I have spent the majority of every day this week in front of a computer screen, so when The Godmother and W invited me along on a day out to Alresford in Hampshire, I couldn't say no (even though it involved getting up quite early on a Saturday).
We were off in the car a little after the intended 9:40 departure time (which may or may not have been my fault...) to pick up W's friend, who I will call C. With him on board, we made for Alresford, which turned out to be gloriously sunny.
The main mission for the day was to look at snowdrops, and we took a detour along a little lane on the way to see a riverbank absolutely carpeted with them.
Arriving in Alresford, we parked in the station carpark, an ducked into the charming old station to have a look around, having sadly just missed the departure of one of the steam trains that still run through it. There were a lot of excited children and train enthusiasts, and the guards in old-fahioned uniforms seemed delighted to talk about engines for hours on end.
After that, it was off to Brandy Mount, to visit a charity garden opening and look at lots and lots of different species of snowdrop. Apart from the onset on senility in the ticket-seller on the door resulting in some very complicated change-related negotiations, it was a very lovely garden. We saw masses of snowdrops, and tried to decide which kind we liked best. There was also a tea-and-cake shop set up in one of the garden sheds, which was doing a roaring trade. We each had a cup of tea and half a sponge slice with butter icing, as they were rather large and we had booked a table for lunch at the local pub, and didn't want to spoil our appetites.
|It was quite difficult to get a picture without any other visitors in it|
|Snowdrops weren't the only beautiful sight|
After leaving the gardens, we went to the local churchyard in search of the 'rather interesting' graves of French prisoners of war from the Napoleonic war. When we eventually found them, there were surprisingly many of them - a lot of the officers had been allowed to live with their wives in local billets, although they had a curfew of 9pm and a rather meagre allowance to live off. Quite a few died in England before they could return home, largely from diseases contracted in the West Indies, where they were taken prisoner, apparently.
We then had a wander around the local shops. The deli was very exciting, but the antique shop was bypassed because of some truly horrific matching chicken-and-rooster cross-stitched cushions on display outside. The Godmother and I found a mill, some swans and a dead frog, and then it was time for lunch.
|A fine establishment|
The pub was rather crowded, but had a very aesthetically pleasing French waiter and a rather alarmed-looking wall feature:
|Fawlty Towers, anyone?|
I had an artichoke and saffron risotto, which was very creamy and sophisticated, but sadly we couldn't sample their excellent dessert menu, as we had a train to catch. A steam train!
The 1500 service to Alton was not a cheap journey, but it was a charming one. The Godmother agreed to pick us up from Alton when we arrived, and with only five minutes to spare, we tried to buy tickets from the man behind the screen in Alresford station. Sadly, he was also a victim of the dementia epidemic sweeping the town, and by the time we'd negotiated the right tickets and change, there were seconds to spare. We leapt onto the train, and were soon chuffing out of the station, enjoying the scenery, the steam, and the noisy antics of little Grace and Evelyn in the seats behind us (well, the latter maybe not so much).
The train journey was very civilised, with long stops 'to take on water' in the intervening stations. Upon arrival in Alton, the train was to turn back round to take its passengers back to Alresford, so we stood on the platform and watched the engine being detached from the front of the train, reversed away, and then brought back to be reattached to the back. It was quite a labourious and steamy process. The people who run the steam trains are all volunteers and enthusiasts, but it takes a lot of love to willingly climb down between a carriage and a steam engine and manually attach them to each other, protected only by a bright orange vest and flat cap. Eventually, amid much blowing of whistles and waving of flags,the train pulled away.
|The only way to travel|
Returning to Woking, we had tea and ginger cake (from the Alresford deli) and watched the Scotland-Wales match. Oh dear oh dear.
I have work tomorrow, but I am feeling mentally refreshed (who knew the British countryside could be such a restorative?). The sunshine helped a lot, too.