Today Her Majesty The Queen opened a refurbished Wolferton Pumping Station on the grounds of the Sandringham Estate, just as she is about to bring her time in Norfolk to an end.
Rather poignantly, her father King George VI opened the original station on 2nd February 1948, after donating thousands of acres of marshland to be dried, dried out, and farmed.
Senior officials including Brian Long, Chairman of the King’s Lynn Drainage Board, and Philip Calamile, the Chief Executive of the Water Management Alliance, greeted The Queen upon her arrival. Unusually, Her Majesty was wearing an overcoat and headscarf, rather than her usual bright coat and hat combination; she was then introduced to long-serving employees and taken on a tour of the new facility.
The Queen stopped to inspect photographs of the opening of the original station in 1948. She peered closely at the images of her father, The Queen Mother, and Princess Margaret taken during the ceremony.
Later during the engagement she was presented with framed photos of the event and the station, and she exclaimed,“That’s where he [the King] used to walk his dogs.”
Mr. Calamile explained construction of the original station cost £14,000; updating the more environmentally friendly and efficient facility cost approximately £5 million. The station can now process over three million gallons of water per hour – roughly equivalent to seven Olympic-sized swimming pools.
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In addition to being “eel friendly,” the station also protects the estate and four nearby villages from catastrophic flooding. The need for a larger capacity station was identified after East Anglia experienced catastrophic flooding in 2013 following a massive tidal surge.
After the tour Her Majesty was invited to officially start up the pumps. With the push of a red button the engines rumbled to life.
The Queen started the pumps from the control room before unveiling a plaque to commemorate her visit to the place which staff say has been, ‘keeping Norfolk’s feet dry’ for over 70 years. pic.twitter.com/ZFUqm8LiYC
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"It means a great deal to me, my members and my staff to have her open this station,” Mr. Calamile said to the media. “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,” he said.
Towards the end of the engagement, The Queen unveiled a plaque and signed the visitor’s book. Mr. Long then presented her with framed photographs of the original opening and said, "I do hope the people of West Norfolk appreciate the value that you bring to this area, and also the facility that we provide in keeping people's feet dry."
His sentiments are reflected on the plaque itself, which proudly proclaims the station has been “Keeping Norfolk’s feet dry” for over 70 years.
Her Majesty appeared on fine form, wearing an appropriately-themed light green scarf featuring water plants and asking questions of various officials.