In 2015 we visited 2 different Twizels.
Twizel the Fairly New.
We came across the first Twizel by chance in New Zealand. The second Twizel we found in Northumberland England, all because of the first Twizel.
We discovered the small town of Twizel at the base of Aoraki Mt Cook while traveling around New Zealand’s South Island, in September 2015. Driving towards Mt Cook we were checking out local towns as a possible base for a couple of days exploring this extraordinary region.
Something about Twizel really attracted us. It’s a quirky, somewhat daggy, little town with a curious array of shops, but with an energy that drew us to stay. We were lucky to find a local motel with friendly hosts, a comfortable self catering room all with a stunning view. Twizel sits just a half hour drive from Mt Cook and the accommodation cost is around half the price of even the backpackers, without the hype.
It’s a strange name, Twizel. We wanted to find out how the town came to be called Twizel, surely there would be some significant history to the odd name, so off we headed for the Twizel Visitor Information Centre. There we learned that Twizel was established in the 1960s as a temporary residential settlement for construction workers at the nearby Hydroelectric plant.
Apparently the town was never designed to be a permanent community so a lot of the services were fairly makeshift. For example they never put in underground power or phone lines, and a lot of the housing and buildings were prefabricated, brought in from earlier hydroelectric construction towns. The roadworks weren’t built to last beyond the 20 years lifespan of the project.
By the late 1980s as the plant construction was coming to an end many of the locals lobbied the council to keep the town going. By then Twizel had become a much-loved place to live and some people believed there was a chance to keep the community going into the future. Today Twizel stands as a thriving community of around 1200 residents, together with schools, sporting facilities and a growing tourism industry.
When we pressed for information about how the town was named Twizel, the attendant said she didn’t really know, but that a while ago a couple of UK visitors told her there is a Twizel Bridge in Northumberland so perhaps it was named after that.
Really? That is close to Morpeth where we’d be going to house sit in October. So from that encounter we went back to our motel, checked the maps and we started researching. An adventure started forming in our minds. We would visit Twizel Bridge when we go to England!
Twizel the Very Old.
We loaded “Twizel Bridge” into our trusty new (free!) GPS app, maps.me, which made the place easy to find. It’s funny because as we’ve driven around the UK we’d say, oh there’s an old bridge, without much thought. But this was the bridge we were looking for and I can’t tell you how excited we were to find Twizel Bridge in Northumberland.
Twizel Bridge is where the English army crossed the River Till, ahead of the Battle of Flodden in 1513. The bridge had been built just 2 years earlier.
Twizel Bridge was a strategic crossing point for the vanguard of the English army as they moved on to do battle with the poor old long-suffering Scots.
There are conflicting numbers of the lives lost and most English accounts say that over 10 thousand Scots were killed in the battle on that day, 9th September 1513, including Scotland’s King James IV. English history reports only around 500 of their soldiers were killed.
We had just spent a couple of weeks in Scotland and we were well aware of how the Scots felt about the English, even to this day.
All around this area are relics and reminders of the Battle of Flodden.
It was such a great time for us to remember our visit to Twizel in New Zealand and here we were in England’s Twizel. The weather was much the same in both.
We will always hold dear both Twizels, the new and the old. I’m really glad we took on this adventurous little “travel project”.
Northumberland is one of our favourite regions in all of England.
Having now been to both Twizels, we’ve spent some time reflecting on how far we’ve come since the first Twizel all those months ago. How we’ve grown as travelers and developed personally and within our relationship.
Spending 24 hours a day traveling together has taught me a lot about tolerance, expectation and letting go. I’m also pleased about how I deal with discomfort, frugality and homesickness.
We still have a few months to go before we head home to Brisbane in May. Some of the time is planned with house sitting commitments in UK and in France, and some is still unknown. We’ll figure it out when we get to that point.