The little railway…the Romney, Hythe & Dymchuch Railway…complete with little steam trains (one third full size actually)…is one of my most powerful and favourite childhood memories and experiences. Every summer I would go to Kent and stay with my Grandmother and my aunt in Hythe (and visit all my other aunts and uncles who lived close by). It’s from Hythe that the little train starts its journey chuffing (and whistling!) its way to Dungeness along the coast.
I don’t know if I ever went beyond Dymchurch, the first stop, as that was the golden goal…the funfair. A little funfair of old fashion delights…a haunted house, dodgems and mini carousels. Yes, it’s changed over the years, the original helter skelter that I burnt my knuckles on and got sand in the graze (ouch) has gone…and the haunted house is not the one of my childhood…but it still feels deliciously quaint, old-fashioned and the stuff of childhood dreams.
Going with my aunt (Little G’s great aunt) was incredibly emotive. The smell, the smell! That burning coal smell for the steam trains just fills me with joy. And arriving at the funfair, I’m not sure who was most excited. Little G’s face was a picture as she ran from ride to ride and we passed over the ‘tokens’ for each of her chosen rides (with lucky me joining her on a few!). She was in her element.
I was desperate to climb the steps up to the new beach wall (perfect for cycling and walking…which wasn’t there in my childhood)…and it took a lot of persuading Little G to leave the sticky ‘glitz’ of the fair behind. Of course, once she saw what was on the other side, it was just as difficult trying to get her off the beach for our train journey home. The beach was enjoying a lovely low tide leaving behind beautiful big sand flats to run around on (and leave sinking foot prints in).
We returned home exhausted…full of ice-cream, with the smells of the sea air and salt in our hair. It was the kind of day I’d like to bottle. Next time Little G’s daddy must come too…though we are already a little worried if all 6ft 5 of him would actually fit in the train…as Auntie Phylie said…there’s always the luggage compartment (Mr de Ville I think that was a joke!).
P.S. The journey itself passes through Romney Marsh which is beautiful and we were lucky enough to see a huge bird of prey on both parts of the journey…however after much googling we’re still not sure if it was a Marsh Harrier or a Buzzard…but it was magnificent! (I’ve been aching to use that word and I think this fits!)