Quality Time by Train

Let’s face it, as the years go by birthdays start losing their appeal and “big birthdays” are long gone or looming on the horizon. What matters now is the luxury of time and precisely how to spend it.

Last year I introduced a new birthday routine of going somewhere completely new by train – alone and on my own terms. Living here in Barnet, you can ditch the car and enjoy some off-peak train travel to a wide range of places. I love arriving at a mainline station, grabbing a coffee and letting the train take the strain as they say, enjoying beautiful views out of the window.

Despite having a November birthday I’m generally lucky with the weather and there’s always an array of autumn colours. as you pass through the Green Belt. Lots of tempting options are within easy reach of the capital and you can get to your destination comfortably in time for a satisfying stroll before lunch, making the most of a change of scene before returning home for the evening.

Tunbridge Wells

Last year my chosen destination was Tunbridge Wells, a supremely elegant Regency spa town easily accessed from Charing Cross Station. I was spoiled by the weather and able to walk for miles, exploring the town before settling in for an excellent late lunch near the station at The Warren that champions local produce.

Tunbridge Wells is a beautifully laid out town with several parks and a compact centre. Initially I headed along the old High Street to the Pantiles walkway. All very attractive and ideal for quality shopping, eating and drinking with some interesting independent businesses as well as predictable chains. I continued walking further out around residential areas to take a good look at the architecture. This, for me, is where Tunbridge Wells comes into its own and the highlight was the Calverley Estate by Decimus Burton (who also designed much of Regents Park and St Leonards On Sea near Hastings). I returned to the station and lunch via Lansdowne Road (with its handsome stucco villas) and the shopping street Monson Road with some striking wrought iron work.

Chichester and Bosham

This year the weather wasn’t looking as good, but I took a chance with Chichester, knowing there were indoor attractions, as well as some great walking on offer. If the weather held out there’d be the local waterside town of Bosham with its fascinating history and soothing views of Chichester Harbour.

Travelling from Victoria began easily on a train due to split in two with the other half going to Bognor Regis. However, delays meant that we needed a connecting train for Chichester which quickly followed.

Rain was due in the afternoon, so I jumped on a local train to Bosham where I was able to take in some sea air and a tasty pub lunch before returning to Chichester as the weather was breaking. Historic Bosham with its links to King Canute and King Harold is a scenic spot popular with visitors. Even on a mid-November Tuesday the pub and cafés were doing a good trade. My fish and chip lunch at the Anchor Bleu hit the spot with a celebratory glass of Picpoul.

I returned to Chichester had a quick walk along the High Street before taking shelter in the Cathedral for a look at the Chagall window and some well-preserved Roman mosaic. I concluded my visit exploring the cute lanes surrounding the building and soaking up some more historic atmosphere before taking the train back home.

We’ll see where the mood takes me next year. However, here’s hoping for many happy returns (and day returns).

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    • Lucy Bridgers

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