Verneuil-en-Halatte to Shelford
8th – 11th July 2023
A report written by Sarah Haddow, Janet Jefferson, Penny Pearl
For the first time in four years we were delighted to be able to welcome a party of 33 French people from Verneuil en Halatte, the village with which the Shelfords have been twinned for thirty-five years. They arrived at Ashen Green exactly on time, where our guests were greeted by their host families and taken home for a relaxing evening. Many of the visitors had been before and are now old friends but a pleasing number were new to twinning, some visiting England for the first time.
Sunday was the day en famille, when the visitors were able to spend time with their hosts. Originally a visit to Cambridge had been scheduled for Tuesday morning but the necessity of an earlier departure for the ferry check-in meant a revision of plans. Therefore it was recommended that hosts take their guests into the city on the family day and show them the central area using a tour guide (in French as well as English) prepared by.Janet. The French, especially those who had never been here before, were delighted and enthusiastic about Cambridge, praising the beauty of the architecture. Some of the visitors enjoyed punting.
On Sunday evening everyone headed to the rugby club for the now traditional ceilidh evening with brief speeches of welcome and thanks, a pot d’amitié, a buffet meal, with of course much chatting with old and new friends; then the highlight – the ceilidh itself in which everyone, young and old, joined in, with the caller expertly teaching us the dance steps in English and French.
On Monday we took our French friends to Wimpole Estate for the day. At the entrance the children immediately enjoyed playing in the straw bale maze before walking down to the Stable block where the group was divided into three smaller groups which made it easier for visiting the different areas on the estate. Everyone marvelled at the beautiful gardens, commenting on the different style of planting in comparison to the more formal gardens in France. The pigs, piglets and Shire Horses as well as the “singing duck” in the barn were popular attractions at the farm. The visit to the hall resounded in “wows”, “oohs”, “c’est beau”, “c’est magnifique”, “We have chateaux in France but this is wonderful”. Our friends were also delighted to find in one of the bedrooms a painting of the mill in the grounds of the Château de Chantilly, as Verneuil-en-Halatte is only a few kilometres from Chantilly.
The weather was very kind to us, dry, not too hot, ideal for the walks around the estate as well as enjoying a picnic lunch. Wimpole certainly offered something for everyone. Barrington recreation ground was our next stop after Wimpole where un goûter/ afternoon snack was served and the children enjoyed playing on the playground for half an hour.
On Tuesday morning in the short time available before their departure we managed to fit in a walk round Great Shelford with the adults showing them the church, the mill, and some of the interesting and historical buildings around the village. Thatched cottages were a novelty as these are found only in Normandy.
The French children had a short visit to Shelford School. Mrs Kennedy took them on a tour of the classrooms and outside areas. They were particularly impressed with the swimming pool, the playing fields and the school uniform! There was then a whole school assembly, where the French children introduced themselves, and Claudine, the President of the French Twinning Association talked about Verneuil en Halatte, and the surrounding area, with the help of photos. Emma and Rosie Bunting were then interviewed about their visit to Verneuil in June. We are grateful for the support offered by Chris Grey, the Headteacher, and the warm welcome from the staff and pupils of the school.
We are enormously grateful to our host families, without whom visits of this nature would not be possible, for their kindness and generosity in welcoming the visitors. Also to Mr Rayment for once again allowing the French coach to park on his land.