18th August 2023
A Watercress Lodge
Watercress is a high-profile plant in Hampshire. Not only because it is grown there but also because it has given its name to both a railway line and a holiday retreat.
The village of Ropley is a station on the Watercress Line, previously known as the Mid-Hants Railway. And it is home to the Watercress Lodges a central feature of a camp site that also offers safari tents and a large, open camping area. Both are surrounding by the undulating landscape of the agricultural Hampshire countryside. A truly rural retreat this site is very close to the railway station and the steam engines that operate on this line are kept here.
A steam engine enthusiast would consider a Watercress Lodge to be the ideal location for a short break in Hampshire. I am not a train buff but I spent several hours on the viewing gallery at Ropley Station, next door to the lodges, watching enthusiastic volunteers getting up a head of steam on the four engines working that day and then shunting them into position in front of the carriages ready for a day carrying passengers on the Watercress Line. This line runs from Alresford to Alton.
Guests in the Lodges can buy a day ticket to ride on the steam train and head for the pretty market town of Alresford. Attractions here include lovely riverside walks, independent shops, cafés and coaching inns.
For guests who prefer to eat out there is good variety of places to eat in Alresford. On the main road close to the campsite the popular Thai Lounge offers a good selection of tasty Thai food. And the Three Horseshoes in the nearby village of Bighton is highly recommended. There is also the option of preparing a barbecue on the patio in front of each lodge – making the most of this rural retreat and the stunning views that surround it.
The distinctive yellow and green colours of the Watercress Lodges resemble wooden railway cottages and are positioned to take full advantage of the great views across the surrounding countryside. These self-catering lodges and modern and nicely furnished. On the ground floor a hallway leads into a kitchen with modern appliances including a dishwasher. There is also a separate utility room with a washing machine, tumble dryer, ironing board and downstairs cloakroom. A light, spacious lounge-diner has French doors opening out on to the patio. A comfortable leather sofa bed and armchairs face the Freeview television and an assortment of board games is also available.
The main bedroom has a king-size bed, plenty of storage space, a mirror and hairdryer. The second bedroom has twin beds. There is also a bathroom on the first floor with a shaver point and a freestanding shower.
During my short stay in Medstead, one of the Watercress Lodges, the Watercress Line was celebrating Thomas the Tank Engine. I did the return journey from Ropley to Alresford in a carriage pulled by the bright blue steam engine with its cheery white face. Thomas the Tank Engine is a long established favourite with children. He continues to delight both young and old. Percy, the little green steam engine, was also featured, taking part in a reconstruction of one of the Thomas the Tank Engine stories. And the Fat Controller led us in a song and dance. Special days are a feature of the railway line throughout the year.
Alresford and Alton have many attractions have to offer their visitors and the Watercress Lodges provide an ideal and unusual place to stay while visiting this area.
Valery Collins is the Experienced Traveller An excellent raconteur, Valery has been writing about her experiences on the road since she started travelling 25 years ago. After publishing four books she turned to online travel writing.