This goes to prove that you can find day-trip gems almost on your doorstep.
With the other half fast approaching a milestone birthday, I was getting a bit desperate for what to buy him. Picked up several leaflets from a motorway service area, and noticed that the RHDR was running 1940's-themed days on Mondays in July and August. Booking was done by phone, and the tickets duly arrived; even sent via my neighbour to maintain the secrecy.
We were told to be at Hythe station for 10am for an introduction over a cuppa. Hooray – plenty of free parking, and a very welcome cup of tea served by Andy our guide for the day, who was dressed appropriately in authentic 1937 Royal Engineers uniform. Then on to the platform to watch the 'World's Smallest Public Railway' pull in, complete with a special vintage carriage for those of us on the 1940's day. After a delightful journey alongside the Royal Military Canal, and looking out for bomb craters in nearby fields, we got off at New Romney Station. There we learned of the vital importance of the RHDR during the 2nd World War in transporting pipeline on huge reels for what was then top secret and known as PLUTO – the pipeline under the ocean. We also heard about Hercules, the armoured locomotive which patrolled the railway line in case of invasion. The RHDR was a target for enemy bombers, and the glisten of the tracks became a landmark for navigators.
Our typical 1940's lunch followed – sausages, beans and mash, washed down with cups of tea. Then back into our vintage carriage, which had been uncoupled to await our onward journey to Dungeness. Once there, and in sight of the modern-day power station and two lighthouses, we saw some of the fortified buildings used in wartime operations but disguised as regular seaside bungalows and community buildings. I'm happy to report that tea was served in the station cafe! this time the 40's theme was abandoned in favour of jam, scones and cream.
For anyone living locally or holidaying in the south east, I'd recommend the experience of a trip on this 1927-built railway, but especially I recommend the 1940's days to seniors and grandchildren alike.