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Queen recalls father during visit to open pumping station

The monarch unveiled Wolferton’s new pumping station after her father opened the original facility in 1948.

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The Queen opens the Wolferton Pumping Station in Sandringham, Norfolk (Adrian Dennis/PA)

The Queen opens the Wolferton Pumping Station in Sandringham, Norfolk (Adrian Dennis/PA)

The Queen opens the Wolferton Pumping Station in Sandringham, Norfolk (Adrian Dennis/PA)

The Queen recalled where her father King George VI used to walk his corgis on Sandringham as she opened a new pumping station on the estate.

She officially opened Wolferton’s new pumping station 72 years after her father opened the original station on February 2 1948.

After unveiling a new plaque and signing the visitors’ book she was presented with framed archive photographs of her father opening the original pumping station.

“That’s where he walked his dogs,” she said.

The person who handed her the memento remarked that she had not brought her corgis with her, to which she replied: “No, not today.”

Wolferton pumping station allows the surrounding 7,000 acres of marshland, which sits below sea level, to be drained, dried out and farmed.

The station sits within the Sandringham estate, home to the Queen’s private residence Sandringham House, on land designated by King George VI, who took a personal interest in the scheme.

Philip Camamile, chief executive of the drainage board, gave the Queen a tour of the new pumping station site.

He told her how the new pumping station is twice as powerful as the old station and can shift around three million gallons of water in one hour – equivalent to seven Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The monarch, who arrived in a green Range Rover, said the new pumping station was “extraordinary”.

Queen opens Wolferton Pumping Station
The Queen was shown around a control room by Gary Howe of the Water Management Alliance (left) and Philip Camamile, chief executive at Water Management Alliance (Adrian Dennis/PA)

Wearing a green coat and shielded from the cold by a headscarf and black gloves, she met people involved in the project who explained its eco-credentials including being “eel-friendly”.

“Technology’s always changing, isn’t it,” she said. “Someone always invents something.”

Possibly in reference to the 1953 floods, which claimed 100 lives in Norfolk, the Queen said: “It’s rather nice to think this is going to be a dry area as we’ve had some terrible problems.”

She met a group of long-serving staff, all of whom have worked for the company for more than 20 years, before pressing a red button in the control room to start the pumps.

She also saw the plaque that was unveiled by King George VI in 1948.

The Queen tours the facility
The Queen tours the facility (Adrian Dennis/PA)

Nowadays the land at Wolferton is said to be some of the most productive on the estate and produces organic crops including wheat, barley, oats and beans.

Over the past year and a half the station has been rebuilt to create a more efficient and environmentally-friendly station, which best protects local wildlife, including nesting birds on the neighbouring marshes.

Mr Camamile said afterwards: “She was very interested in the pumping station.

“There’s obviously a deep connection with her father opening the original station in 1948, intimate contact with the land and the estate wanting to do its bit just after the war, giving land to build the original station.

“Following on from that tradition today is great – a real honour and a privilege.”

PA