Ashford hosted twenty members of the Fougères twinning club from April 27 to May 1. Ashford’s members’ eagerly and patiently awaited their arrival at the Willesborough Windmill when they finally arrived one-and-a-half hours later than originally informed.

Our friends were welcomed by the then Mayor, Cllr George Koowaree, followed by a welcoming speech by Sue Rowland, acting Chairman, finally by Alain Ausseurs, President of the Fougères club. Refreshments followed before going off with their hosts to spend the rest of the evening.

The following day the French group, with some hosts’, boarded the coach for Chatham Dockyard where we were met by our tour guide, who boarded the coach to take us on a tour of the dockyard, which lasted forty-five minutes. We were shown where the last submarine was built, H M S Victory was designed and built, the Ropery, where rigging is still made today, filming of the TV series ‘Call the Midwife’ takes place and much much more.

The tour ended with the group having a two-course lunch of fish and chips and dessert, which our guests enjoyed enormously as the first course was cooked whilst we waited and the potions were plentiful. Yum yum!!

After lunch our visitors had time to wander around the dockyard before boarding the coach to return to Ashford where the hosts’ were waiting to take them home for the evening.

Saturday April 28, the group, which included more hosts’ and now totalling 32, headed for ‘Chapel Down’ in Tenterden where the group was split in two. One group went on a tour of the Vineyard and the other sampled wine and after twenty minutes the groups swapped places. Some visitors and hosts’ purchased wine and goodies to take back with them.

By now "timings had gone out of the window" which meant a phone call was made to the Restaurant in Rye informing them of our eventual time of arrival.

Our two-course lunch was worth waiting for and after lunch the group had leisure time doing what visitor’s like to do, and that is shop before boarding the coach to return to Ashford.

Sunday 29th, the entire day was free to all. Some visited Canterbury, some to Hever Castle and Dover whilst others stayed in Ashford.

Later that evening the ‘last supper’ was held at The Chimney’s Restaurant, Louden Way, and attended by the Mayor and Mayoress, George Koowaree and Gloria Champion, who hosted two of our French members. In the Mayor’s speech he spoke about our continued friendship that has lasted 31 years and will continue whatever the political issues might bring. A total of 41 hosts’ and non-hosts’ attended the evening and the food was enjoyed by all.

Sadly the next day was time to say our goodbye’s as our French visitor’s bade farewell.

The weekend was a success helped by the wonderful weather. Of the 20 visitors, 15 couldn’t speak any English and nearly a third of them had never visited Ashford, with a couple not having visited England. They saw Ashford and it’s countryside at it’s best, even the coach driver intends to pay private visits as he marvelled at our wonderful countryside.

Until the next time.

Written by Gillian Lines

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