Vicky Mayer takes a memorable trip on the Kent & East Sussex Railway and discovers a journey full of surprises
The journey begins at Tenterden Town station
Lovely Tenterden in Kent is a gorgeous place to start a train journey on one of the UK’s most popular heritage train lines, the Kent & East Sussex Railway.
At Tenterden Town station you’ll find plenty to keep you and your family amused. There are a lot of classic old carriages, a book and gift shop and a café (though the less said about the coffee, the better!). On the station you’ll find a unique collection of trains – some of which are over 150 years old.
Train fans will also love the Colonel Stephens Railway Museum. This tells the story of the colonel who was a keen railway buff. In the museum you’ll find a wax dummy of the colonel, lots of old railway magazines and some historic timetables. Get to the station early before you train trip so you can enjoy this very special museum.
I would suggest arriving at least half an hour before your journey so you can have a good look at all the vintage carriages at the station and talk to the incredibly knowledgeable station staff too.
When I arrived on a Sunday morning, the station was very busy with people of all ages and it seemed to be a real hit with children and their Grandads.
The train trip today is on preserved 70s stock with its funky orange seats. As the train gently glides out of the station, I am looking forward to a leisurely journey between Tenterden and Bodiam. At 11 ½ miles long, it will take about 50 minutes. Today, we’re in luck as the carriages are being pulled by a steam locomotive. Choo choo!
The K&ESR was one of the first ‘light’ railways to be constructed. These are railways that are equipped with full size trains, but have steep gradients and operate at low speed. This means our journey will be slow and peaceful.
Travelling through the Rother Valley
The journey takes you through the picturesque Rother Valley in the High Weald with its pastural scenery. As the train glides slowly past, you’ll see plenty of animals – sheep, cattle and horses – and some beautiful wild meadows too.
Our train had the old-style pull-down windows in the corridors so it’s easy to take a shot of the line or a video of your journey.
Pulling into Bodiam station, don’t miss the very impressive 14th century Bodiam Castle as you pull into the station.
The journey went without a hitch and the slowness of the train coupled with the fantastic views, made it a fantastic journey.
Why you should take this trip
A visit to the K&ESR is so much more than just a train journey. Both Tenterden Town and Bodiam stations are treasure troves of railway history and there’s a real sense of occasion on the platforms. Add to this some great mini museums, a fab tea shop at Bodiam station and some of the friendliest volunteers I have ever met, and you’ve got yourself a magical day out. It’s no wonder more than 90,000 people each year book a ticket for a ride on this magical line.
Get on board
Adult return tickets cost £19.50; return tickets for children aged 3-15 cost £11.50; Family Return Journey tickets are £36 for a family of up to 2 people or £49 for a family of up to 4 people travelling together. You will be travelling on open plan carriages. Family Compartment return tickets are priced at £89 for the whole compartment seating up to 8 people. See more at https://kesr.org.uk