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Our trip to an Open Steam day at The Waterworks Museum in Hereford

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Our visit to The Waterworks Museum in Hereford

I’ve visited The Waterworks Museum in Hereford a few times, but I had never visited on a steam open day, or seen the engines working.  So when I heard they were holding a steam open day, I decided that was the perfect time to take the young grandchildren.  If I had any worries the children may not enjoy themselves, those were put to rest the moment we headed to the entrance!  Both children were excited and pleased to explore somewhere new to them, and they were welcomed with stickers and smiles from the start!

The Waterworks Museum is run completely by volunteers, and this summer was awarded The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS) – the highest award a local voluntary group can receive in the UK, equivalent to an MBE!  I’ve always found the volunteers to be really welcoming, and incredibly informative, so the award is certainly deserved.  The children were given a leaflet to follow the Freddy the frog trail, they would get a sticker if they managed to spot all of the frogs.  The leaflet offered clues, and the children were really excited to search for each hidden frog.  This kept them actively entertained all the way around the museum, but they also really enjoyed seeing the working engines, and playing with the hands-on exhibits too.

As we can simply turn on a tap at home, it’s easy to take our water supply for granted and don’t give it much thought.  A visit here will make anyone stop and think! The scale of the engines matches the scale of the centuries old problem – how to move water from one place to another, and how to make it go uphill! They do it so well now, we don’t even think about it! The engines created over the years showed us the ingenious solutions engineers came up with, and some of these working engines are HUGE! The children were fascinated to learn how water is heated to create steam, which powers the moving parts, creating working machines designed to move water! Seeing the engines actually working is really impressive, so I do recommend visiting on a steam open day.  If your younger ones (or others in your party) are sensitive to noise, it would be worth taking ear defenders.

The hands on exhibits gave the children the chance to see what was going on inside the engines, and how the motion they could see on the outside worked to move other parts of the machinery, and how that in turn could move water, or even move something huge, like a steam train or a steam paddle boat!

children learning how engines work

Another display the children were interested in described how people in other countries access water – and how hard that is for millions of people on the planet.  The children were quite shocked to hear other children can’t simply turn on a tap and get clean drinking water, and how much of their daily routine is spent fetching water.  It made us all stop and think about how we often take for granted something so vital.  Don’t be put off though – while these may be difficult facts for little ones to think about, the sombre message is very well balanced with fun, and lots of laughter (especially on the play & learn water park…. more on that later).

World War 2 exhibit at The Waterworks Museum

As you exit the main museum building, you can go on to explore the WW2 exhibits, housed in the purpose built Rotherwas Building.

This is the only permanent exhibition to World War 2 in Hereford, and holds items salvaged from the Royal Ordnance Munitions factory at Rotherwas on the outskirts of Hereford. The exhibition tells the story of the Rotherwas Munitions Factory, the role of women on the home front, and displays genuine items of the era.

Heritage play and learn water park at The Waterworks Museum

We didn’t spend long in the Rotherwas Building as the children had spotted the huge rotating water wheel, and were desperate to go and get a closer look! After marvelling at the water wheel we made our way into the Heritage play and learn water park.  This is the perfect place for the little ones to let off some steam of their own, and have some fun moving water themselves!  There are numerous child-sized pumps and wells for them to try out – some with hand pumps they can use alone, or work together as a team to make the water flow.

This museum is a hidden gem, and so worth a visit.  Under 16’s enter free, parking is free, and you can bring a picnic, so it’s an affordable day out. A few days after our visit, my grandson asked ‘when can we go back to the world of water museum place again?’ so this one was indeed a hit! My 80 year old dad would love to see the steam engines in action, so I’m going to bring my parents next time too.  Four generations of us will be able to enjoy a day out together, costing very little money, AND it’s right on our doorstep.  What’s not to love?!

Handy tips:
  • Take a picnic blanket or rug to sit on – there are picnic benches but there are also lovely grassed areas in the play park where its nice to sit while watching the children play.
  • While you can bring your own picnic, there is a lovely little café area serving hot and cold drinks, along with a range of snacks and light bites.  The dairy & gluten free cake we tried was delicious!
  • Access: most of the museum buildings, and all of the grounds, are wheelchair accessible. They aim to make more of the museum accessible wherever possible, the age of the building is a factor.  The toilet facility is near the entrance and is wheelchair accessible, spacious, with plenty of room for wheelchairs and carers.  Baby changing facility is in this facility. There are no adult changing places facilities here, but nearby ones are located 1.1 mile away at Hereford Leisure Pool, and 1.5 miles away at The Old Market shopping precinct.
  • Sensory: If anyone in your party is sensitive to noise, we recommend taking ear defenders, especially on steam open days.  You may prefer to visit on regular Tuesdays when the engines are simply on display, and not actually working.
  • The museum is only usually open on Tuesdays, 11am – 4pm. Details of their open steam days can be found on their website here.








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