Yesterday, I took my mum and dad on a trip on a heritage train from Bangor to Windsor along the west coast main line, with West Coast Railways. Unfortunately it was a diesel train, rather than a steam train, but I’d booked premier dining, which included silver service of full English breakfast in the morning and a four course meal on the return journey, and tickets to visit Windsor Castle. I’ve really been looking forward to it. Unfortunately, the queen must have missed my email to say I was visiting and wasn’t in!
My mum and dad had a very early start as they had to travel from Beaumaris to Bangor, where the train departed at the very early time of 6.44. I didn’t have to be at Colwyn Bay until 7.15, although unfortunately I woke up at 4.00 anyway! John dropped me off at the station with a wheelchair for my dad. Dad’s a bit unsteady and often uses a stick and, to make matters worse, he fell and badly wounded his leg a couple of weeks ago. We decided the wheelchair would be helpful because he’d struggle with the distance we’d have to walk in Windsor, especially with the cobbled streets.
When the train arrived, the steward helped put the wheelchair onto the train and I found mum and dad sitting a a table with a white cloth, beautifully set up for breakfast. The seats were huge and much more comfortable than my usual commuter train to Manchester, and the train staff were very helpful, particularly our steward. It wasn’t long until we were served coffee and orange juice and, as the journey went on past Chester, breakfast. We all chose the melon, croissants and full English breakfast. It was all delicious and I was looking forward to dinner already!
We weren’t due to arrive into Windsor until 13.00 but the first few hours of the journey passed very quickly as we ate, chatted and watched the North Wales coast then the beautiful rolling hills and fields of England pass by outside the windows. My mum was also sewing. We travelled almost into London, past Wembley and Chelsea, over the River Thames a couple of times before travelling out again to Windsor. The train was much slower now and it was getting a bit warm so we were looking forward to getting off and getting some fresh air.
We arrived into Windsor and Eton Riverside Station on time and from there it was a 10 minute walk to Windsor Castle, the huge walls of which dominate the town. It was a hot, sticky day and it was hard work pushing the wheelchair up the steep hill to the castle, and over the cobbled sections of the streets. I didn’t mind though… I needed the exercise, especially after the huge breakfast! What I did find difficult were the crowds of people. There was a huge queue for the castle so I went to find out if we could bypass it because I’d preordered tickets and my dad was in the wheelchair. I was advised to skip the queue and directed to the wheelchair entrance. Unfortunately, my mum had continued pushing dad up the hill in the wheelchair and they were in the queue so we had to push our way through, apologising to everyone. I knocked one woman with the wheelchair and almost got into an argument with her. I was doing my best, on a hill surrounded by people, and it was an accident! The day gave me a much greater appreciation of the difficulties disabled people face. Later I was shocked when a member of the castle staff asked me a question that my dad should have been asked directly… He’s quite capable of speaking for himself!
Once inside the castle grounds, we decided to visit St George’s Chapel and not bother with the castle and attractions such as the state apartments. With only having paid for a disabled and over 60 ticket because I got in free as a companion for my dad, it didn’t cost a lot so it didn’t really matter. It was too hot to be rushing round, and too busy, but I’d like to go back another day and see more. The gothic chapel was beautiful inside and out, including the stained glass windows, ornate stone ceilings, organ, and marble tombs. We spent some time finding out about all the members of the royal family who’ve been buried there. Dad managed very well when we had to keep getting him out of the wheelchair to walk up steps. During the afternoon, a few people were very helpful when I was struggling with the wheelchair, which was very welcome.
We then had a wander round the grounds for a bit and I took a few photos while my mum took the wheelchair. Although she never complained, she was struggling with gout and a very sore foot and found it helpful to lean on the wheelchair. We saw one guard but had missed changing the guard… something else for another day maybe.
When we’d had enough we went to find a cafe for a cup of tea and a cake, and were lucky to find one with a table outside in the shade. The buildings in Windsor are beautiful and there seemed to be lots of interesting shops. We didn’t have the energy to go down to the river or visit Eton college though.
After this we walked slowly back to the station, taking care not to let go of the wheelchair on the steep downhill 🙂 We still had about an hour to wait for our train home but found a cool, shady bench to sit and watch the world go by, and the time passed quite quickly.
Our train had been parked up elsewhere but came back into the station at 16.30 and we got on. We’d ordered a bottle of wine to share and gin and tonic for me for the return journey. I’d also completely forgotten I’d ordered champagne when I booked the tickets and was very surprised to see the ice bucket on the table! Oh well… we’d manage to drink it all, I’m sure!
The train was very hot, particularly when we were stationery or only moving slowly and we were all hot and sticky. My dad wasn’t feeling too well now, and my mum looked very tired too. We all enjoyed our dinner though, and had ham hock terrine, lamb with dauphinoise potatoes and raspberry panacotta. I also had cheese and biscuits. Delicious, especially washed down with the champagne and St Emilion!
After dinner, I caught up on emails and social media while my mum and dad tried unsuccessfully to snooze. The steward entertained us with a few stories each time he came through the carriage and apologised for it being so hot. We were pleased when the train was moving faster because this seemed to pull more of a breeze through the carriage. It also got cooler as the sun started to drop and we passed Crewe and Chester back into North Wales. John was waiting for me in Colwyn Bay when we got there at about 10.35.
I haven’t heard from mum and dad today yet. I didn’t get in until almost 11.00 and the train didn’t get back into Bangor until that time, so they will have been much later by the time they collected the car, drove home and sorted their cats out. I’m hoping they’ll have slept a lot today. Overall, I enjoyed the trip and I hope they did too and that the heat and tiredness didn’t spoil it for them. I’d like to do the Carlisle/Settle trip with them one day… hopefully when it’s cooler!
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