THE Ross-on-Wye – Condé-en-Normandie Town Twinning Association has marked another successful exchange with its French visitors staying locally.

The association, now in its 47th year of town twinning, recently welcomed its friends, many of whom were taking part for the first time. On arrival the visitors were treated to an informal reception before they joined their host families for dinner.

The visitors enjoyed trips to London, Hereford and Gloucester as well as experiencing a gin distillery in the county.

The association members came together at Ross’ Rumbling Tom where the restaurant prepared a steak and kidney pie which went down particularly well.

“This was a real English treat that just doesn't exist in France,” observed Alison Field who has been the association chairman for the past 13 years.

“It's these little details that make the difference when our countries have so much more in common than life before social media and international foods in the supermarkets.”

Valerie Desquesne, the current mayor of Conde, said: "This association aims to develop bilingualism, create lasting relationships between societies and people in our two towns, facilitate travel, welcoming households and school exchanges."

Ms Desquesne added that town twinning is more important than ever before, as we are still all Europeans on both sides of the Channel.

Two mayors
MAYORS: Ross town mayor Cllr Louis Stark and Valerie Desquesne, the mayor of Conde pictured taking part in the raffle. (Submitted)

Ms Field said: “I'm so happy that this all took place as it means that we have survived the pandemic lockdowns, which is marvellous.

“Vive le Jumelage! In our heyday, we have been anything up to 100-strong in our membership and participants. Numbers have reduced, partly due to an aging profile but also due to Covid and its associated lockdowns.

“We're trying to rebuild, to generate new interest for the good of our town. That is our aim. We would like to spread the word and encourage and increase participation in our town's twinning associations, not just the French.

“We're opento change and ideas and would welcome any assistance going forward.”

In 1977 an English student at Caen University, Ray Scruton-Evans, fell in love with what is called 'Swiss Normandy' because he found so many similarities between Ross and Conde both nestling in verdant valleys.

Mr Scruton-Evans contacted the mayor of Conde and it wasn’t long before an Anglo-French union was formed, and the town twinning charter was duly signed in Ross in 1978 and in Conde in 1979.

In October last year, the association did not have enough travelling bodies for a coach, so several cars crossed the channel for a long weekend where the Ross visitors received generous gifts from their French counterparts to mark its 46th year.

The group were treated to a tasting session at a Normandy cider-makers, dined together with its French friends in a local restaurant, and went on a huge picnic close to a river.

As part of the wider association two families with young children took themselves to Conde during the school’s summer holidays in a minibus to stay for several days with families who live next door to each other.

Two couples, who've been twinned together for years, went by car, to enjoy a longer stay with their old French friends. Over the years these ongoing friendships have developed as families continue their friendship outside of official association events.

Ross town mayor Cllr Louis Stark explained to the association at the recent reception of how important the twinning of Ross with Conde is for both towns and that Ross Town Council is motivated for the twinning initiative to continue.

Ms Field concluded: “We are enthusiastic about sharing our heritage with our French friends each in our own way, and to encourage everyone in Ross who'd like to take part, to come and join us.”