Peterborough which can easily be reached from Stamford. It was for two and I invited one of my sons, Nick, who lives in Peterborough, to join me. He knew of a good pub in Yarwell and the day began to take shape ...

On a day in August I caught the 10:00 train from Stamford to Peterborough and walked round to the Nene Valley station off Oundle Road. There is a convenient walking route through the mainline station car park and along Bourges Boulevard, diverging at the Beehive pub and then crossing the river by footbridge. Some interesting river wildlife (mostly swans!) can be seen, and passing trains on the East Coast main line and the line to East Anglia. I met my son at the Nene Valley station, we exchanged the voucher for our train ticket and awaited the 11:00 train.

The Nene Valley has a wide variety of locomotives and coaches from a selection of countries and is therefore often in demand for film and TV work. The last time I visited I rode on coaches of The Blue Train used in the Poirot TV mystery of that name, but this time it was a rake of British Railways coaches painted in the 1950s crimson-and-cream livery of distant childhood memory, and the locomotive was not steam but a vintage diesel. This did not bother me as I had not been short of steam train rides in 2014 but it was not strictly what the voucher had been given for!

We bought coffee and biscuits and took our seats in a compartment and soon the train was on its way, leaving behind the city centre and making its way out parallel to Oundle Road, past the large housing area where the sugar factory used to be, and into Nene Park. It paused at the stations at Orton Mere (where on busier days trains in opposite directions pass each other) and Ferry Meadows and then we could see Castor in the distance as we approached Wansford station (which is actually at Stibbington!). The train waits for a while at Wansford and we did have a bit of a wander on the platform, looking at some of the coaches and lcomotives undergoing restoration there, before boarding again and continuing our journey to the end of the line at Yarwell Junction.

Yarwell Junction is actually no longer a junction but a terminus, and when it was a junction it didn't have a station! Now it does, and there is only access to it on foot, but this was all we needed. Using a map on my iPhone we set off on a country walk to Yarwell village and its traditional 17th century pub, the Angel Inn, where we would have our lunch. The Angel does not pretend to be a restaurant and advertises that it provides pub food for pubgoers, and that suited us fine, with a decent choice of real ale and simple English food. The walk was very pleasant indeed on a warm sunny day with light wind: some woodland, a little road, through the campsite at Yarwell Mill and across a field, and the only practical way back was the reverse of the same route - funny how it always seems quicker on the way back, probably because we knew the way and there were fewer new views at which you stop and look (it was also largely downhill going back!).

We caught the next train from Yarwell Junction and could simply have travelled back to Peterborough and ended our day there and then, but decided to go only as far as Ferry Meadows this time (we had a day rover ticket) and have another walk around the parkland there, with perhaps a cup of tea at the café. We sat and gazed over a lake where people were windsurfing and then the clouds came, swiftly followed by rain. We headed for the café building but, no longer hot, we simply sheltered in the doorway until the rain stopped (not long) and then headed off on another walk around the lakes. The sun came out again and our cup of tea came later, at the other café! I had forgotten the rain until I sat down to write this - it certainly did not spoil the day.

Back at Ferry Meadows station we awaited the final NVR train of the day back to Peterborough. At the station we could see the work under way to create a Travelling Post Office museum on the opposite side of the track, having seen some of the exhibits temporarily displayed at Wansford. All our trips were in the same coaches with the same diesel locomotive; for me bringing back childhood memories and for Nick an experience of a time before his life!

We said our farewell at the terminus and I went off to catch my Cross Country train home to Stamford and the end of a very short but very worthwhile adventure. This trip can be repeated on any day when a one train, three trip (or more) timetable is in operation, basically through the summer and weekends at some other times. Other country walks are available from Yarwell Junction, Ferry Meadows and even Orton Mere, and it is worth spending more time at Wansford to see the railway restoration work there and visit the gift shop. Plenty to do when time is too short to plan a long adventure to exotic places!

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