All Aboard the Christmas Express! 🚂
Just before Christmas 2022, my Mum very kindly decided to sprinkle a bit of festive magic into our lives. She treated us to a Christmas, train-themed morning out at the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway (EVR) in Wirksworth, Derbyshire. Not too far from Matlock Bath, it's a spot that's always been close to our hearts. Max, Mia, and Holly were in for a surprise, and they weren’t the only ones! Us adults? Well, read on to dive into the festive magic we experienced.
A Festive Dream Long in the Making 📆
From the moment we launched our quaint 'Family Days Out in the Midlands' Facebook community, long before passing the torch to Ben and Catherine Marsh of Great British Play Map, the allure of this EVR event had always captivated us. Imagine our excitement when we finally set foot there! The word 'fantabulous' doesn't even begin to cover it. We all chuckled, sang, and even danced a bit. The onboard performers were quite something, matching our zesty energy level – even hinting that Mum might fit right in with their troop!
An Early Start to a Magical Day 🌅
The clock was set for a 10am departure. We made our way to Wirksworth, a swift 30-minute journey from our home in Derby, and were welcomed by a station buzzing with festive cheer by 9.15am. Amidst the gentle sounds of Christmas carols and whimsical foam snow, we checked in, golden tickets in hand, reminiscent of those Willy Wonka legends. EVR's unique touch? You book by the compartment, ensuring your party has a cosy space to themselves. With 12 of us in tow, we comfortably settled into two compartments, numbered 9 and 10.
Max, our resident train enthusiast, had his day made when he spotted the train warming up, chugging along parts of the track. It wasn't just the children who were excited; many adults grabbed hot drinks, warming themselves on that frosty morning.
Platform Pleasantries & Enchanting Encounters 🎭
Close to boarding time, elves took centre stage, guiding us and introducing us to the mix of EVR's dedicated staff and the vibrant performers from 'The Train Through Christmas Countryside'. I was chuffed to finally meet Zach, a familiar name from our online interactions, and now, a friendly face in person. A true gem of a performer, he definitely made our day a touch more special.
As we boarded our train, the compartments welcomed us with warmth – both metaphorically and literally, thanks to the under-seat heating. And then, with a 'choo-choo', the adventure began! Not long after, "Agatha Christmas", Santa's lively daughter, was there at our window, filling our journey with giggles and stories. We also encountered Mr Tickets, cheeky elves, and yes, Santa himself!
Journey of Laughs & Treasured Moments 🎉
The roughly 75-minute journey whizzed by in a blur of songs, dances, and hearty laughs. Our compartments might've been the most boisterous, but isn't that what festive fun's all about? It’s the silly season, and we made sure to embrace it wholeheartedly!
Now, a bit of advice: this isn't a journey for those who want a quiet ride through the countryside. It's for those who, like us, aren't afraid to join in the merry chaos, singing at the top of their lungs and even donning the occasional elf hat.
While onboard, we were treated to delightful hot chocolate and cookies. Although the hot chocolate leaned on the cooler side, we guessed it was probably a smart move considering the excited kiddos around.
Wrapping Up With Santa’s Surprises 🎅
As our journey neared its end, Santa, with his trademark twinkle in his eye, had some surprises. The children were thrilled with their presents, each thoughtfully chosen for their age.
I could, of course, go into even more depth about our day, but where's the fun in that? Some surprises are best left unspoiled. I'll leave you with this, though: the performers were stars, every single one of them. Their infectious energy truly made our day, and it's evident they adore what they do.
We're already eyeing our next trip – same time next year, perhaps? A massive shout-out to Zach and the EVR crew for an unforgettable day.
This was undoubtedly one of our top festive outings in the Midlands for 2022.
Until next time, cheers to festive train adventures and heartwarming memories!
2023: All Change! 🚂
For 2023, some fresh winds of change are blowing through the enchanting stations of the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway (EVR). They've decided to take a new turn this festive season, parting ways with OnTrack Productions. Now, if you remember, OnTrack Productions was the magical team behind the "The Train Through Christmas Countryside" festive offering that had us all spellbound. However, Christmas lovers needn't fret! The talented folks at OnTrack Productions will still sprinkle their festive magic, albeit at a different venue for Christmas 2023. The specifics are still under wraps, but a little birdie tells me that all will be revealed on their Facebook Page soon, so keep those eyes peeled!
Next Stop: A Magical Collaboration with The Experiences Group! 🪄
Coming back to the EVR, they're embarking on an exciting new collaboration for Christmas 2023. The station has teamed up with none other than The Experiences Group, seasoned maestros in the world of festive and special events. Their illustrious portfolio boasts successful stints at places like the Statfold Barn Railway near Tamworth, and from what I've seen of their work, passengers are in for an exciting ride!
Sam's Enchanting Touch 🌟
Taking the reins for this festive endeavour is Sam, the Founder and Creative Director at The Experiences Group. Now, Sam is not just any events guy. With a solid educational foundation in theatre and performing arts, he's the magic wand that turns ordinary events into extraordinary experiences. Before founding The Experiences Group, Sam honed his craft at Drayton Manor for nearly a decade and later took the role of Head of Operations at Statfold. He's someone who truly understands the intricate dance between events management and the creative arts. With Sam in charge, I have every bit of confidence that this year's Christmas spectacle at EVR will be nothing short of enchanting.
However, given these significant changes, it's important to note that some aspects of the festive experience I reviewed for last year's EVR event will likely differ this year. So, if you're planning a visit, make sure to adjust your expectations accordingly and get ready to embrace the new surprises that await.
Closing Thoughts 💭
With the ever-evolving landscape of festive train experiences, one thing remains consistent: the magic, the wonder, and the sheer joy of Christmas on the tracks!