Hayes Engineering a hidden gem

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I pulled into the driveway and couldn’t believe my luck.

I had been beginning to panic that I hadn’t done anything remotely interesting enough for this week’s story, but the “open” sign at Hayes Engineering had turned my day around and I happily jumped out of the car and into the bright sunrise.

A few people had suggested I visit the historic site, which is located about 40 minutes from Alexandra, in the Ida Valley, but all I knew about the attraction was that it had heritage value.

As it turned the out, Hayes Engineering is overwhelming in the best possible way. My map of the property informed me that Ernest Hayes designed and refined numerous farming inventions – his most famous being the wire strainer that is still used today – and the workshop and homestead offered a fascinating insight into the lives of such a pioneering family.

The buildings and tools were so well preserved it was easy to imagine the family and workers going about their day-to-day lives, and the musty workshop housed all manner of contraptions, with various pulleys, levers, tools and nails dotting the benches, walls and roof.

I wandered through the workshop and made my way into the mud brick house. The stately home was a mix of aesthetics and industry, with delicate lace hanging from one table, while bathroom fittings were finished in hardy steel.

I examined the crockery, sewing machines, books and the towering stag head before I was joined by guide Teri Gardyne, who took me around the property and pointed out everything I had overlooked the first time around.

The guided tour helped put the Hayes inventions into context and painted a vivid picture of the lives and work of such a prolific family.

We headed back to the dairy and stables before finishing at the workshop, where Teri explained the uses for numerous tools. Hayes Engineering seemed to have an answer for everything, from windmills to spinning jennies, and I marvelled at the sheer dedication to efficiency that drove so many different inventions.

I felt inferior in comparison, and I tried in vain to understand the mechanics of the wire strainer, so I could tell my dad all about the visit.

Full of new information and inspiration, I loaded up on sustenance at the cafe and made plans to return for an operating day to see the workshop come to life.

This tour was made possible by Hayes Engineering. For more information, visit www.heritage.org.nz/places/places-to-visit/otago-region/hayes-engineering