IT WAS three decades since Midhurst and Baiersbronn, a German town also now sitting in a national park, had signed an official twinning treaty.
And there were special 30th anniversary celebrations when Midhurst hosted a twinning visit to mark the special occasion.
A party of 26 people from Baiersbronn, which sits in the Black Forest, travelled to Midhurst to re-enact the historic signing moment in Midhurst’s Market Square and to see the momentous changes which have taken place in the town since the twinning visits started.
The visit was organised by Colin Hughes, who has been active in arranging twinning visits from the start and who was at the 1985 signing ceremony.
“Since that beginning many hundreds of members of those communities have spent time enjoying the friendship, hospitality and the beautiful countryside in which each town is situated,” he told the Observer.
“Midhurst was already twinned with a French town, Nogent Le Rotrou, who had already twinned with Baiersbronn some years earlier.”
It all started in 1983 when a small delegation visited Baiersbronn from Midhurst with a view to joining with Nogent Le Rotrou and Baiersbronn to create a tripartite international friendship.
“The delegation returned full of praise, not only for the warmth of the hospitality received but also deeply impressed with natural beauty of the Black Forest,” said Mr Hughes.
“A year later a similar delegation visited Midhurst and in the same year, 1984, the first group from the then Midhurst Grammar School visited, on the inaugural school exchange, to enjoy skiing in the countryside around Baiersbronn.
“This was a twinning not lightly entered into.
“The ground was well tested and the way forward was clear.
“And we decided we would twin with Baiersbronn.”
The treaty between the two towns was duly signed on April 29, 1985 in Midhurst Market Square by Earnest Knight, the then chairman of Midhurst Town Council, and the Burgermeister of Baiersbronn, Dr Ernst Koepfs.
During their visit to Midhurst the German group visited some of the changes that have occurred since 1985.
They went to the new Midhurst Rother College, where they were received by the principal Dr Jo Vitagliano.
The German visitors were treated to a reception in the restored Cowdray Ruins where they gathered in the Buck Hall for an outdoor feast and musical entertainment was provided by pupils from Midhurst Rother College.
Visitors from Baiersbronn spent happy hours in the Old Library admiring the historic building which is now home to the town council.
There they were able to go through photograph albums charting their visits to the town.
This was followed by a visit to the Market Square to re-enact the original ceremony.
An evening meal was enjoyed in the refurbished Memorial Hall, now part of the headquarters of the South Downs National Park National Park, and there was entertainment in the new Grange Community Centre.
Chairman of the town council, John Etherington welcoming German friends at the Memorial Hall and said there had been many changes in the town of which he was very proud: “It has all happened in a relatively short period of time, but the planning took years.”
He thanked Mr Hughes for arranging the visit ‘virtually single handedly’.
He hoped the friendship between the two towns would continue into the future.
A visit to Baiersbronn will be organised next summer and people in Midhurst and the surrounding villages are invited to join the visit.
The Burgermeister of Baiersbronn, Michael Ruf, said there was great support in the German town, to continue the twinning friendship for both adults and young people.
“Now we need to work to put new life into this worthwhile project in the hope of encouraging international friendship,” said Mr Hughes.
“Please do not hesitate to contact the town council now and by doing so more information can be made available and details of future arrangements given.”
Anyone interested should contact 01730 816953 for details of the twinning visit.
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