Community Rail Groups join together and win national award for greener days out campaign

Community Rail Partnerships connected by the Thameslink network won a coveted national award for developing an online guide to days out by train.

Southeast Communities Rail Partnership, alongside community partners across the Thameslink network, received the award at the 17th national Community Rail Awards for their ‘Countryside, Capital & Coast’ guide.

The Guide encourages visitors to take the train for a greener day out or short break through inspirational itineraries, highlighting the gorgeous market towns, areas of outstanding natural beauty and hidden gems off the beaten track, with insights into local attractions, written by local residents.

Hosted on the national Scenic Rail Britain website – created by Community Rail Network – the online guide offers rail travellers inspiration about places to visit up and down the Thameslink lines travelling through countryside, the capital and onto the coast. Visitors can learn about things to do as far north as Bedford, Bletchley or St Albans – as well as beautiful villages around Cambridge – via London and on to stations south of the city, heading towards Sevenoaks, Brighton and East Grinstead.

The online guide features an interactive map that highlights key destinations and their travel times from London to help visitors decide where to explore first. Each destination page also includes details about accessibility at railway stations and tips on how to save money on rail tickets.

Explore the guide for yourself and see what’s possible, whether you choose a day out or longer stay. Start your journey locally with seeking out the great Sussex Coastline towards Littlehampton. Try hopping off at Redhill, Hassocks or East Grinstead to explore the rambling routes of the South Downs, Ashdown Forest, and connections to long distance walking route along the North Downs Way. Bicycles are welcome on Thameslink Trains.

Explore nearby Kent with a trip along the charming Darent Valley Line from Swanley to Sevenoaks. Enjoy picturesque riverside villages with plenty of pubs, shops and cafes, revel in the stunning views from rare chalk grasslands on the Kent Downs and explore fascinating historic sites such as Lullingstone Castle and World Garden, Lullingstone Roman Villa, Eynsford Castle, the Archbishop’s Palace in Otford and of course Knole House.  Or simply enjoy a great day out shopping and dining in lively Sevenoaks – all within easy reach of the six stations along the line.

Extend your visit and discover the awe-inspiring St Albans Cathedral, or explore nearby Verulamium Park, 100 acres of beautiful parkland named after the Roman settlement once based there, with the fabulous Verulamium Museum displaying hundreds of remarkable objects excavated from the area.

Why not spend the night in the stunning city of Cambridge, exploring the famous colleges, riverside meadows and award-winning restaurants, before venturing back south on the Rhee Valley Line to discover the charms of ancient churches, wonderful pubs and peaceful walks alongside clear chalk streams.

Sarah Newman, Rail Officer for the Darent Valley Community Rail Partnership (DVCRP) said: “We are delighted to have our collaboration recognised with this very welcome award. Faced with the challenge of repeated lockdowns in the last 18 months, the community rail partnerships along the shared lines came up with this online solution, working together to share all that is best about each of our areas.  It was great fun, and very ably facilitated by Alice Mannion at Community Rail Network, who helped us create an interactive map and add all sorts of inspiring ideas for days out. I can’t wait to visit all the other areas and report back!”

Whatever you decide to experience first, it’s all easy to reach along the Thameslink route. So leave the car behind, sit back and enjoy the views…

The online guide was supported by Southeast Communities Rail PartnershipMeldreth, Shepreth & Foxton Community Rail PartnershipDarent Valley Community Rail PartnershipMarston Vale Community Rail PartnershipBeds & Herts Community Rail PartnershipCommunity Rail Network, GTR Thameslink and South Cambridgeshire District Council

See the online guide here: