I have come across media comment claiming that town twinning is dying out. There is some evidence to support that view, internationally, but the twinned villages of Woodhall Spa and Roëzé are bucking the alleged trend. Earlier this year a doughty band of Woodhall Spa and district families once again crossed the Channel to spend a long weekend with their French hosts en famille, and plans are now being drawn up for the next return visit in 2017.
As yet, dates have not been set, and Woodhall Spa Twinning Association secretary Margaret Horton is asking current members to confirm that they will be able to offer slices of English life once again next year. It seems likely that demand will exceed supply, as there may be more French families wishing to visit us than we have English families offering to welcome them into their homes, so we would be very pleased to hear from anyone in the Woodhall Spa area who would like to join in the fun.
Roëzé sur Sarthe is about 15 kilometres south-west of Le Mans. Yes, where the 24 hour races are held. (This year we could hear them in Roëzé revving up on the nearby Le Mans circuit, just as we left!) Hugging the banks of the river Sarthe, Roëzé is a charming village with a baker’s shop, a butcher’s shop, a general store, a large church, one pub, a restaurant and La Mairie (the Council offices) – and lots of very friendly people.
The twinning association dates back to the eighties. After a couple of preliminary visits a Twinning Charter was signed by leaders of both parish councils – in Roëzé in October 1988 and in Woodhall Spa the following Spring. A French government minister was present at the ceremony in Roëzé and Edward Leigh, the then member of parliament for this area attended the ceremony here in Woodhall Spa. Since then reciprocal visits have been organised every year.
It’s the job of the WSTA committee to do its best to match new French and English families, who, along with existing members, travel every other year to spend time with their partner families, and then offer hospitality in their own homes the following year.
Next year it’s our turn to welcome our French friends into our homes in and around Woodhall Spa. Typically, during their stay there will be a welcome-dinner, and usually we arrange visits to various places within the range of the French coach. As a host family you can arrange your own trips, either in addition or instead of the group trips, or just relax at home; nothing is compulsory!
Our French families usually choose to travel to Woodhall Spa by coach, but occasionally a few have come over by train, air or car. In recent years, as membership numbers have fallen over here, traveling by coach to Roëzé has become less economical, so some English members have preferred to travel independently – even though it’s at least a 14 hour trip by car and ferry. However, this year Margaret pioneered the use of a self drive minibus and the feedback has been very positive.
So, if you are already a member, you already know twinning is on the up in Woodhall Spa and Roëzé, and you can be assured that we are on the case for 2017. If you are not, now is the time to join us; the first move is to contact Margaret Horton – email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By the way, don’t worry if you don’t speak French. Honestly it doesn’t matter. Personally I would argue that post-Brexit, twinning matters more than ever. How else would you find out how much we have in common with our European neighbours and establish genuine lifetime friendships into the bargain?