Our day out with Thomas the Tank on the Watercress Line

If you follow me on social media at all, you can’t have missed how excited I was when I recently won a Family Ticket for The Watercress Line’s Day out with Thomas event. If you haven’t heard of the Watercress Line (or to give it it’s full title The Mid Hants Railway – The Watercress Line), it’s a beautifully restored and maintained vintage steam and diesel railway line, running trains all year round from Alton to Alresford in Hampshire. If you haven’t heard of Thomas the Tank then where on earth have you been for the last century?

The competition was run on Instagram and asked you to share photos of your child playing with their Thomas toys. Seeing as how Oscar is such a big Thomas fan, I had plenty to hand and entered a few. This is the one that won and quite right too. I love it!

The IG photo that won the competition. The original caption said ""I'm working on one side of the table, he's working on the other. It's lush"

The IG photo that won the competition. The original caption said “I’m working on one side of the table, he’s working on the other. It’s lush”

We started to explain to Oscar where we were going and what we were doing two days before the Thomas experience even started, which was a massive mistake. Once he heard, he wanted to go NOW, NOW, NOW! School boy error on my part perhaps, but it did give him time to get his head around the idea. We used videos on the Watercress Line website, showed him pictures and talked him through what we might see, In his mind he had it all sorted. He was going to drive Thomas, I was going to ride in Clarabel and Ben was going to set the points.  And he told us all that with words, dontcha know!

Oscar marching up to the station as early as we could have possibly got there!

Oscar marching up to the station as early as we could have possibly got there!

A Day out with Thomas

A Day out with Thomas was running for a week this summer and Oscar’s excitement made sure we were stood on Ropley station platform, tickets in hand, at 9.30 on the first day it started. He was beside himself and to be honest so was I. I mean how often do you get to introduce your child to their idol? I’d seen photos of what to expect, but I wasn’t quite sure how authentic it would feel. I’ve heard of other ‘experiences’ that promise the world and fail to deliver, but I needn’t have worried. When Thomas puffed down the track my little boys screams of “It’s Thomas, he’s here” and how hard he jumped up and down told me all I needed to know. As did the fact that Oscar’s excitment made Ben well up 😉

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Just look at how perfect this Thomas is! It blew all our minds!

Thomas himself gives short trips up and down a small piece of track (well he is only a tank engine!) and when he arrived on the platform we started to walk straight to Annie and Clarabel (the carriages for those not in the know!). However, Oscar had other ideas. Despite all our prep, he was adamant he was there to drive Thomas. We told him over and over that he couldn’t, but it took quite a long time for him to understand (and a few tears). It was no ones fault. He just got an idea in his head and when that happens it takes some effort to change that.

We finally got him to ride in Annie and Clarabel, instead of in Thomas, but bless his heart if he wasn't just a little disappointed!

We finally got him to ride in Annie and Clarabel, instead of in Thomas, but bless his heart if he wasn’t just a little disappointed!

Riding while standing and looking out of the window is so much fun for my guy.

Riding while standing and looking out of the window is so much fun for my guy.

After a couple of rides in Thomas’s carriages, we went over the bridge (Oscar loves bridges) to check out the other attractions that were available. We got to ride actually in Toad the Brake Van (which went some way to compensating for him not getting to actually drive a tank engine. You know, at four years old 😆) and then took a ride in the carriages of a real steamie. Oscar insisted it was Neville, but to us it looked like Donald or Douglas. Oh yes we know all the names 😱.

We actually got to ride in Toad the Brake Van! Photo by Mid Hants Railway Watercress Line

We actually got to ride in Toad the Brake Van! Photo by Mid Hants Railway Watercress Line

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Just look at these beauties! Neville or Donald and Douglas, they were superb.

We rode up and down the line a few times, which despite the few small delays we experienced Oscar loved. And I mean loved. I don’t know if it was the movement or the look and feel of the coaches but he seemed to just be happy to be on the train. We stopped off at various stations and at one he convinced us to add another train to his collection.

Diesel 10 joins the crew

We bought this TrackMaster toy from one of the stations. I was happy to see the toys cost no more than you would pay in any other toy shop.

Boy on train playing with toy train

Diesel 10 came along for the ride!

Oscar just had the best time. Once he got over the idea of riding on the footplate he really enjoyed so much about this day. He found so many opportunities to mix his two favourite things, Thomas and movement. We went on so many rides on the train but also on the small fair at the side on the tracks at Ropley. He’s not one for colouring and such, but was happy to look round all the activities laid on in the station buildings.

Boy lying on train seat

Feeling the movement from another angle – that’s my little seeker for you.

We loved it

It was such a wonderful family day out and very thoughtfully aimed at small fans of Thomas, but I can’t tell you how much Ben and I also got out of it too! For me it was the vintage details that won the day. The stations were beautiful in themselves but also helped create a feeling of being ‘on Sodor’!

vintage rail platform sign and the bunting

The signs and the bunting – gorgeous!

Vintage toilet lock

Even the details on the loos at Ropley were beautiful! Spend a penny anyone?

The staff were also very helpful and all obviously proud of what they were doing. Oscar knew exactly who this was. He waited patiently to speak to him then told him “Fat Controller, Fat Controller, Thomas is in the station”. Proud! I really felt for the chap playing the Fat Controller – it was such a hot day and he stayed in that outfit throughout! What a champ!

Oscar chatting to Sir Topham Hatt

Oscar chatting to Sir Topham Hatt

I would also highly recommend taking a picnic as we did. Not because there isn’t food available (there absolutely it) but having our own food with us mean we could eat whenever we liked, wherever we were, including half way down the line!

boy and mum on train

Hungry boy half way between stations.

All characters aside we all loved the engines, especially Ben. I think at times he was more excited than my actual little boy! I already know we’ll be going back. Not just to the Day out With Thomas (which I imagine we will be doing every time now!) but just to ride the trains and surround ourselves with the history and the magnificence of the engineering.

Oh and I’ve just noticed the Santa Experience. Oh good lord!

 

 

We would like to say thank you so much to The Watercress Line for our competition prize of a free Family Ticket to Day out with Thomas.

I was not asked to write about our time at Day out with Thomas, I just like to share the things we love.

I’m not sure when the next Thomas experience is scheduled for, but you can contact The Watercress Line via their website or Facebook 

Our Favourite Five – January 2016

January has been and gone. That’s right 2016 is 1/12th done! And it’s actually been a much better month than I expected. Here’s some things we’ve been enjoying over at Casa Savage this month.

Woody and Florence

Woody and Florence is a mama run Etsy company I found on Instagram (anyone else love looking at independent traders on IG?). She makes various gorgeous things, but her bead bracelets really caught my eye. One of her best selling is one that spells out MAMA, which I loved and planned to get. Then one day I decided this wasn’t enough. I guess I’d spent quite a lot of last year grieving the loss of my chance to experience “typical” motherhood. I’m having no more children. I will only ever be an Autism Mama. I wanted to acknowledge that, whilst I was a mother, my motherhood was different. So I contacted Chloe and asked for a custom bracelet. It didn’t cost much more and I haven’t taken it off since it arrived!

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It’s a way of acknowledging who I am to myself, but also to others. I am an Autism Mama. May others of my tribe find me.

I have also recently bought a copper bead bracelet to go with it. Isn’t it gorgeous? I have a thing for copper at the moment. But truth be told, it’s my AutismMama one I love the most.

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Heck Sausages

I first came across Heck Foods when someone at my Slimming World group told us about their Chicken Italia sausages, which at the time were listed as 1/2 syn per packet! When Slimming World reviewed their syn values last year they changed these delicious delights to 1/2 syn each, but even so! Gorgeous, low fat and gluten free, what more could you ask for in a sausage? Anyway I can’t get their full range locally (and Ocado don’t stock them) so this month I decided to treat myself to a selection direct from the producer. I got 10 packets for £25 inc delivery and bought a real mixture. The 97% ones are for Oscar (although at 3 syns each not outside the realms of possibility for me either), the Chicken Italia ones are 1/2 syn each and the Paprika Chicken and Zesty Chicken 1/2 a syn for 2! And they’re all delicious. I’ve already made a jambalaya and a casserole with the paprika ones. And it’s so nice having some low syn yumminess in the freezer, ready to take out when the mood takes me.

And who doesn’t love receiving a huge box of sausages in the mail ?

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Slimming World

I’ve already written about my reasons for rejoining Slimming World here if you’re interested. But I couldn’t not include it here. I followed Slimming World for 2.5 years until mid way through last year when, for one reason and another, I stopped. Anyway, I went back at the beginning of the month and it has been soooooo good for me. Having something to focus on other than just mummy stuff was just what I needed. I’ve lost 6.5lb in January. Not bad huh? I’m also approaching it a little differently this time, being kinder to myself and never, ever putting any weight loss down. Half a pound is half a pound I no longer have to lug up the hill on the preschool run. Why wouldn’t I celebrate that?

If you’re interested I’d love for you to read my updates for Week 1, Week 2 and Week 3.

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The X-Files

I am just the right age to have been a fan of The X-Files the first time around (it started in 1993). While I occasionally watched it and knew what it was all about, I never really got that into it and stopped following after a few series. Ben on the other hand was a huge fan as a teen (which was in no way linked to Gillian Anderson, her red hair and her ability to kick ass, no sir!?)

Anyway Amazon Prime recently added the entire X-Files back catalogue to their collection, and we’ve been reminiscing. Apart from the dreadful hair styles they made poor Scully adopt (which we have come to the conclusion were to make Gillian Anderson look older than she actually was) and the glorious pant suits, it’s aged pretty well. We’ve watched the entire first series and are starting on the second now.

I’d like to watch all the old episodes before starting on the new episodes that are coming out (and that friends are so excited about), so no spoilers please!

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Bedroom furniture

In the summer of 2014, we gutted our bedroom and redid the lot. Rendering and plastering the walls, painting, taking up the carpet and staining the original floor boards. We also removed the ridiculously large radiator, had shutters fitted to the windows and pulled down the badly made and ugly fitted wardrobes, with the plan to have some more built in their place. Only we then realised we couldn’t afford what we wanted. We tried to save, but it took a long time and in the meantime we were living with piles of clothes on the floor. For 18 months! Anywho, this month we finally had enough money and started to think about getting the wardrobes. Then I had a brainwave, to buy ready made. One wardrobe and one chest of drawers instead of two built in wardrobes. And all of a sudden we were kicking ourselves of not thinking of that sooner (that’s what migraines do to me, they send my mind into a really creative space, weird huh?) So anyway, we bought some gorgeous pieces from John Lewis. But, when they arrived they couldn’t get the bloody things up our tiny cottage stairs!!! Suddenly it was obvious why the previous owners had gone for built it! But I was not going to be beaten, no siree! I found some actually really lovely flat pack on the IKEA website and convinced Ben to drive to Southampton to get them (less said about that visit the better I guess, but hey we got what we went for and no one died!). Ben spent all day putting them up and they fitted the alcoves in our room perfectly. Like more than perfectly. Someone even asked me if IKEA now did customised furniture!

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A perfect fit. And I’ve even been able to get my sheepskin rug out. For a touch of fancy!

It’s just amazingly nice to have somewhere to put our clothes. That isn’t the floor. The room finally feels almost finished. And I know it’s definitely taken a weight off Ben’s mind. It’s the peaceful space we’ve needed for so long. Who knew wardrobes and drawers could have such an effect?

What have you and your family loved this month? I’d love to know.

 

xxx

 

I was not paid to endorse any of these brands. I paid all my favourites myself. I just like sharing the things I love.