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PTDC0001The folk train from Manchester to Hathersage seems to be a bit of a word of mouth thing. I knew that there were folk trains that ran in the Manchester/Greater Manchester area, but I hadn’t investigated them before.

Because the Manchester to Hathersage folk train runs on the Hope Valley line and I’m on the Buxton line in Heaton Chapel, it was a choice between walking it to Reddish North or getting the bus to Piccadilly. Last night, when David texted over the train times, I worked out the walking route to Reddish North, and was thinking about doing it. Then, this morning, I opened the windows, saw the torrential rain, and thought ‘Naahh…’

There were a significant number of people in the queue for same day tickets at Piccadilly who were travelling to Hathersage, which would suggest that the folk train has a good strong following of people in the know. The carriage next to the drivers cab, containing the folk band, was filling up fast when I got on, and the band were tuning up. At 11:49am we set out, and the band began to play. It’s different bands on different weeks and this week it was the turn of DH Lawrence and the Vaudeville Skiffle Show, a Nottingham band. They played some train related material on the way out, as well as a selection of folk, skiffle and bluegrass.

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Because the folk train is situated within one carriage of a normal service train, I did wonder what people would make of it if they were just blearily travelling from A to B, and there was the odd person who got onto that carriage and looked momentarily poleaxed before either getting into it or becoming quietly resigned.

The rain had stopped by the time we got to Reddish North, and you could see gorgeous views of Reddish Vale from the train windows. Later on there were similarly great views of Marple aqueduct and the canal. During a particularly rousing rendition of ‘We’ve all gotta die someday’ we stopped at Strines and, once again, I did wonder what the unsuspecting people getting on the train thought.

When we arrived in Hathersage, we all disembarked and followed the crowd, Pied Piper style, out of the train station and down the road into the village, then into the pub.

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The pub being The Little John Hotel, where the band were due to play a second set. This turned out to be a really nice venue, with friendly staff and really good quality reasonably priced food and drink. Very much recommended.

The band played their second set as we ate, and there was some enthusiastic dancing amongst the diners during one of the jigs, an echo of earlier jig related antics on the train.

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You have the option of heading back towards Manchester on the designated train, with the band, or staying on and making your way back on a later train. We headed back on the same train as the band, who played a similar mixture of folk, skiffle and bluegrass, albeit different songs. In the pub they’d concentrated on their own material (which was very good and in the folk tradition), but on the way back it was more traditional stuff, with a dose of pop, including a bit of Elvis and Andy Williams: ‘Can’t take my eyes of you’ with kazoos in lieu of the brass section was a revelation.

All in all, I’d say that the folk train makes for a great, quirky and reasonably priced day out. Save for food and drink at the Little John Hotel, the only cost is the train ticket. You aren’t charged any extra for it being the folk train: You pay the same as you would for a normal weekend same day return from Manchester to Hathersage. They do pass the hat for the band during the set at the pub, but I think that’s reasonable, and you can give what you can afford.

Future events are planned, and you can find out more at the High Peak and Hope Valley Community Rail Partnership website.

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