Visitors from Hartford’s twin town, Mornant, had only one word to describe the Vale Royal Festival of Twinning — “perfect!”

Thirty-eight adults and children enjoyed a combination of the festival programme attended by representatives from all the twinned communities in the borough and individual events organised just for them as part of the celebrations for the tenth anniversary of the Hartford-Mornant link.

The Festival of Twinning involved “twins” from France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Eire, Poland and Hungary.

The weekend started on Friday morning with a guided tour of Chester organised by Hartford French Circle.

In the evening four cyclists and their driver arrived from Mornant, accompanied by three members of the Weaver Valley Cycling Club. The French had set off from their ferry at Portsmouth early the previous morning and after various dramas en route had arrived at their bed and breakfast in Ludlow at 10.30pm.

They were met by the English cyclists at 11am on Friday morning and the Weaver Valley members guided them from Ludlow to Hartford, arriving at 6pm at the Village Hall where they were all greeted by the other Mornantais and their Hartford host families.

Guy Palluy (left), Shirley Harris and Jack Loader (right) with the English and French cyclists. They were all presented with special certificates and commemorative mugs marking the 10th anniversary of the twinning.

At 8pm everyone turned up for a barn dance at Hartford High School organised by the Hartford Twinning Committee as part of its contribution to the Twinning Festival. In no time all the nationalities were intermixed and laughing as they tried to tackle the intricacies of English and Scottish country dancing.

Dr Jack Loader, Chairman of the Hartford Twinning Committee, said: “It was a wonderful ice-breaker at the beginning of the festival. After a few dances everyone was completely integrated — you didn’t know if you’d just trodden on a French toe or a Czech one!”

Next day the Hartford hosts and their guests attended the Vale Royal Borough Council Open Day at Wyvern House, Winsford where there was an exhibition of twinning — including a stand depicting Mornant to which the Mornantais had contributed a display board, photographs and leaflets about their region written in English. Reprints of reports about all the twinning events since the beginning in 1987 were available for people to take as souvenirs. The theme of the Hartford exhibition was: “Don’t be a tourist — be a twin!”

After lunch, which included speeches by the Mayor of Vale Royal, Cllr John Beech and MEP Lyndon Harrison, everyone went over to the Dene Drive Community Arts Centre where there was an exhibition of watercolours by Renée Costes and oils by Daniel Grangeon — both artists from the Mornant region who had sent over 31 of their pictures. Four were sold during the weekend.

Cllr and Mrs John Beech at the tenth anniversary art exhibition by Renée Costes and Daniel Grangeon at Dene Drive Community Arts Centre, Winsford.

Some members of the delegation then took part in the bowls match organised by the Winsford Twinning Association at the nearby Over Recreation Club. The event included the formal opening of the club’s new pavilion. Other Mornantais who were on their first visit to Cheshire visited Chester.

In the evening 24 French guests and 20 Hartford hosts attended a dinner for 140 held at Mid Cheshire College for all the twinned towns as part of the festival. The event celebrated the 100th anniversary of the college. Those guests and hosts who were unable to take part enjoyed a buffet at the home of Graham and Sue Houlden in Hartford and then went on to The Coachman. There representatives from the Weaver Valley Cycling Club presented an engraved plaque to the Mornant cyclists and agreed to visit France next year to ride with their new friends in the mountains.

On Sunday everyone went to the Mayor’s Open Day at the Civic Hall with the other “twins” where they enjoyed a lunch in the company of town mayors and parish council chairman from all over the borough. Together with all the other foreign civic leaders the Mayor of Mornant, Guy Palluy, was presented with an engraved goblet by Cllr Beech. Mr Palluy later presented Vale Royal with a mounted and framed photograph of Mornant to hang in Wyvern House.

On Sunday evening, a reception was held at Hartford Village Hall for the Mornantais, their hosts and anyone else involved in the twinning. After speeches from Dr Loader, Hartford Parish Council chairman, Cllr Shirley Harris, the president of the Mornant Twinning Association, Alain Meyer, and Mr Palluy, Cllr Harris gave Mr Palluy a bronze plaque to hang in the Town Hall in Mornant and he presented her with a patchwork depicting Mornant made by four of the women guests, for the Village Hall. All the French families and their English hosts were given souvenir certificates marking the festival and the tenth anniversary of the twinning.

At the end, Gwen Knight, who as parish council chairman had signed the original twinning agreement with Mornant in 1987, gave a short speech saying how delighted she was that the links were becoming even stronger.

On Monday morning, a large number of Mornantais visited Hartford Manor Co Primary School. The Mayor was particularly interested because his young son Jean-Baptiste is in a primary school class whose pupils correspond with their equivalents at Hartford Manor. Mr Palluy’s 18-month-old daughter Cécile caused a big hit with teachers and pupils when she made herself completely at home and joined in with a class of seven-year-olds! Other remaining French guests went to Chatsworth or Quarry Bank Mill at Styall.

The whole event was judged a great success by the Mornantais, who enjoyed the combination of formal and informal events and were stunned by the fact that the weather was so good throughout the festival.

Dr Loader concluded: “We were delighted that everything went so well and that so many new people from both Mornant and Hartford have been converted to the concept of twinning. We would like to thank the hosts, the Weaver Valley Cycling Club, Vale Royal Borough Council and everyone else from Hartford who took part and contributed to the success of the weekend.”


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