Returning to Alresford on the Watercress Line

Last year we paid a quick visit to Alresford while on the way to France in order to see the place where I was made.  (https://horacethealresfordbear.com/2015/06/28/going-back-to-my-roots/)   I was very keen to go again and ride on one of the steam trains that run on the Watercress Line, and as Growler is very keen on engines, wanted to take him along too.   We were ‘over the moon’ to find last weekend that we were indeed going back to Alresford, along with Growler & Nye (who had been wanting to see where he was made too).

We arrived at Alton Station in order to get on the 10.50am train.14095825_1098221353605262_936611039445953557_nAfter buying our tickets we went onto the station platform to wait for the train to arrive.IMG_8509The train arrived at exactly the time that the timetable said that it would.IMG_8508Nye and myself helped Growler on to the train and we found a comfy seat.IMG_8511I undertook the very important task of showing our tickets to the ticket inspector.IMG_8517As the train left the station we decided to climb up onto the table for a better view. Growler used a special seat which also doubles up as a human purse.

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We got off at Ropley station as there were some interesting things to look at there.  The yew topiary has been there for more than 100 years.  IMG_8552Dogs used to have to have tickets to get on the trains at Ropley.IMG_8551We had a little rest on a platform bench for a while…..IMG_8546…until we spotted a train coming in on the opposite side of the tracks.  Very quickly we crossed the bridge to the other side of the track to watch it being filled up with water. We didn’t get there quite quick enough to get a photo of the water filling, but here is the engine and the big tube they used for filling it up.IMG_8559There is an interesting room up some stairs at the station where people and bears can see into the workshop through a big glass window.  In the same room there are also lots of tables and chairs with some activities for young humans such as pictures to colour in.  I was particularly delighted to find some hats for bears to try on. I found a splendid station master’s hat.  Here I am modelling the hat in the ticket booth.IMG_8555I also made friends with the station master’s cat.IMG_8557The time had nearly arrived for the next train to Alresford to arrive, so we waited safely in the back pack on the platform.  IMG_8565This train had carriages with red seats which I rather liked.IMG_8570As the train moved off we soon got into our positions on the table in order to see the view from the window.

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On arrival at Alresford we were all very excited.  We remained on the train briefly for a photo from the outside.IMG_8579We then walked down to the end of the train to see the engine moving to the other end of the train.IMG_8587It was here that dear old Growler had an accident with his nose.  He was so excited about going on a real steam engine he climbed out the bag too quickly and caught his nose.IMG_8585Fortunately Karen had some plasters in her bag. We performed a quick bit of first aid so Growler was still come up into the engine cab with me.IMG_8592I tried my paw at shoveling coal but it is very hard work for a small bear.IMG_8593We stayed well back from the fire.  I am particularly at risk due to having acrylic fur.  Dear old Growler doesn’t have much fur anymore.IMG_8588We sat for a while on special seat for bears.IMG_8590After climbing down I had a closer look at the outside.  The engine was called ‘Cheltenham’, and was one of the most powerful locomotives to operate in the UK.  There is more information here:  http://www.watercressline.co.uk/article.php/27/925-cheltenham IMG_8603I was then delighted to be invited up for a look at the signal box.IMG_8602The signal lady kindly got me a chair to stand on in order for me to reach the levers.  IMG_8597She said that the tea towel was very important and had to stay on the correct lever.IMG_8599I decided to get a souvenir of my experience so treated myself to a new raincoat in the gift shop.IMG_8636The humans were hungry as it was lunchtime, so we headed to Alresford High Street to Tiffin Tea Rooms.  While waiting for lunch we comforted Growler about his nose and applied another plaster to make sure he didn’t lose any woodchips from his snout.IMG_8604I ordered watercress soup, which was very yummy indeed.20160820_133548(0)After lunch it was time to take Nye to see the building in which we were both made. It used to be The Town Mill, but has been converted into flats.IMG_8612Nye was happy to know that he had been made in a lovely location. IMG_8608We had time for a short walk along the River Arle before catching the train back for the return trip.  IMG_8614I said ‘Hello’ to a family of swans.IMG_8617My little legs were starting to get very tired after such a busy but exciting day.IMG_8625We said ‘goodbye’ to Alresford before heading back to the station to catch the train back to Alton.IMG_8627There aren’t any photos of our return journey.   We were so tired we fell fast asleep as soon as we sat in the carriage.IMG_8630

We have very happy memories of a splendid day and would like to visit again one day.

Horace the Alresford Bear 23/8/16

For more information about The Watercress Line see  http://www.watercressline.co.uk/

Going back to my roots

Karen has written a book about me, and wanted very much to deliver a copy to Alresford Library in order for people in the town to read about my life.  So, a couple of weeks ago on the way to France ( yes this sounds odd, but we were on the way to Portsmouth to get on a ferry) we spent a while in Alresford.   I don’t remember much about the town where I was made, I guess after being stuffed I was put in a box and sent off to a shop to be sold, so wouldn’t have seen much Alresford.  Anyway, I was delighted to find that it is a lovely place and I am proud to carry the name of this place on my label.

The first place we visited after parking the car was Alresford Library.  The staff there seemed a bit surprised to have a visit from a bear but they seemed to like the book.IMG_4300It is only a very small library, nothing at all like the library I usually visit, Bristol Central Library.  The children’s section is upstairs, and just the right size for bears and children.  IMG_4307 - CopyAfter visiting the library Karen decided we all needed a nice cup of tea.  We found a traditional tea room called Tiffin, and I must admit the tea was brewed as tea should be, and I do like china cups, those mugs some places use are so heavy for a small bear like me to lift up.IMG_4321 - CopyNow it was time to find out where I was made, and whether the building was even still there.  After examining maps and signposts, off we went to find the place where The Town Mill might have been, and to our delight, we found it.  Now converted into flats, but a lovely place with a waterfall right next to it.  I felt quite emotional and had to sit quietly on the grass for a few moments.IMG_4328 - CopyThen Karen helped me up onto a post for a photo of me right in front of the building in which I was made.IMG_4334 - CopyHere I am by the front door to the apartments which has the name plaque ‘The Town Mill’ and confirmed we had the right place.IMG_4332 - CopyKaren thought it would be nice to find the place where some of my relatives were made too, as newer bears were made in The Station Mill, so we set off to find it.   Not surprisingly it was next to the railway station.

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I think someone needs to do some gardening there though as there were no flowers in the window boxes.IMG_4339 - CopyWe went on the visit Alresford Station, which was really exciting as old steam powered trains run from there.  IMG_4342There were some interesting scales for weighing luggage, and bearsIMG_4344 - Copy…and a seat for people and bears waiting for trains.IMG_4354Then the most exciting thing happened, a steam train came puffing into the station just as I had climbed up onto the bridge that crosses the track. IMG_4347 - CopyI thought it was a shame that we didn’t have Growler present as he is very fond of steam engines – I will have to ask Karen to bring him along too next time.IMG_4350I then did a bit of modelling next to the station sign and the train.IMG_4357 - CopyThe train used to be used to transport watercress, which is grown in the area for people to eat.  I found some in the nearby stream but I prefer cake.IMG_4361 - CopyOn our way back to the car we also came across The Old Fire Station, now a picture framing gallery,IMG_4359 - Copy…and here I am at The New Fire Station:-IMG_4312 - CopyI didn’t see any Firemen though, which is a shame as I would have liked to try on their hats.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and I am happy to know that me and all my Alresford relatives were made in such a beautiful place. I hope to visit again one day.