LAST week 21 members of the Ross-on-Wye Betzdorf Twinning Association set off by coach to visit their German counterparts for a four day trip.

After a short ferry crossing to Calais, the group headed for Ypres, an historic city in Belgium that remembers the horror and bloodshed of World War One.

After a meal in a local restaurant, the travellers joined the crowd heading for the Menin Gate, a huge archway commemorating the names of all those soldiers who died in battle without a known grave.

As the crowds dispersed, having observed the nightly rendition of the Last Post, the group were able to read some of the names and found one bearing the name of a soldier from Ross engraved on the memorial - Lance Corporal Thomas Reginald Jones from New Street.

Another early start the next day saw the group heading for Aachen and spent time visiting the Cathedral and sampling some of Germany's bakery delights before heading for Betzdorf, where their German friends were waiting.

However, the visit was tinged with sadness, as one of the twinning hosts Stephan Stockschläder, had died suddenly at the age of 57. Members of the twinning association, both Ross people and their German hosts, attended a funeral service, at which many of Mr Stockschläder’s Police Service colleagues were present.

This was followed by a civic reception at the town hall where the Mayor of Betzdorf Benjamin Geldsetzer warmly welcomed the group and acknowledged the 40-year-old friendship between our two towns.

Cllr Ed O'Driscoll replied on behalf of the new mayor of Ross, Cllr Bev Pope, emphasising the strong ties and the need to continue our links and co-operation despite the constraints of Brexit.

Gifts were exchanged while a choir entertained the twinning association members.

This was followed by everyone walking up to the Ross-on-Wye footpath for the official planting of a Whitebeam tree in honour of 40 years of Twinning.

During their visit the association members had a chance to try out their language skills with a great deal of humour and varying degrees of success.

On the Sunday the visitors spent time with their individual host families and went on various excursions that included a visit to the Atta Höhle cave, a boat trip on the picturesque Biggesee reservoir lake.

In the evening everybody met up at a restaurant for a celebration dinner. The chairman of Betzdorf Twinning, Frau Birgitt Wichmann, greeted the travellers in excellent English and regarded them as old friends.

The Ross twinning chairman, Lynn O'Driscoll, spoke of the bonds forged between people of diverse backgrounds and the opportunity to exchange ideas, traditions and experiences which have so enriched our lives.

She thanked the people of Betzdorf for their friendship and warm hospitality and presented Birgitt with a painting of St Mary's Church in Ross.

Group picture
GROUP PHOTOGRAPH: Members of the Ross-on-Wye Betzdorf Twinning Association pictured on the steps of the town hall. (Submitted)

Fine weather dawned on Monday as the group set off for Andernach, a mediaeval town on the banks of the Rhine.

The visitors and their hosts should then have taken a boat trip to visit the biggest cold-water Geyser in the world, but as the Rhine had flooded its banks, due to heavy rain - a familiar story to the Ross group – they visited the museum dedicated to the science and geology of geysers instead.

The group then strolled around the old Roman town before ending the day with a traditional German meal in the Maximilians Brewery and many toasts were raised to the twinning association’s continuing friendship.

Everyone agreed it had been a wonderful reunion and the new members were delighted and overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of their hosts.

The Ross-on-Wye Betzdorf Twinning Association acknowledge the support Ross Town Council in its continuing support of the organisation.

• If you think you might like to join the twinning association, contact Anne Remmington, on 07813 395915.