Clock turned back as ‘first round of gras’ travels by train

Ian Crowder
April 24, 2024

St Georges Day: 23rd April is a special day for the Vale of Evesham’s asparagus growing industry in Worcestershire, arguably the best asparagus – or ‘Gras’ – in the world. Traditionally this was when the first ‘round of gras’ was cut amid much celebration, marking the start of the British Asparagus Festival.

During the Spring growing season, hundreds of tons of the precious green spears were once despatched by train from Broadway and Toddington stations to market and, on 23 April, the clock was turned back.  This was when the first ‘100 round of gras’ comprising bundles of 15 spears, amounting to 120 (not 100!) spears was transported from Broadway to Cheltenham on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR) in a train hauled by steam locomotive no. 7903 ‘Foremarke Hall’ proudly bearing the ‘Asparagus Express’ headboard.

The journey for the asparagus began at the Fleece Inn at Bretforton, carried in one of a convoy of Morgan cars to Broadway to catch the 11.35 train.  From Cheltenham Racecourse, the asparagus was then taken to the National Star College for young people with disabilities, where it was made into a delicious soup by students.

The route of the launch-round of asparagus changes each year, the destination being a charitable organisation.  This is the second time the route has included the GWSR, the first time was in 2018, shortly after the railway’s extension to Broadway station opened.