Sunday was Mothers Day, although I do manage to spend rather more than one day a year with my mum, it was good that she chose to spend this special day with Sue and I.
The day began with a search around the interweb and a certain amount of disappointment that several of our possible alternative venues, including the Battlefield Line and the Foxfield Railway were, according to their websites, not running a service of any sort. Don’t any of their members or volunteers have mothers who would have enjoyed a train ride on Mothers Day?
Anyway, we arrived to collect my mum from home and I was very pleased to meet one of my brothers and his wife just as they were leaving from their parental visit. For reasons that are too complicated to go into here, Sue and I see very little of my three brothers and their families.
After a brief conversation, Mum, Sue and I climbed into our car (the bike would never take three of us – despite occasional suggestions that we should have a sidecar). However, this was not before mum had had a bit of a worry about whether she was dressed for whatever we were going to be doing.
We had deliberately not told her what that would be, partly to contribute to the surprise, but also because we weren’t sure exactly what that would be until that very morning when my interweb adventure showed me that the Churnet Valley Railway was not only operating, but was running at times that would fit in well with our (very) rough plan.
Our first stop was in Swadlincote to show mum where I now work. Whilst it was an interesting diversion to stand outside a closed and locked building with all the blinds closed, it occurred to me a moment after we arrived there that it would have been a more rewarding experience for all of us of I had thought to take my keys and show mum the inside of our compact office.
With this thought still bouncing around the space where a my brain should have been, I reset the Satnav and we set off into the comparatively unexplored (by Sue and I) wilderness of Staffordshire.
We are trying to come up with an acceptable name for the female voice of our Satnav. Sue has contributed a few possibilities, but none of these names really fit her personality, especially when she’s getting frustrated that I’ve deviated from her route yet again. Let’s face it, she’s the only woman in my life whose instructions I have the courage to ignore.
Eventually, with the help of our still unnamed guide, we arrived at Cheddleton station with about ten minutes to spare before the departure of the train. This gave us good time to take Sue’s picnic from the car and get down to the station in time to get to the booking office, obtain our tickets and board the train which pulled into the beautifully restored station a few moments later. Sue and I were delighted to be able to make the first use this year of our Heritage Railway pass.
The journey along the Churnet Valley, following the course of the river as well as the Caldon canal, was great. the on-train volunteer ticket collector was a great ambassador for the railway and we enjoyed the ride. We soon opened up the picnic of some very good ham sandwiches and a huge plastic box of crisps. Mum and I were soon stuck into the food, with Sue not far behind us.
The train journey includes a brief stop at Consall before a longer layover for water and a loco run round at Kingsley and Froghall. Sue took advantage of this time to pop off the train for three hot drinks from the station buffet.
The return trip took us, via another stop at Consall, straight through Cheddleton, passing through the 531 yard Leek Brook Tunnel (although the lineside sign says it is “Cheddleton Tunnel”) to Leek Brook junction where there is no platform, but the train crew effected a very efficient run round of the loco before returning to Cheddleton.
We were being hauled by GWR pannier tank 5199, the only loco in steam from their impressive roster. We saw two other steam locos as well as a couple of diesels at Cheddleton, the operating base of the railway.
The three of us were in no hurry to leave the train, so took advantage of the fact that we had “All Day” tickets and enjoyed a second round trip.
By the time we got back to Cheddleton for the second time, we were ready for a quick trip around the shop where I found a great little book of Derbyshire Railway stations from old postcards.
Our trip back to mums was uneventful, possibly because I stuck strictly to the route given by the Satnav woman. After a cup of tea and a natter, it was back home to end a really enjoyable day out.
This was the second or maybe the third visit that Sue and I have paid to this great railway, but I know it won’t be our last.