On December 20th we welcomed a group of two adults and eleven youngtsters from Le 45 Tours Espace Jeunesse, the youth club based in St Hilaire. Anne Louineau, the 45 Tours youth leader, and Sandrine Avrilla, the deputy mayor responsible for the youth services in St Hialire, accompanied the group.
They were collected by Iain from a cold Birmingham airport after an uneventful flight from Nantes. There were only two boys in the group of 11 youngsters, which says something about the adventurous nature of teenaged girls. They arrived in Coleford to a welcome from Twinning Association members, Town Councillors and, of course, Paul Kay, the Mayor, who had provided an excellent buffet lunch for the visitors. After lunch Iain took them to Symonds Yat Rock to see the view, before the sun dropped below the horizon. It was then onto to Parkend and their accommodation at the Fountain Inn. In the evening members of the Association met them in the bar to introduce Anne and Sandrine to some good local ales.
On the Wednesday morning they visited Puzzlewood, where they were very excitied to learn of its Star Wars connection. Thanks were given to Helen O'Kane, the manager, who provided the tour without charge. After a quick visit to the tourist inofrmation office and a walk around Coleford town centre, the group had an early lunch at Cafe 16. It was then onto to Gloucester where Iain gave the group one of his tours of Gloucester Cathedral. It culminated in some of the girls being able to identify the exact pillar that Daniel Radcliff had leaned against whilst making Harry Potter films in the cloisters. The pillar was then kissed and worshipped by some of the girls!
After shopping in Gloucester the group travelled to the Ten Pin Bowling Centre where they met up with a group of Coleford youngsters from the Mount of Olives Church youth club. All the youngsters and adults then had a noisy evening bowling and eating, before travelling back to Parkend.
Their last full day in the Forest started with a visit to Hopewell Coal MIne, where Rich Daniels, took them all down into the mine. Rich patiently waited for his explanations to be translated into French for the youngsters everyone was duly impressed. After a short visit to the 'stained glass window in the trees', the group were then hosted by Peter and Gillian Hands, the owners of the Speech House. He gave a brief description of the building's history, in particular the visits by members of the royal family. They also provided a wonderful buffet lunch for the group, for which we were very grateful. In the afternoon it was onto Whitemead Park, where the youngsters tried out their skating skills on the artificial ice rink. That evening Paul Kay arranged a 'Fish and Chip' evening for the group and a variety of visitors, including Mark Harper, the Forest Member of Parliament. Members of the St Hilaire group tried out their English, whilst Paul Kay bravely tried out his French. Many thanks to Janet Marriott and her team.
After this short and packed, but very successful visit, the youngsters rose very early on Friday morning to fly back to Nantes and to tell stories of their visit and to start their Christmas celebrations. Many thanks to Campbell McCutcheon for driving them back to the airport at a very early hour.
Some photos below.