Kent and East Sussex Railway

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Things to do


Date of travel

May, 2016

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Most people begin their journey at Tenterden where there is a cafe and gift shop. It is a leisurely 45 minute run through the Rother Valley. Trains cross at Wittersham Road. There are level crossings, signal boxes where the token is exchanged as well as a stop at Rolvenden to take on water. A trolly service provides drink and light refreshments on the train.

We began our journey at Bodiam, which is the least altered of the stations, still with its original station buildings. The toilet block is new, but designed to fit in with the rest of the buildings.

There is a display of rolling stock, including the Cavell Van which was built in 1919 and was a prototype of the vans used for mail. This van was used to carry the bodies of Nurse Edith Cavell, Capt Charles Fryatt and the Unknown Warrior from Dover to london after the First World War.

We were pulled by the Swedish Loco Norwegian, buiit in 1919 which arrived at the railway in 1971.

Bodiam Station is surrounded by the fertile East Sussex countryside, half a mile south of Bodiam Castle. The hop fields and hop pickers trains are long gone and the oast drying houses seen between the trees are now upmarket houses.

The first part of the run from Bodiam follows the River Rother closely. Small settlements can be seen on the drier land on the edge of the valley. This is fertile sheep country with small fields and a lot of woodland with bluebells.

Northiam Station is a small country station a mile from the village, still with its original buildings. The Pullman train was waiting to pass us here.

The railway crosses border from East Sussex into Kent. Land is low lying and wet in places.

Tokens are swapped at Wittersham Road signal box. We passed the diesel rail car service at Wittersham Road Station, the most isolated station on the railway and three miles from the village which is built on higher and drier land. The station buildings here came from Borth, near Aberystwyth and the signal box from Deal Junction.

Beyond Wittersham Road, the railway runs over the Rother Levels, an area of damp land at the back of Romney Marsh and crossed by drainage channels, with cricket bat willows growing along them This is good barn owl countryside with nesting boxes set up on poles.

Beyond Wittersham Road there are rows of what look line parallel channels running at right angles to the railway line. These are almost impossible to photograph and were used to farm freshwater crayfish for the London restaurant trade. They were kept topped up by a small reservoir.

The Loco works and engine sheds are at Rolvenden and locos stop here to take on water. The station buildings were demolished and were rebuilt when the railway line reopened.

Beyond Rolvenden the line runs through very attractive wooded countryside before the final 1:50 climb into Tenterden Station.

This is the main terminus of the line and the station building is the original with booking office. The shop is in what was the goods and parcel office. The carriage and wagon workshop is here and sidings are used to store coaches. The timber frame station refreshment room was Maidstone bus station until 1976. The Col Stephen’s Museum is across the line.


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