The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR) is a 14 mile long heritage railway line running between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway, with great views over the Cotswolds Area of outstanding natural beauty. In more normal times, it runs a tourist service of frequent steam and diesel services along the length of the line, which passes through the delightful village of Winchcombe en route.
A book, entitled Railway Rambles, is available (or at least was on the last visit) from the Railways shops or ticket offices for a modest fee. This has a number of suggested walks, some of which are a little ambitious for most families. I have tried a number of the walks, usually just me with one child in a woven wrap or Mei Tai carrier (walks were not suitable for buggies).
My favourites are the two routes from Gotherington to Winchcombe, although the Toddington to Winchcombe route is also lovely.The book generally does a good job of giving directions, but there was a particular field of cattle that proved a bit tricky to get out of, and in return trips i detoured around that field.
The route from Gotherington station (a request stop) and Winchcombe takes in some gentle hills, and does contain quite a number of styles also (hence the fact it wouldn’t work with a buggy).
Depending on the timetable for the day, and your confidence in being able to get back to Winchcombe in time for a train connection, i’d recommend parking either at Winchcombe (free parking for customers at the railway station), or at one of the other stations on the line if you fancy a longer train trip. Day rover tickets or tickets for shorter journeys were all available when i visited. Gotheington is a request stop, and has short platforms so be in the right bit of the train, and ask the Guard before boarding. It’s only about a 10 minute journey from Winchcombe.
From Gotherington station, choose your version of the walk from the book (the two routes cross-over about half way, so you can also mix and match, and enjoy a lovely couple of hours experiencing the stunning local scenery, and listening to the trains heading back and forth.
The walks end at Winchcombe station, where there is a tea-room, model railway exhibit, toilet facilities (including baby-change), and of course trains!
The routes pass through a mixture of scenery – woodland (with bluebells at the right time of year), pasture, villages, farmland, and some lovely properties too, and there’s the chance to see birds of prey and the odd rabbit as well as farm animals.
The paths are generally fine, but this is a walk for boots, not lightweight shoes!
Tea & cake
At Winchcombe the station tea room is small (arriving on foot has the advantage of meaning you’re likely to arrive at a time when a queue hasn’t just built up from an arriving train), and usually has a decent (if small) selection of sandwiches, drinks, sweets, crisps, cake and tea. The tea is served in delightful pots with beautiful tea-cosies, and always tastes excellent! It’s always been a favourite of mine to rest after the walk.
One thing to note – the station is a reasonable distance from the village centre – so don’t head to the village just before your train is due!
For other railway walks, do check out the Category Link.