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Joint Exploring

French and English members meet up once a year, usually in September, to spend a weekend walking and exploring an area together. These weekends take place every year in France and the UK alternately and are an original way of twinning: we know of no other twinning association which does this. The weekends are planned so that those who want to enjoy exploring through walks of up to 8 miles can do so, and those who prefer a less arduous programme of shorter walks can cope. Staying in a hotel and enjoying walks together, everyone is able to mix in a relaxed way whilst enjoying the countryside.

The atmosphere is especially relaxed at mealtimes where everyone tries out their English and French with greater or lesser success, depending on their level of knowledge.  Those who cannot speak the language foreign to them are helped out by those who can to some extent doing a bit of interpreting so no one is left out in the cold!

Recent french walking locations have been Mayenne region of Normandy, Charente-Maritime, Burgundy, Alsace, Brittany, Bay of Mont St Michel in Normandy, mouth of the Somme, and around Toulouse.

British ones have been: The Yorshire Dales,Cornwall, Snowdonia, Exmoor, East Devon, West Dorset and the South Downs.

Next Walking Weekend

Shropshire Hills - September 2018

Note: A revised programme has just been issue by Alan - for details click here

Recent Walking Weekends

Dartmouth Area of Devon - September 2016

Three minibuses arrived with 25 people from Saint-Chéron and met the 11 of us English speakers.  First stop was Buckfast Abbey, followed by a look round Totnes and visit to the historic Guildhall there.  We were accommodated in the peaceful and comfortable golf and spa hotel near Blackawton with excellent food, pool and views.

We walked from there to Dittisham on the river for our picnic lunch, with refreshments at the pub; then took the ferry down to Dartmouth, proceeding through the town to the castle which for over 600 years has guarded the narrow entrance to the Dart Estuary.  Meanwhile those who do not walk far had the opportunity to visit Agatha Christie’s intriguing holiday home at Greenway House.The girls

Sunday saw us traveling the lanes by coach (wonderful views over the hedges) to Aveton Gifford Bridge, where we alighted for a walk in lovely sunshine all the way to Thurlestone, along the Avon estuary passing through farmland, Stiddicombe Creek, etc., before joining the South West coast path.  We were entertained by the sight of the amazing kite surfers, together with windsurfers and surfers in Bantham Bay with the backdrop of Burgh Island and its hotel.  The “light walkers” had a chance to visit Kingsbridge for coffee and joined us for lunch at Thurlestone.  We of course deserved our excellent cream tea followed by our customary aperitifs and four-course dinner at the hotel afterwards !

So a great weekend,   fun meeting up with old friends, chatting in both languages, lots of fresh air, exercise and food!  Roll on next year’s get together  – it will be in Mayenne on the edge of Normandy – perhaps it’s also cider country …

Charente Maritime – September 2015

The autumn 2015 weekend was based at the Hôtel Le Grand Chalet in the commune of Ronce les Bain, a coastal resort area of the town of La Tremblade which is between La Rochelle and Bordeaux, north of the Gironde estuary. The hotel was on the coast overlooking the Île d'Oléron. It is an area famed for its sandy beaches, oysters and pineau!

Outings included the old fortifiied port of Hiers-Brouage, Fouras and Île d'Aix, Île d'Oléron for sand dunes and beaches, Marenne (Cité de l'Huître - for oysters), Arvert (Le Domaine des Claires for wine, Pineau & Cognac), and Talmont-sur-Gironde.

Other areas visited by the coach en-route to and from Saint Chéron included Niort, Arçais and the Marais Poitevin, La Rochelle and Saintes. View details of programme.

View photos taken by Andre Dupont

View photos taken by Lucette Bauer

Go to Gallery for a few of Gavin's photos

Video of First part of Trip posted by George Villenueve

Video of Second part of Trip posted by George Villenueve

updated November 2015

Autumn 2014 Walking Weekend - Rendezvous Yorkshire!

Would they get here or not? Thirty of our French Saint- Chéron twin town members were due to land at Manchester on the morning of September 19th to be taken on to Skipton by coach to meet up with 12 friends from Rotherfield Twinning. With Air France on strike and the linked Flybe flights possibly cancelled, our organiser Alan Cottis was hugely relieved to receive a text from Paris saying that the party was about to board their plane.

The purpose of the weekend was to enjoy each other's company whilst visiting the Yorkshire Dales. Our joint visit began in the buzzing town of Skipton, where after a packed lunch we split into two groups, one to enjoy the delights of the town, the other to walk in Skipton Woods, passing beneath the stunning old castle en route. We all returned to our hotel, aptly named the "Rendezvous", by taking a canal boat along the tranquil Leeds and Liverpool Canal to disembark at the hotel door.

Yorkshire was in fine fettle, the memory of the Tour de France still very alive with yellow bicycles left in situ from the decoration of the route everywhere. It was clear Yorkshire had really entered into the Tour spirit, with passers-by spontaneously trying out their French greetings when they realised some of us were chatting in French as we walked along. A welcoming touch!

Saturday saw us leaving the village of Grassington to walk a good stretch of the River Wharfe Valley, along the Dales Way with good views of the countryside all around. At the half time point we reached Burnsall and met up with the other part of our group who'd arrived in the coach after a shorter walk. Whilst eating our lunches by the river and taking a pint or a coffee outside the local pub or tea shop, we were treated to the arrival of a wedding party in all their finery en route to the pub for their reception. After our break, the walking party continued onwards whilst the other group visited a well known local garden and later picked up the walking party to head back to the "Rendezvous" for dinner.

Sunday dawned with a fabulous blue sky which much enhanced our trip to the famous Malham Cove, one of the UK's spectacular natural sites. Hats off to the coach drivers of these parts who negotiate the very narrow roads with patience and care. Just before Malham village, the coach met a car in the one width section of road. The elderly lady was the one who had to reverse but was challenged, as they say! So Alan got off the coach and reversed her car to a safe place for her whilst the coach negotiated forward. Some of us walked to the Cove and on to the waterfall called Janet's Fosse, whilst the less energetic took it slowly from the village of Malham to the falls. Incidentally, one or two people remembered David Cleave, a former Rector of Rotherfield, who moved away to Masham which was not far away. After our picnic lunch our coach took us across the scenic fells to another part of the Wharfe Valley, where we walked in the Bolton Abbey grounds. The afternoon ended with a Yorkshire cream tea in the Abbey Tea shop- a new experience for those of us used to Devon cream teas! Group at Bolton Abbey

Then back to the "Rendezvous" Hotel for our last dinner and an exposition of next year's already planned programme in the Charente Maritime western coastal area of France.

Monday morning saw us walking the walls of York with a special guide, once again in fabulous weather. After lunch it was time for the coach to depart to Manchester Airport to take our Saint-Chéron friends to catch their flight. They were delighted to find it had not been cancelled due to the strike – that would have been a sour end to a super weekend in welcoming Yorkshire! We English went our various ways, some to stay on and visit friends in the area or to tour around, others to drive or take the train back to Rotherfield.

Vive Le Yorkshire!

Marcia Foley

For information about the September 25th-28th 2015 visit to Charente Maritime, with hotel costs etc
watch out for next month's Parish Magazine. Information will also be published on this website when available

View André Dupont's "photo blog"

Autumn 2013 Walking Weekend

Our walking in September 2013 was in and around the World Heritage town of Vézeley in the Bourgogne region. This little-known area with its canal, abbeys, cathedrals and vineyards is full of interest but off the general tourist track and often by-passed for the main Burgundy area or for the great rush south to Provence. Our report (written for the Rotherfield and Mark Cross Parish Magazine) follows:

Auxerre

Friday 17th September 2013 - 9.15am:  here we are at the car park in Auxerre, Burgundy.   A lovely spot!  It's right beside the wide River Yonne and on the far side a view of an impressively tall cathedral at the top of a hill.  A couple of other English cars and the coach from Saint-Chéron soon join us, there are about 35 smiling people most of whom seem to want to kiss us !

After an interesting morning exploring the old quarter of Auxerre, on to the village of Noyers-sur-Serein - a village of ancient picturesque houses &  the group enjoyed their picnic by the "serene" river.    Then to the Grottes d'Arcy:  caverns containing not only stalactites and -mites and underground lakes but also some of the world's oldest (Paleolithic period old) cave drawings of mammoths etc. - surprisingly clear in charcoal and brown in the guide's torchlight, despite being there for 30-thousand years. group

We settled in to our comfortable hotel and enjoyed a splendid 4-course dinner with wine, the remaining English twinners having arrived making our party ten English , total 45 .   Conversation in both languages and a mixture of the two never seems to be a problem,  with reminiscences of former walking holidays, and village exchange visits among the topics.   Auxerre

Next day  saw us walking through countryside to the Abbey at Vézelay - dedicated to Mary Magdalene, it was a starting point for pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.  Here also Saint- Bernard inspired the crowds to form the second crusade; later Richard the Lionheart and Philip II of France met here in 1190 before leaving for the Third Crusade to the Holy Land.   We ate our lunch while admiring views across the valley towards la Croix Montjoie vineyard & later enjoyed a wine tasting - of course coming away with a few bottles .

Pierre PerthuisThe Sunday provided a pleasant 7km country promenade to join the "non-walkers" who had gone by coach to visit a château, and after a restful picnic in the woods we took a stroll past 16 locks along the Canal du Nivernais.   Having covered all that ground, we returned to the hotel for apéritifs and dinner, and the announcement of plans for the 2014 Twinning Walk :  It will be in Yorkshire !  Based in Skipton there will be walks over the weekend of  20-21st September,  with a visit on the Monday to York if time and flights allow.

Do come and join us on the 2014 walk - Marcia Foley will be glad to hear from you.

Some photos are in the latest ASCAE Bulletin 19

Walking Weekend at Padstow - September 2012

Coastal Walks, Cream Teas and Conversation in Cornwall

On Friday, September 20th 2012, twenty five people from Saint-Chéron, Rotherfield’s twin town in France, flew in to Southampton from Orly airport, Paris, and boarded a coach. They then traveled to Padstow in Cornwall to meet up with ten Rotherfield twinning members.

Why were they meeting up in Padstow, so far from Rotherfield? The purpose was to walk together, to appreciate the scenery of Cornwall and to spend a convivial weekend in each others’ company.

Metropole - PadstowOn arrival in Padstow, everyone was installed in the Metropole Hotel, a hotel overlooking the Camel Estuary where Alan and Fern Cottis had negotiated a four star deal at a three star price for the weekend for the group. Some Rotherfield folk may recall the Cottis — they moved to Lyme Regis 8 years ago, but have still remained Twinning Association members, continuing to organise the joint walking weekends for the Association in various parts of south west England and in North Wales. Every other year these weekends take place somewhere in France on the same basis, arranged by the Saint-Chéron group.

Before dinner, a short walk familiarised everyone with the delights of Padstow alias Steinville. Alan explained the celebrity connections of Padstow but warned us we would not be invited to eat chez Stein. Actually the food at the Metropole proved excellent although our French contingent can never quite come to terms with the bizarre English custom of serving the dessert before the cheese, or sweet before savoury! Our dinners rivaled those of any French restaurant and were as as good as Rick Stein’s as well as better value for money- and I can say that, having eaten in both!

Near Port IsaacSaturday saw us set off along the Camel trail to Wadebridge, in fine weather with the estuary looking its best at high tide. For those who do not know it, the Camel trail was a railway line axed by Beeching in the 60s. So the gradient was kind and the 6 miles to Wadebridge were a pleasure to walk. After picnicking at Wadebridge, a coach took us on towards Port Isaac. Those with sufficient stamina were dropped off in a lane a couple of miles from Port Isaac and undertook a pleasant stroll along a footpath across fields towards the coast. This open route suddenly brought us to the drama of the north Cornish coast with its granite cliffs, and a sweeping view in the direction of Tintagel. Then Port Isaac was revealed before us as we walked the coast path down towards it. Past “Doc Martin’s” cottage and “surgery” to the tourist core of the little harbour area-and a welcome hour or so for a sit down with refreshments, or shop browsing time. Some of us, both French and English, followed a sign to an “open garden”. We were rewarded with a real bijou of a secret, multi-layered garden, 30 years in the making and more delightful than the commercial aspect of the little honeypot that Port Isaac has become.

Back to Padstow as the blue sky began to change to grey – a forerunner of the grim weather to come overnight and the following day. Sunday’s super circular coastal walk from Padstow via the Trevone Head area had to be abandoned due to the strong winds and lashing rain – unsafe and unpleasant and no point in making a penance of walking! This, in fact, was the first time in thirteen years of joint walking weekends that a walk has had to be abandoned due to bad weather. That’s one day out of twenty six, and in the UK, one out of 13. Not a bad record really! So hastily sorted Plan B had to be put into operation for Sunday.

Fortunately the coach company made a bigger coach available for us all so it was decided to visit Truro, which is the capital of Cornwall and has the only cathedral in the county. It was interesting to look at the interior but we were not able to spend time there as our visit coincided with a Sunday service. We then spent time in the old quarter and wandered through the shopping precinct. Our female driver was very amiable and next took us though the outskirts of Newquay and then on the rather narrow road along the coast so that we could enjoy our packed lunch in a lay-by above the beautiful and dramatic surfing beach of Watergate Bay.

Our final destination was Prideaux Place which is an historic Elizabethan home just above the narrow streets of Padstow and which has belonged throughout its history to the Prideaux family. When Peter and Elisabeth Prideaux-Brune arrived in 1988, a huge challenge lay before them. The fruits of their labour of love can be seen today. Because of the restrictions on the size of parties that could be shown around the house, not all of the French could go with the French speaking guide. Some had to join the English group, where the guide’s delivery was excellent but too fast for many – including the English! Memorably on the paneling there was a superb wooden carving of Queen Elizabeth I herself standing on a pig which represented the corruption and folly she supposedly suppressed. We were shocked to hear that very recently, the family had had a large quantity of their beautiful inherited silver stolen from the table on which it was displayed. We finished with yet another delicious cream tea.

Next September France will host our joint walking weekend. Why don’t you join in with us, discovering, through the soles of your feet, the little known area around Vezeley with its canal, abbeys, cathedrals and vineyards? Full of interest but off the general tourist track, it is often by-passed for the main Burgundy area or for the great rush south to Provence.

Marcia Foley

Walking and talking in sunny Brittany

In late September 2011, 35 members from our twin town Saint-Chéron met up with 11 Rotherfield Twinning Association members on the south Brittany coast for a weekend of joint walks and visits in the area around Vannes. These weekends take place every year in September, one year in France, the next in the UK and are an original way of twinning: we know of no other twinning association which does this. Staying in a hotel and enjoying walks together, everyone is able to mix in a relaxed way.

We met up on a sparkling, warm, sunny afternoon in the modern sailing port area of Vannes and walked the old town in a leisurely manner to start our weekend. We then traveled about 10 miles west around the Golfe de Morbihan to get installed at our hotel close to the water’s edge  in a small village called Lamor Baden. Our first evening meal more than compensated for the calories walked off in our stroll around Vanes - five courses spent with convivial company! The atmosphere is always good at mealtimes where everyone tries out their English and French with greater or lesser success depending on their level of knowledge, with those who cannot speak the language foreign to them being helped by those who can - doing a bit of interpreting so no one is left out in the cold.

Saturday saw the whole group boarding the French coach to go to near-by Carnac for a pleasant walk of about 6 miles taking in the tumuli (burial chambers) and menhirs. Our walk led us to La Trinité Sur Mer, the picturesque port known for the departures and arrivals of round the world yachtsmen and women. After our picnic lunch by the waterside, the coach took us round to our next walk –a spectacular stretch of the Cote Sauvage (the Wild Coast) on the Quiberon Peninsula. The weather was so warm that people were relaxing on the beaches below the cliffs and swimming in the sea. Northern France had been subjected to same ghastly summer weather as the UK, so people were overjoyed to feel some warmth in the sunshine at last!

Lastly a walk with plenty of time for shopping or an ice cream or drink at a café, if that was what you preferred, along the sea front of the town of Quiberon itself. Nothing too strenuous to finish the day!

Sunday saw us taking a ferry to one of the many private islands in the Golfe de Morbihan, for a walk around the island. A peaceful place where only the inhabitants are allowed to have cars. Again, a lovely day which added to the pleasure of the views across the Golfe to the other islands as we walked the coast.  As it was Sunday and the area is one for serious (and wealthy) yachting enthusiasts, there was many a yacht to be watched coping with the breeze and the strong currents. After our picnic lunch and completion of the island walk, we relaxed on a boat trip which took us all around the Golfe. We passed yachts at close quarters and gained a sense of the size of the huge inlet from the open Atlantic.  Now sheltered and with its own microclimate, it became flooded at the end of the last Ice Age, hence the many islands.

 Monday morning completed our acquaintance with the Golfe, this time taking us to the south eastern part where a visionary couple are managing a marsh to become a saltpan. They work in tandem with their natural environment to make a living from the sea salt they gather and to manage the environment for the wildlife. A fascinating visit as a culmination to the weekend.

In the afternoon the party split, the Saint-Chéron coach and some Rotherfield folk making their way back along the Loire Valley with a stop off for a wine tasting whilst the rest of the English party went their own way to visit other parts in Brittany.

Marcia Foley

 

Group on Isles des Moines - Gulf of Morbihan

Photo of walking group taken Îsle aux Moines in the gulf of Morbihan, Brittany - September 2011.