VISIT TO MORNANT IN JULY 2007

Four days of celebrations were held in Mornant from July 12-15, to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the twinning agreement with Hartford.

A record number of 23 people from Hartford and the surrounding area – including a couple making the trip for the first time – travelled to Mornant on Thursday, July 12 for the start of the visit. They stayed with members of the Mornantais twinning association who have become old friends over the years, but there were some new hosts too, complete with their donkey...

The official programme began with apéritifs and dinner at the Chateau in the village of St Andéol le Chateau, one of the communes in the Communauté des Communes that includes Mornant. It is now a restaurant owned and run by the Mairie.

The Chateau at St Andéol le Chateau
The Chateau at St Andéol le Chateau
People start to gather at the Chateau
People start to gather at the Chateau

The first hour, in the grounds of the chateau, passed in a blur of greetings, as people from both villages renewed acquaintanceships, tried to put names to familiar faces and gossiped in a mixture of languages. Then the 60-plus party spilled into two rooms of the chateau, to be served a four-course meal eaten in a cacophany of conversation.

Dinner at St Andéol le Chateau.
Dinner at St Andéol le Chateau

Dinner at St Andéol le Chateau.
Dinner at St Andéol le Chateau
The following day at 7:45am, everyone met up at the car park of the Centre Culturel for a coach trip to Thiers, renowned for its production of cutlery, and especially knives. This involved a journey by motorway into the Auvergne, then the coach took the twisting 'old' road along the Durolle valley to Thiers itself, where the coach party was met by a guide.

The observation point high above the River Durolle
The observation point high above the River Durolle

One of the derelict water wheels which used to power one of the knife manufacturing workshops.
A derelict water wheel which used to power
one of the knife manufacturing workshops
After a stop at an observation point high above the river Durolle, the group split into two and then descended a steep path down to the water level to see the ruins of some of the many small water powered knife-manufacturing workshops that filled the valley a century or so ago. The last remaining one of these, which closed 50 years ago, has been turned into a working museum, and the visitors crammed into it to learn about the terrible conditions in which the famous Thiers knife blades used to be made. The men who sharpened and brightened the crude blades worked lying down on boards, above dangerous grindstones powered and wetted by the river, while the women who polished these blades also lay on boards above leather polishing wheels. If they were pregnant they cut a hole in the board for their 'bumps' to fit through. The workers' chests became deformed from working 12 hours a day in this position at too young an age and they also suffered from respiratory diseases because of the dust. It was so cold in winter that the workers had dogs which lay on their legs to help to keep them warm!

The last workshop on the Durolle
The last workshop on the Durolle which closed
50 years ago and is now a working museum

A demonstation of the traditional method of knife making.
A demonstation of the traditional method of knife making.
Note that he has his traditional dog, bottom left hand corner!

Back at the top of the valley, a superb lunch was served at the Aigle d'Or hotel, then the group walked with the guide round the fascinating medieval town of Thiers, also visiting the cutlery museum and a modern cutlery workshop (where the men work sitting up!). In the half hour of free time before the coach left, many browsed in the cutlery shops and bought souvenirs.

Hotel-Restaurant L'Aigle d'Or, 8, rue de Lyon 63300 Thiers
Lunch at the Hotel-Restaurant "L'Aigle d'Or", Thiers

One of the beautiful timber framed buildings in the medieval quarter of Theirs.
One of the beautiful timber framed buildings
in the medieval quarter of Theirs
Back in Mornant, after supper with their host families everyone went to the Clos Fournereau public park late in the evening to enjoy a display of fireworks, the day before the national holiday on July 14. It was an outstanding spectacle and one of the highlights was a display which spelt out "Hartford - Mornant 20 years" with the names at right angles sharing their Os. The performance was accompanied by specially-chosen 1960s British pop music played at full volume by the mobile disco that was providing the music for the annual firemen's ball afterwards.
Firework display at Mornant
Hartford-Mornant Twinning Firework display

Micro-musée de la loge Gouttaret
Some of the other fireworks - aaaah!"

Saturday morning began with an optional visit to the 'micro-musée de la loge Gouttaret' near the Roman aqueduct – an old stone icehouse that has been restored by members of Les Amis du Vieux Mornant, complete with a mini-museum inside.

Micro-musée de la loge Gouttaret
Micro-musée de la loge Gouttaret restored by
members of "Les Amis du Vieux Mornant"

Part of the Roman Aquaduct
Part of the Roman Aquaduct
Then at 11 am everyone assembled for an official reception at the Mairie, where speeches were made by Jean-Marie Barberon, chairman of the Mornant twinning association, the Mayor of Mornant, Guy Palluy, and Iris Isserlis, chairman of the Hartford twinning committee. Former Hartford Parish Council chairman, Richard Haffenden joined the Mayor to sign documents renewing the twinning agreement. All the British men were given a lovely embroidered apron made by Florence Creuillenet and each family received an attractive cheese knife and fork made by internationally-famous knifemakers, Laguiole, engraved with the twinning motif.
Firework display at Mornant
The Mayor of Mornant, Guy Palluy, and former Chairman
of Hartford Parish Council, Richard Haffenden
renew the Twinning Agreement

Laguiole Cheese knife and fork engraved with<br>
the Hartford-Mornant twinning logo
Laguiole Cheese knife and fork engraved with the Hartford-Mornant
twinning logo, presented by Mornant to their guests from Hartford
One member of each family from Hartford was given a lovely embroidered apron made by Florence Creuillenet.
One member of each family from Hartford was given a lovely embroidered apron made by Florence Creuillenet

Two young girls had come along to the event hoping to make links that would enable them to come to Hartford later in the year or next year to improve their English.

People then nipped back to their hosts' homes to change into less formal clothes and went on to the Etang des Tuileries where a delicious picnic lunch was served at tables beside the pool. The donkey came along too, pulling a trap containing one of his owner's guests. It was hot but the wind had got up by now and from time to time there were squeals as it whipped plastic plates of food and beakers of wine off the tables.

Deryck Petty from Hartford arrives at the Etang des Tuileries by donkey and trap
Deryck Petty from Hartford arrives at the
Etang des Tuileries by donkey and trap

The picnic at the Etang des Tuileries
The picnic at the Etang des Tuileries
When the meal was over, the next event was a boules competition on the nearby purpose-built courts. Those present were divided into teams of three, with several of them having 'ringers' in the form of members of the Mornant boules club. After several rounds, the winners were Richard Kelsall's team, and he was presented with an impressive trophy.
A general view of the various teams competing in the boules competition
A general view of the various teams competing in the boules competition

As they say in the best sports reports: Richard Kelsall lifts the boules trophy
As they say in the best sports reports:
Richard Kelsall lifts the boules trophy
That evening, guests put their feet up and dined with their respective hosts.

At 11 am the following day, Sunday, there was a private viewing of an exhibition relating to Hartford and Northwich which had filled the seven galleries of the Maison de Pays since July 2, and was due to continue until July 22. The exhibition, staged by Anne and Jack Loader with the help of Mike and Iris Isserlis, comprised paintings by Hartford artists, landscape photographs by Anne Loader, prints of water-colours by Patricia Kelsall, and reproductions of old postcards showing Hartford, the salt industry in Northwich and the devastation caused by subsidence, mostly from the private collection of former parish councillor John Chesworth. Anne also signed copies of her books about France, which were on sale at the Maison de Pays during the three weeks of the exhibition.

A small part of the exhibition of paintings by Hartford artists in the main gallery
A small part of the exhibition of paintings by
Hartford artists in the main gallery

A corner of the gallery exhibiting landscape photographs by Anne Loader
A corner of the gallery exhibiting landscape photographs by Anne Loader
More of the exhibition of paintings by Hartford artists in the main gallery
More of the exhibition of paintings by
Hartford artists in the main gallery

A corner of the gallery exhibiting water-colours by Patricia Kelsall
A corner of the gallery exhibiting
water-colours by Patricia Kelsall.
Part of the display of John Chesworth's images of Old Northwich
Part of the display of John Chesworth's images of Old Northwich

The final speeches of thanks were made, and everyone looked forward to the next event, due to take place in Hartford in two years' time.

The postscript on the town's electronic information system
The postscript on the town's electronic information system in front of the Mairie.

Anne and Jack Loader


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