Last weekend we spent a lovely day at Epping Ongar Railway in Essex. I was lucky enough to win tickets as part of Visit Essex‘s promotion to offer free tickets to many popular Essex attractions. I came across the promotion by chance as I was researching for my Easter Egg Hunt post, and thought there was no harm in applying for tickets. I must admit I had forgotten about it until I received an email telling me I’d won and how to claim my tickets. I was very excited as the railway is something I’d heard about but never visited before so it was great to get this chance to try it out. So here is my Epping Ongar Railway review!
I ordered the tickets online and it was a very easy process. I printed off an eticket and then did a bit of research in to what we could do. Originally I thought we’d get on at Ongar, and then get off at Epping and go to Epping forest, but then I found out that there is no platform at Epping so we aren’t able to get off. So we decided to go to North Weald instead.
There is no parking at the attraction, but there are many car parks in Ongar that are free at the weekend. We actually parked at a sports club just opposite so only had to walk for a minute (which is handy with a toddler when we decided not to bring the buggy).
The outside of the station is fantastic – it looks really old school. There was some scaffolding up as they have some repairs going on, so we didn’t get a photo but it gives the experience a great start as you’re instantly transported back in time. We exchanged our e-ticket for a paper ticket, which again is in keeping with the traditional feel – this was punched by the conductor on board the train.
As soon as we stepped on to the platform, Alfie went “WOW” in the way that little children do when they see something amazing for the first time. It was such a fantastic reaction, I wish I’d caught it on camera! The steam train was ready and waiting to go, and I think he loved seeing it right in front of him. We managed to persuade him to walk along the platform to get on the train as I think he would have been happy standing there staring at the train all day!
We decided not to take the pushchair with us, but if you planned to do something the other end and so needed your buggy, there is a space in the first carriage where you can put it which I thought was very helpful. You could also take it in your carriage with you if you wanted, but like any train, there is obviously limited space. We found a seat and then Craig went back out to get us a couple of hot drinks. The price was very reasonable, but one tip I would say is take cash as we found the food and drink outlets didn’t take card, and you had to go to the ticket office in order to pay (which was fine, but a bit of a faff). He came back with a leaflet about the journey which was very useful and it was here we read that we couldn’t alight at Epping Forest.
We waited about 15 minutes for the train to leave as we’d arrived quite early, and then off we went! Alfie loved the noise of the train and watching all the beautiful countryside pass us by. I wouldn’t recommend sticking your child’s head out of the window, but Alfie seemed to enjoy it!
I’m not sure how long the journey took to North Weald as I wasn’t clock watching, but it wasn’t too long, maybe 15 minutes? Long enough to make it worthwhile, but short enough to keep Alfie’s attention. Now, we arrived at North Weald with the intention of continuing to Epping Forest, however it seemed our train didn’t go that far at that time – it was only the afternoon trains that continued on to Epping. Had I read the timetable better, I would have known this! But it was fine, we decided to get off and enjoy a sausage sandwich at the little food outlet at the station. It was situated inside an old train carriage which was very cute. The prices for food and drink were extremely reasonable although there wasn’t much choice. They do have a picnic area so you are more than welcome to take a picnic with you, which is what we saw lots of families doing.
We ate our lunch and then went back outside to see the trains again. There was another train at the station (I believe a locomotive, but I’m not expert so can’t confirm that!). Alfie loved walking up the big steps and over the bridge. It was a great viewpoint to look at the train and watch as it blew steam out of it’s funnel.
I think we spent about an hour at the station overall and then we hopped back on the train to take us back to Ongar. Again, this was a shortish ride, but it was a lovely way to end a lovely day. Alfie had such a good time, he was exhausted and fell asleep (as did Daddy!!)
Overall, we had a fantastic day. I would say next time we would be a bit more prepared in terms of what we would do when we got off the train. Had we known that we couldn’t get off at Epping, I would have looked in to what we could do in North Weald, or perhaps hopped on a different type of train and then ridden the steam train again! You can definitely make a whole day of it if you are prepared, but equally you can spend a few hours there and still have a great time.
We were very lucky to win these tickets, however we would definitely pay the prices of £13 per adult, £7 per child or £34 for a family ticket (2 adult and up to 3 children). Children under 3 for free! If you are looking for a family day out in Essex that is a bit different, this is definitely a winner!
For details of more days out in Essex, check out my new tab at the top of the page – this will automatically take you to a list of all the fun things we’ve done in and around Essex so far. Hopefully there will be lots more to come!
We won these tickets in a competition that is not in any way connected to this review. As always, all opinions are 100% honest and my own.