It was an early start, meeting at Marhamchurch to board the connecting coach arranged by ‘Connect Bude’ picking up at Bude, Stratton and Holsworthy taking passengers to Okehampton station for the 7.10am train. On the train, special coaches were allocated — one for Bude and Holsworthy passengers and one for Hatherleigh.
With an air of excitement and the dawning of a lovely sunny day the conversations began to flow promising to be a truly special community day out.
The HST train arrived on time to a bustling station filled with people from across the region of West Devon and North Cornwall including Okehampton, Hatherleigh, and even Penzance. Some had arrived early to buy breakfast from the Dartmoor Railway café on the platform.
Then as the train began its journey people settled to gaze at the scenic views as the conversations and stories continued. Some people had brought sandwiches while others used the buffet car where hot bacon baguettes were served among a variety of other food and drinks. For those who wanted to splash out there was a Pullman dining service.
The service on the train was said to be ‘fantastic, the staff friendly and helpful, and the smooth journey made the whole experience very relaxing’.
There was a split in chosen destinations with some staying on the train to visit the historic town of Stratford-upon-Avon where a week of celebrations for Shakespeare’s birthday was to begin that day.
Others left the train at Oxford and enjoyed visiting a range of sights including the Ashmolean museum, botanical gardens, castle/prison guided tours, open top bus tours, walks by the canal, punting down the river, New Westgate shopping centre with viewing galley restaurant.
On the return journey home everyone recollected their day and shared the stories and experiences they’d enjoyed, and some rounded off the day with an alcoholic tipple, which helped to forget about tired legs. However, there was an unscheduled stop at Swindon on the way back to allow some passengers off the train which they had boarded by mistake at Oxford, otherwise they would have found themselves in Okehampton rather than Reading. They still arrived at Okehampton on time.
Mike Moore, of Connect Bude. said: “As we approached Stratton on the coach, we were also lucky enough to witness a firework display! It was very good of the residents of Stratton to celebrate our return in that way but maybe there was another important event taking place — perhaps the Queen’s birthday.
“We finally arrived back in Bude at 10pm after a very long but very enjoyable day with everyone keen to know where and when the next Royal Oke will be!”
The comments from passengers on the train included: “It was a lovely lovely day;” “Can’t wait for the next trip;” “A really pleasurable relaxing experience;” “We saw the beautiful sunrise and an incredible sunset as the train cut through the beautiful countryside, it makes you realise what stunning sights you’re missing in our days of road journeys;” “Train journeys are such a lovely way to appreciate the scenic views;” “A real mix of people all sharing stories about different aspects of their life and stories from childhood as the conversation flowed — you don’t get that on a car journey;”
“Community spirit sharing same carriage;” “People love railways.”
Huge thanks were expressed to OkeRail, GWR and all involved.