You may not notice the old, red bricked building as you drive along the Hazeley road on the way to Twyford. It does not demand your attention, does not shout about its existence, it just sits and waits.
Twyford Waterworks was in danger of becoming one of those places we say we’ll visit but never do; always on our way somewhere else and never quite able to make it on a day it was open.
Last Sunday the sun was shining, the in-laws were visiting and it was the perfect day for a trip out. As luck would have it Twyford Waterworks was having their annual Autumn Rally. We set off along the usual route we take to Winchester or Mottisfont, only this time, we stopped.
Nestled in the Hampshire countryside, just outside the village of Twyford, the old Edwardian water pumping station, has been lovingly restored by a team of dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers.
Getting out of the car, we were greeted by organ music drifting across the field, beckoning us to join the fun. Above us, reaching up into the sky, the chimney of the waterworks was almost touching the fluffy white clouds, dotted about a crisp blue canvas.
Through the entrance it was a buzz of activity. A real family event. Classic car owners, with their beloved motors, sat on fold out chairs drinking tea and reading the paper. Occasionally chatting to visitors as they stopped to admire their vehicles and ask questions.
Further on, a member of the Fair Organ Preservation Society proudly played music through a family owned organ called Endurance; perhaps an indication of a necessary prerequisite for the owner of such a machine. A second organ around the back of the waterworks also jangled its tune, clashing with the first in a strangely pleasant cacophony of mechanised music.
Beany loved watching the crashing cymbal and tambourine as the music played on. The owner of Endurance was even kind enough to take the back off the machine and show us how it worked. Normally powered by steam, today the organ was powered by electrics as their little steam engine had failed its health and safety check. A shame but perhaps we’ll see it in action another time.
Inside the waterworks you’ll find a restored 1934 hydraulic Ruston Diesel Engine along with pumps, pistons, gauges, boilers and pipes at every turn, to show how the waterworks used to function. The works still pump water today but steam is no longer used. However, steam is coming back to the old waterworks and the volunteers involved in the project are very excited.
Around the corner the tea room, complete with barbecue outside, kept people sustained for a day of learning, fun and exploring the nature trail.
Up on the hill are the old lime kilns and water softening works. Here lime was made into quick lime to soften the water, not for drinking, but for getting a good lather when you did your washing.
A walk along the nature trail that circles the old kilns, provides a break from the hustle and bustle below. The trail will take you past an old walnut tree, some wild flower meadows, hawthorn hedgerows, elderberries and finally to a hide overlooking a small pond where Southern Hawkers dance across the water. One of the most inquisitive dragonflies, if you stand still by the water’s edge, Southern Hawkers will come up and say hello.
We had a wonderful day exploring the old waterworks. For such a small place there’s plenty to do, for everyone. So next time you see an old building, don’t drive past, have an investigate. We’d love to know what you find.
To find out more information about Twyford Waterworks Trust and when they are open you can click here.
We’d love to know if there are any old buildings near you and if there are projects to preserve them, so don’t forget to let us know below!