Kent and East Sussex Railway – a lovely day out

Well, here we are at 1 September. Weather is still lovely, but with the slightest hint of autumn freshness in the air. It’s been a fantastic couple of months, and here’s all about yet another classic summer day out… on the Kent and East Sussex Railway.

Pale summer light at Bodiam

     It was a very hot still day, with that flat white high summer light. We drove to Bodiam and parked at the Castle, using our National Trust membership – yes, Philosopher and I are members…. We started with a coffee and a scone in the tea room, as you do, in the company of about 30 ravenous wasps – has anyone noticed that there are suddenly hundreds of them? Then walked up to Bodiam Station.
     We saw the Edith Cavell van in a siding – as well as carrying the body of Edith Cavell it also carried the body of the Unknown Soldier from Dover to London in 1920. Oddly enough I saw a programme about war horses on TV the other day that showed a team of six black horses, who had all survived the Western Front together, pulling the Unknown Soldier to Westminster Abbey.

     Anyway, we found a wonderful old geezer with a long white beard in the ticket office…. The tickets were not cheap, £14 each for the return trip to Tenterden, but we thought it was worth it.

Smuts in the eyes…

     I love steam engines. There is family history here – my Dad worked as a trainee engineer at the Great Western Railway works in Swindon in the 1930s, building and working on some of the greatest steam locomotives of all time, including the ‘Kings’ and ‘Castles’ classes.  But even without that, I just love engines – the smell of the smoke, the sounds, and the big fiery presence of the things…

     Anyway, ours puffed, clanked and whistled into view – a nice Southern Region tank engine.  We clambered aboard and off we went.  I found a window to lean out of , eyes screwed against the smuts, to see the engine pull the train round curves – as always, all the other windows were occupied by blokes (and nerdy blokes at that…) – do no other women like steam engines?

     The KESR is a classic low-key rural railway – lovely old stations with roses on the fences, trains bucketing over wonky rails, old signal boxes and signals, level crossing gates pulled open and shut by bent old men, engines taking in water from little water towers – too Hornby for words.

     We arrived at Tenterden just nicely at lunch time, and strolled up to the high street to sit outside for lunch at the White Lion.  Pint of beer and a very good steak baguette – another lot of wasps though.

     Then a brief cruise of the shops before walking back to the station.
     For my next trick, I want to learn to drive a steam engine, so called in to the office for details of the train driving courses.  The Introduction to Engine Driving costs £250 – it will have to be combined Christmas and birthday – and they have no spaces until mid-1914.
     A vintage train took us back to Bodiam – a little1917 engine with a big funnel and an array of very old carriages.

Luxury travel…

     We had a sumptuously upholstered compartment all to ourselves with a proper leather strap to hold the window up. We sat opposite each other by the window like in the painting ‘The Travelling Companions’.
     Needless to say as soon as the train was out in the country I felt compelled to take all my clothes off. What else is one to do? Sat enjoying the breeze with nobody to see except the sheep in the fields…..apart from Philosopher, of course, who was appreciative.
     When we got back to Bodiam we had a cold drink in the Castle pub before driving home.

1917 engine

     All very good.

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