Some of the best things to see and do in Twyford
PUBLISHED: 16:09 21 May 2019
The village of Twyford has always been a popular place for travellers and those wanting to settle down in this pretty part of the county. We uncover more reasons to stop by
Everybody knows that the village of Twyford forms part of our current Prime Minister's constituency. There are some facts about Twyford you may not know however, starting with the origins of its name. It was so-called thanks to its important river crossing; the River Loddon splits into two smaller channels, which made it easier to cross. Hence its place name 'Two Fords', or now Twyford. King Aethelred, Prince Albert and King James II all fled to London thanks to these two shallow fords.
In the Middle Ages, the village grew thanks to it being on an important road for the wool merchants of the county as they transported their cloth from Reading to London. Hostelries sprang up for the travellers and their horses to stop for a rest and for when the fords were too deep to get across. That same road later became the 'Great Road to Bristol', now Bath Road.
These days you might say Twyford is still essentially a commuter village, thanks mostly to its easy links to London, Maidenhead and Reading. It still manages to maintain its village feel, however, with many community groups as well as events and facilities. Twyford has two recreation grounds with football pitches, tennis courts, a cricket square, children's playgrounds and a skate park. There is also a beautiful nature reserve on the edge of the village.
Twyford has a number of good schools and is also served by grammar schools in Reading.
Charles Wickenden, who has been a parish councillor for Twyford for four years now, says: "I've always been interested in planning issues and I'm especially keen that the community develops in the way it wants to rather than in a way that somebody with no interest in our local area decides."
Charles has lived in the village since 2006 and in the area since moving out of London in 1987. "My wife and I were attracted originally by the combination of Twyford being a distinct community coupled with good links to London and Reading. It's good to be able to get into London in 50 minutes, while at the same time living in a small community. I'm grateful for that," he says.
"I'm also always impressed by the number of activities going on in Twyford and all the volunteers who ensure we have a vibrant and active community here. Events such as the Scouts' Donkey Derby, the Round Table's firework display and Twyford Together's Christmas Fayre, not forgetting our own Village Fete in August. I think we should be thankful for the many enthusiastic people who ensure these things happen."
Twyford Village Fete is being held on 17 August in 2019. The children can enjoy the traditional egg and spoon, three-legged and sack races. There are bands as well as the Beer Festival Bar and Duke of Wellington's gins. There's also a visit from Punch and Judy, circus skills workshops, farm animals to pet and stalls to visit.
But before that, it's the annual Twyford Beer Festival on 7 and 8 June 2019. This is their 10th year, so no doubt there will be more than one or two pint glasses raised in celebration. This year's event is to raise money for cancer charity Orchid, so head to Stanlake Meadow Recreation Ground to sample some cider, dance to the live bands and, of course, learn a little about real ale.
And if you're interested in seeing one of the oldest and most popular pubs in Berkshire, visit The Duke of Wellington in Twyford, built in 1450.
"It's been wonderful to serve the lovely people of Twyford village and to be involved with the community since 1998," says Caroline Salib, owner of popular rstaurant La Fontana. In July 2018, the restaurant underwent a refurbishment, incorporating a new wine bar, tapas and mezza menu. Owners Emad and Caroline were both working in catering when they met in 1989, and less than 10 years on they had got married and bought a derelict pub with designs on turning it into a family restaurant. Patata Bravas, meatballs, grilled haloumi, falafel, urban chilli chicken or tuna steak - whatever your cuisine requirements, La Fontana seem to have most of them covered on their menus. They even do a Sunday carvery.
Editor Sarah and her family popped into HaaHoos Ceramics on Church Street −a bright and airy studio-come-cafe − to make gifts for their extended family. Here you can sip on a tea or coffee −or even a wine or beer −and tuck into homemade brownies, crisps or sweets while creating something unique and personal. You can pick an activity from pottery painting, decopatch and foam clay; it's £5 per person to cover the time and materials you use. Pottery and decoptach items are priced separately and range from £4 to £50. Sarah says: "We had a wonderful time. My husband and I each made a mug, and the girls picked an ornament to paint. It was a lovely activity to share altogether and the staff were so friendly and helpful."
Take a tour
Gamay, Ortega, Wurzer… names you may only recognise if you're a bit of a wine buff. These are just some of the varieties of grapes used to make the wine produced at the picturesque Stanlake Park Estate. Not to mention the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay varieties for the English Sparkling Wine on site. Stanlake's first vines were planted in 1979, and back then they were known as Thames Valley Vineyards. That's 40 years' experience at growing and producing Berkshire-based bottles.
"To celebrate those 40 years, we'll be launching several projects," says Stanlake's Natalia Pezzone. "We've recently changed our wine-making team and re-opened our cellar shop. We aim to create a big wine-lovers community in Berkshire, through organising wine tastings and meetings, launching a new wine club and so much more."
You don't need to go across the pond to find out more about how great wines are made. Stanlake Park host tours throughout the spring and summer run by an experienced guide, who will lead you through all the ups and downs of English wine-making. Weather permitting, you will see the vines inside the walled gardens before discovering what goes into production in the winery. Stop by the grape-pressing area, fermentation tanks, the barrel room, 'fizz' room and the bottling the wine area - sampling a different wine at each one. After two hours of tasting, you can purchase your favourite at the Cellar Shop.
Loddon Nature Reserve
Behind the Wagon and Horses Pub on Twyford's high street is Loddon Nature Reserve, a haven spanning 14 hectares for anyone to explore. It is a large, flooded gravel pit with several islands and what the Wildlife Trust calls 'scrubby fringe skirts' around the shallows. Whether you are a keen birdwatcher or not, you'll appreciate the serene surroundings, which are looked after by a dedicated group of local volunteers. Twitchers are often spotted here, most likely because of frequent visitors like blackcaps, great crested grebes and the handsome male smew, which only arrives at the reserve during the winter months. But it's not just birds you can find here; the plant life around the lake is home to a range of butterflies and dragonflies. Plus, on summer evenings, watch the bats as they hunt the rich pickings to be found over the lake.
Get up close and personal with some wonderful birds of prey at Feathers and Fur Falconry Centre at Ladd's Garden Village nearby. Spend the day with hawks, falcons and owls, learning about how they live in the wild. Run by Sadie Shepherd, the centre has evolved thanks to her passion for birds, with her main focus on educating people on how the birds fit into the environment and how we can help to protect them. "Whether you are just coming to look at the birds, for which there is no cost, or to experience the wonder of having a bird of prey land on your fist, there is something for everyone," says Sadie. "We are blessed to live in a county that offers such a wide range of birds of prey. From the red kites soaring gracefully over the fields, sparrowhawk darting through your back garden to the peregrine watching from on high from the buildings in Reading, Feathers and Fur Falconry has these and many more to experience."
Supporting your local producer helps the local economy, plus there is nothing quite like using the freshest ingredients when cooking at home. Take your shopping list to Hare Hatch Sheeplands and explore their wonderful farm shop. There's a dairy, bakery, wine, a butchers, fruit and veg, local honey, sauces, dressings, eggs and even cut flowers from local farms. Then grab a coffee and homemade cake in their café before perusing the plant nursery.
Why I love Twyford - Claire Gibson, of Claire's Kitchen in Twyford
Our house - We have a busy household of six, with our youngest being 11 and our oldest being 16. We have recently renovated our house to be not only our family home but also my business, Claire's Kitchen. The kitchen is really the hub of the household, where we cook, eat and socialise, and it's a lovely big airy space.
We love living in Twyford and all our children go to the village schools. Being central to the village is important to us as having four children we take advantage of being able to walk to the village centre, walk to school, use the train station and many of the village clubs and social activities on offer.
Work is - Claire's Kitchen has evolved over the last 18 months from a brand-new business offering some home-baked cakes and gluten-free baked goods to offering cookery courses and children's cookery classes, and now meal collection and catering as well as cooking for a local preschool. I still cook birthday cakes and tray bakes, as these are always popular. I now have a website in order to help my loyal customer base with recipes for gluten-free and dairy-free and other allergy cooking. I am gluten-free and mostly dairy-free, with my children being dairy-free too, so this was my main focus as it can be very tricky to get good-tasting and interesting allergy food.
I like to provide my customers with a range of foods and my main focus is on helping my gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan customers. I like to provide tasty, home-style cooking that is healthy and tastes good.
If you have a function, need a one-off cake, or need food on a regular basis, or just love to cook, hopefully I can help.
The best bits of Twyford - I love Twyford as the people are so friendly. It has so much on offer. The schools are fantastic and there is a village feel with people who passionately care about their community. There is plenty going on if you want to get involved, from clubs and activities to events around the year, such as the Donkey Derby, fireworks, Christmas fair, Beer Festival, Twyford Together activities and so much more. Then you have the village shops and, of course, Waitrose, as well as pubs and restaurants. There are plenty of walks on our doorstep too as well as the nature reserve.