Our wonderful preserved railways can not only hold their own special events, but can also support those going on in their communities. So it was today with Alresford’s annual Watercress Festival. This event was attended by some 15,000 people last year and with ideal weather conditions (mild, cloudy, but no rain) I suspect that at least this number attended this year.
My wife and I attended the Watercress Festival for the first time this year and we had a fantastic time. The festival’s theme (obviously) is Watercress; the local crop grown in abundance. Indeed, it was partly the need to send this crop to London and beyond that led to the building of the railway from Winchester to Alton (of which the Alresford to Alton section survives as the preserved Watercress Line).
So what, I hear you ask, can Watercress be used for? Well a lot, as I found out today. Apart from the obvious, it could be found in many foods including sausages, pies and even fudge! It works well alongside a host of cheeses, pickles, meats and very nice it is too! The festival is a lot of fun with plenty of local produce, entertainers, arts, crafts and jewellery in various stalls throughout the town, that is pedestrianised for the day. It also provided a host for signings of Children’s Book “Binky’s Big Adventure“, which will be a subject of a future blog post!
Finally, the vital link for this festival is still the railway, which was key to the success of Watercress farmers in the past. The railway ran a park and ride shuttle service from Ropley, which was free to people who park (£5 per car) in Ropley’s field. Today the shuttle service was provided by Southern machines – the Hampshire DMU unit, class 33 diesel and U Class 31806.
To find out more about the Alresford Watercress Festival, visit www.watercressfestival.org
To round the day off, I visited the small Four Marks Model Railway Exhibition.