A closer look at the village of Twyford
PUBLISHED: 11:55 26 June 2018 | UPDATED: 11:55 26 June 2018
Be warned, if you visit Twyford there’s every chance you will end up staying there. It happened to our editor, and she’s not the only one
I think they’ve stopped… do you think they’ve stopped? Yes, and they appear to have moved off down to Newbury to meet and greet in their inimitable way the good folk of West Berkshire. If you live close to Twyford railway station it’s all been a bit fraught at times – usually 2am-ish – over the past couple of years as Network Rail set about an overhaul of the tracks and then electrifying the line to Paddington.
So yes, not just Twyford, lots of places on the way to the capital, but the middle of the night pile-driving world championships were surely held in our neck of the woods. Now all is (mostly) peace and quiet, and that’s how we like Twyford, apart from when we all go a bit mad as summer approaches.
In the meantime, it’s to be hoped that perhaps the prayers of our new Vicar of Ruscombe and Twyford with Hurst, the Rev Anna Harwood, helped to bring some additional peace and harmony. Anna took over from Simon Howard, who moved to become chaplain at a Christian community in Devon.
Like many of us Twyford incomers, Anna came from ‘just down the road’, having previously been Associate Rector at All Saints in Wokingham. However, she’s originally from Liverpool – the Twyford magnet effect has a long pull.
No more is this demonstrated than by Janette Vorster, who arrived in Twyford from South Africa with husband Alistair and young daughter Natalie, with a plan to spend a short time here while house-hunting elsewhere. After a while they had to unpack the sealed boxes of their belongings as the stay was going to be a little longer than expected. That was 14 years ago and Natalie is now studying archaeology at the University of Leicester.
“We thought we’d be here for perhaps six months,” Janette reveals over lunch at The Duke of Wellington. “But you know how it is.
“Then six years ago we set up a Facebook group simply for people who, like us, were interested in the steam trains passing through Twyford. Something for perhaps 100 to 200 people. By accident it became the place where people chatted about other Twyford news and now I run a group with 4,600 members!”
That’s some achievement for a parish with a population around the 8,000 mark. You can see what goes on at Twyford (Berkshire) on Facebook. Twyford has a lot of fans, from those families moving here to send children to excellent local schools, through commuters and trendy professionals or creative homeworkers to older residents, both village stalwarts and incomers. These include those now enjoying the reassurance of living at the Bridge House retirement development, which spans everything from independent life in cottages and apartments, or assisted living through to full nursing home facilities.
We’re lunching at The Duke, handily just across the road from Bridge House, to catch up with both Jeanette and Gordon Storey, the group leader for the business and charity networks run by another vital organisation helping to give the village its unique identity, Twyford Together. This not-for-profit, volunteer organisation is the link binding residents, businesses, schools, charities, churches and groups in Twyford and Ruscombe.
The sheer power of Twyford Together is demonstrated by the number of events or initiatives the group is either organising itself or backing. Gordon reels off a formidable list, from defibrillators around the village to Twyfest and the Wildlife Safari at Loddon Nature Reserve, run for schoolchildren with Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust.
It’s a packed calendar all the way to Christmas 2018, when we all gather at the village crossroads for a night of shopping and fundraising. In the meantime, with summer coming the Twyford in Bloom team is ‘going for gold’, having picked up silver in the Thames and Chiltern in Bloom awards last year.
“And I doubt there are many places this size that could devote a whole week to events aimed at making the village as dementia-friendly as possible,” Gordon says.
Leisurely tea or coffee with perhaps a slice of delicious cake at Emma’s Kitchen in London Road is always a treat. You’ll find lots of local produce here, including Sonning and Ruscombe honey, fresh eggs and much more. The sweet treats include some lovely decorated gingerbread biscuits made by Biccy Bakes of Caversham. Emma’s Kitchen has used fully recyclable takeaway coffee cups since opening in 2016 and if you bring your own cup they’ll knock 10% off your coffee price.
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