“ The North Norfolk Railway offers a 10.5 mile round trip by steam train (vintage diesel trains on some journeys) through a delightful area of North Norfolk designated as being of outstanding natural beauty.Enjoy a ride on an historic steam train - you can „
" It is there that the regal red poppies are born! Brief days of desire, and long dreams of delight, They are mine when my Poppy-Land cometh in sight. In music of distance, with eyes that are wet, it is there I remember, and there I forget! "
From The Garden of Sleep by Clement Scott 1888
Take your seats ladies and gentleman of dooyoo for a ride on a steam train down the lovely little North Norfolk Railway - the Poppy Line - as we travel from the delightful Georgian town of Holt to the bustling little seaside resort of Sheringham through an area of outstanding natural beauty.......
First park up at Holt station. You're far better off starting at this end of the line - the car park is a bit bumpy and rough, but there's no problem getting a space unlike Sheringham. If you're a bit early, there's a gift shop and loos on the newly refurbished station. And if you're there at peak times check out the 300 square foot model railway on the site. I'd also recommend the short car ride (or sometimes a horse and cart ride...) into Holt itself as that's a charming little town with a lovely little town centre to explore. You'll need to be pretty keen, however, to walk it...
First stop - or not - is Kelling Heath Park. This is, to be honest barely actually a station - it more a platform in a forest! I have to say that on our many visits we've never actually got off, but the romance always leads us to discuss the possibility for next time! The halt serves a nature trail through the woods and Kelling Caravan Park. Because it's on a steep gradient steam trains do not stop here on the journey to Holt, but it's a request stop when going the other way - guess I've always fancied flagging down a steam train. Too much time watching Jenny Agutter in the Railway Children!!!
If you've resisted the temptation of going down into the woods (ooer!) next stop is Weybourne. Now this a charming little preserved station, but I would suggest this is only a good place to get off if you are truly interested in the trains or want to have a picnic as once again it is nowhere near Weybourne itself. Mind you, when these lines were built a couple of miles was nothing, was it? The main attractions here are definitely railway themed - this is where the locomotive and carriage maintenance and restoration centre is to be found, and it's where the trains pass so there's plenty to be seen. If you're really keen you could take the coastal footpath to Sheringham, I suppose!
As you leave Weybourne the scenery changes dramatically and as you leave the woods behind there are a series of landmarks to look out for. Try to spot John Major's house - my entire family insist that you can just see its chimney to the right of the line - or the golf course, but most of all it's time for a game of 'I can see the sea' as you approach the Norfolk coast at Sheringham. The station here is much larger, with museum exhibits, a gift shop and a buffet. To be honest the buffet is inadequate, both in term of the range of food available and the lack of space. You are much better heading off in search of a tea rooms or fish and chips in the town itself. What arriving at Sheringham does make you realise is how poor our stations are nowadays, however - look across the road and you'll see the bus shelter that calls itself a mainline station...
I love Sheringham as a seaside town, and there's probably a whole other review to be written about that, but to just give you a flavour here, it has little pockets of the noisy and brash seaside experience of Great Yarmouth or Blackpool and it's over run with cars which it wasn't designed for, but it has managed to retain so much of its charm, it keeps me going back time after time. It has little, independent shops, little tea rooms and great pubs and miles and miles of lovely clean beaches. And bags of character. Especially if you arrive on a steam train!
So, there's a few impressions of the line for you, now for some details, including a few for those who are actually interested in the trains and not just the scenery. I'll let you decide which camp I fall into..
Don't forget this isn't just a created tourist attraction - it used to be an ordinary railway line once upon a time, until it was closed in 1959 - it's great when you're out travelling down the line and you meet people who can tell you what it was like before it closed. Everyone talks on steam trains, it's not like real life at all!!! This line was the first main line to close to passenger traffic. They do have plans, incidentally, to try and link back up with the ordinary line at Sheringham to do through services again one day - if you look when you arrive, it really isn't far away at all. The line wasn't, however, closed for long as the first efforts towards preservation started as early as 1966.
Steam railways, thankfully, are a great deal simpler than the modern railway in terms of fares! There are a range of single and return fares available, but I would advise making a day of it and buying full round trip tickets because you get unlimited travel that way. On ordinary services the fares are currently as follows:
Senior Citizens: £7.50
It's not the cheapest day out, but it's well worth it. But don't forget, there are different prices for special events (galas, Thomas) and you pay £1 for a dog or a bike.
There are discounts for groups, so it's worth phoning if there are 10 or more of you travelling together.
www.nnrailway.co.uk - website of the North Norfolk railway
www.exploring.co.uk/north_norfolk/main.htm - things to do and see in the area
The North Norfolk railway is a very popular tourist attraction in Norfolk. I have been living in Norfolk for over five years and have had the pleasure of visiting this attraction three times now. Travelling behind a steam locomotive through beautiful countryside will make a memorable outing for all the family - you have the option to start your journey at either Sheringham, or Holt. The line now has a core of paid employees, but it has largely been through the efforts of a large team of volunteers that it has grown in recent years from three to five miles of line, connecting the two towns. From February to December, both steam and diesel trains run between the two centres with a couple of stops along the way. It is like stepping through a time tunnel as you stand on the platform, to be greeted by a plume of smoke as a steam locomotive thunders towards you. The North Norfolk railway has been the location for many a TV production and major film credits over the years. Also, usually three times a year, mainly on Bank Holiday weekends, it is also the home to Thomas and his friends, when the "Poppy Line" plays host to our favourite Blue Tank Engine. We took Lucy, our two-and a half year old (a big fan of Thomas), last Bank Holiday. We found that a prior surf through the NNR website was very fruitful, as there is a (non-printable) version of the timetable, informing visitors when Thomas is pulling the train, or alternatively "Diesel" the Diesel engine. It is very difficult to park in Sheringham, particularly on Saturdays as the market takes up much of the parking places. I suggest getting there very early, especially if you have toddlers in tow! The other alternative is to drive to the Georgian town of Holt and find the station there. On our first visit, this did take some finding, and the car park is very stoney and muddy in places, and quite a walk from the station. Also, there are very
few facilities - toilets, and that's about it. You have the option to just travel one way, or have a return ticket, or purchase a day ticket, where you can travel on the trains for as long as you like, all day. This obviously represents the best value, but is expensive. Due to the usual supply and demand factor, on the Special Thomas events, the admission price miraculously doubles overnight and you only have the option to purchase a "daily" ticket. For a day ticket for myself, my wife and our 2 year old, for the Thomas Event, it was £24. To me, that seems a lot of money just for a couple of rides on a steam engine. However, you have to bear in mind that Thomas is not just any ordinary Engine, and imagine your child's delight when Thomas or indeed Percy comes chuffing towards them - well worth £24 of anyone's money. We also had the chance to meet many of Thomas' other friends - including the Fat Controller (or Sir Toppham Hat to be politically correct!) The highlight of the day has to be the "race!" Here, Thomas and Bertie Bus set off at exactly the same time and race each other to the destination. You have the option to travel on either transport. The road and rail line run parallel to each other for quite a distance and the children all delight in waving at Bertie and vice-versa. I'll not spoil the suprise by telling you who won when we went!! We rounded off our day by spending the late afternoon in the seaside town of Sheringham, spending some time on the beach, and on the lovely park at the top of the hill. Sheringham has a lovely, clean beach and is very child-friendly.