I have passed by Peterborough many times, either by train along the East Coast Main Line or by road along the A1. However, I had never stopped to see what Peterborough has to offer.
So when I was given a Steam Train Experience on the Nene Valley Railway as a present, I decided to combine the rail trip with a tour of Peterborough. It turned out to be a very enjoyable Short Break, which also included a visit to Nene Park.
The main station on the Nene Valley Railway is at Wansford, where there is free car parking. There is a large collection of steam and diesel locomotives on display at the station, including what is described as the official Thomas the Tank Engine. Unusually the collection includes continental locomotives and carriages such as a newly renovated Swedish railcar.
Trains travel west from Wansford to Yarwell junction, before back-tracking through Wansford and on to central Peterborough. There are two intermediate stations, Ferry Meadows and Orton Mere.
Standard Rover tickets allow unlimited all day travel on the seven mile route and Seniors get a 20% discount. Refreshments are available at all stations and there is a licensed bar on the train.
Steam locomotives are normally used, but may be replaced by diesels if prolonged dry weather causes a fire hazard. On the day I visited, the trains were pulled by 73050 the City of Peterborough, a British Railways Standard Class 5 steam locomotive. Unfortunately, the day I travelled in mid-August, it did manage to set a cornfield alight destroying several acres!
We broke our journey at Ferry Meadows where there is a country park, part of Nene Park which stretches for 8 miles along the Nene valley. This well-managed 500 acre site has a network of well-paved pathways around lakes and through meadows.
It offers a wide range of land and water based leisure activities, including boat trips. A 3 mile walk set us up nicely for lunch at the attractively located restaurant near the Visitor Centre. Entry to Nene Park is free of charge.
Returning to the Nene Valley Railways, it was then just 3 miles to Peterborough, with two hours for sight-seeing before the return journey to Wansford. If you are a railway enthusiast, then Peterborough station is the site of Railworld, which has exhibits and information on railways from all over the world, as well as a large ‘OO’ gauge model railway.
I’d had dire warnings that there is not much to see and do in Peterborough. Well that’s wrong! Walking from the station we passed through attractive streets, with open air cafes, and through old-fashioned arcades, now with a modern upmarket feel to them. The imposing Cathedral Square with its 17th Century Guildhall is at the heart of the city.
At the end of the Square, with view partly hidden by a stone gateway, is the Peterborough Cathedral. It is a fairly squat, asymmetric building without the massive towers or spires of say Lincoln or Salisbury cathedrals. So I was not prepared for the superb interior with its immense, 12th Century Norman arches. Give yourself plenty of time when visiting as there is much to see in the Cathedral, including the hand-painted nave ceiling, the marble altar in the sanctuary and Katherine of Aragon’s grave.
Peterborough is readily accessible from the A1, the Great North Road, and is a major interchange on the East Coast Main Line from London to Edinburgh.
There is plenty of accommodation in Peterborough in small, independent hotels which can booked through trivago. Many of the major hotel chains have properties in or near the city, including Days Inn, Holiday Inn, Marriott and Park Inn, but see my Hotel Deals for Seniors before booking.