Celebrate Christmas on board Severn Valley Railway Santa Specials - review
The Severn Valley Railway has really pulled out all the stops for its all-new Santa Specials.
Arriving at the Kidderminster station on Saturday morning, we were just blown away by the decorations, stalls and especially the brass band.
It's getting harder and harder to avoid getting in the festive spirit too early these days but once December rolls around it's fair game – and the flood gates really do open.
Spending the morning and early afternoon surrounded by Christmas music and boarding a steam train was the perfect way to officially launch the festivities.
Bewdley Brass Band serenaded us by playing classic tunes while we all waited with either a hot chocolate, tea or even an Irish coffee before boarding our train.
I went with my wife, Kelly, five-year-old daughter, Annabelle, and my mom, Nadine.
Annabelle was soon sick of me taking pictures of her – by the tree, on a special Christmas throne, in a sleigh and before climbing on the train – but it had to be done.
Once our names were called, we boarded the Prancer carriage at Kiddy ready for our near two-hour journey, which took us through Bewdley, Arley and into Highley before heading back again.
For those who really want to make a day of there's the chance to alight at Bewdley to explore the town before getting back on a later train back to Kidderminster, although seats are not reserved for that option and it is catered for on a first-come, first-served basis.
As were planning to eat out later we stayed on the train and it was probably long enough for Annabelle, although we all thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
As the train travels past the West Midlands Safari Park we were treated to a view of reindeer and then the resident elephants, which really made Annabelle's day.
The carriages were all beautifully dressed up and although it was quite cold when we first boarded after a few minutes they really heated up.
As part of the experience the adults are treated to mince pie – very nice they were too – while the children get a gingerbread man.
Annabelle also got a fruit shoot while we were served a hot drinks, which even came with the option of whisky, brandy or Baileys – all double measures, too – which was another lovely touch and warmed us up even more.
My daughter's face really lit up when she saw Santa and his elves walk by the carriage window before we had pulled off. And soon enough he was making his way down the train to greet all the girls and boys.
After a high-five and photograph, Annabelle received her gift, which was a lovely penguin cuddly toy, which she immediately Christened 'Kingy'. He was a King Penguin after all.
The activity sheet also kept her entertained throughout and she managed to write yet another list for Santa.
The bombshell of wanting a dog this time, however, led to us all explaining it was simply too dangerous to bring an animal on his sleigh . . . we think she understood.
But there was no mistaking this was, in fact, the real Father Christmas and not one of impostors, because even at the age of five she's already realised some of the beards and costumes leave a lot to be desired.
The Santa on the Severn Valley Railway was very nicely turned out so Annabelle knew she was talking to the real deal this time.
Travelling on a steam train is pretty magical anyway but thrown in some frost, a few carols and a bit of tinsel and it really does mark the beginning of Christmas in the most wonderful way.
The Santa Steam Specials, catering for tables of four or six, are running this Saturday and Sunday, and then on December 14, 15, 21, 22, 23 and Christmas Eve, with trains departing from Kidderminster at various times.
For further information or for prices, go to svr.co.uk