Verwood and Three Legged Cross Twinning Association - UK
 "Currently Twinned with Oree d'Anjou in France and
Liederbach in Germany."

2011 to France

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Twinning Visit to Champtoceaux
in June 2011

Our French friends visited Verwood in 2010 in order to celebrate 25 years of Twinning between Verwood and Champtoceaux and its canton consisting of  Bouzillé,   Champtoceaux, Drain, Landemont, Liré, Saint Christophe La Couperie, Saint Laurent des Autels, Saint Sauveur de Landemont and La Varenne. During the visit our French friends invited us to France on a return visit in 2011.


Thus it was that 51 Members of Verwood and Three Legged Cross Twinning Association set off on a return visit to Champtoceaux in the Loire Valley. The majority went by coach which left Verwood on the evening of Wednesday the 1st of June to Portsmouth for an overnight crossing to St.Malo.

Thursday the 2nd of June 2011 - Arrrival.

The French hosts await the coach and then greet their friends on its arrival

Unfortunately Thursday the 2nd of June is Ascension day and Friday becomes an extra holiday so many Parisians and others set off for the coast using the A11 autoroute. This created a traffic jam around Nantes where the Verwood coach got stuck. After extraditing itself and having a tour of the market at Ancenis it arrived slightly later than planned at 12:45 hrs.

Our French friends awaited its arrival at the "place de Niederheimbach", which is situated behind the Church amd close to the swimming pool (Niederheimbach is Champtoceaux's twinned town in Germany, situated on the Rhine just north of Bingen). Many old friends were re-acquainted and new friends were made. After meeting everybody "la municipalité de Champtoceaux" invited their guests to "Accueil et vere de l'amitié au Champalud" which is a communal area just above the main Loire viewpoint. After enjoying the wine everybody dispersed with their hosts for a well earned meal and time with their hosts.

Friday the 3rd of June 2011 - Trip from Nantes to St Nazaire.

The next day most guests arrived at the "place Paul Deltombe" by 08:15 hrs for a coach ride to the "quai Ernest Renaud a la Gare maritime" in Nantes. This is adjacent to the boat museum "Le Maillé Brézé" (If you want to know more, visit their site at ). French families and some guests travelled there by car.

In Nantes everybody boarded the "Neves Amzer" (which was built in 2009 for the "Finist'mer" company) for the 37 mile trip down the Loire to "Saint Nazaire". After leaving Nantes the first major road bridge is that of the Nantes Peripherique which is a major route south to the A83 autoroute going south to the Marais Poitevin (The Green Venice), Niort and Bordeaux.

Until the 1970s, Nantes' harbour was located on the Île de Nantes, then it was moved to the very mouth of the Loire River, at Saint-Nazaire. In the subsequent 20 years, many service sector organisations moved into the area, but economic difficulties forced most of these to close. In 2001, a major redevelopment scheme was launched, the goal of which is to revitalise the island as the new city centre.

The area between the Port of Nantes and the south entrance to the bay of Saint Nazaire can be divided into three,  a 10 mile long "dyked part" followed by a 17 mile long "middle part" and then a 10 mile long "maritime part".

Our hosts had invited a local expert to come along and give a commentary about the wildlife and the Industries on the Loire. He was very informative and passionate about his subject but unfortunately he couldn't speak English. Luckily for the visitors Sandra Ground stepped in and for most of the trip acted as an interpreter. 

The Loire Estuary is funnel shaped and opens towards the sea with the river width opening up from 200 metres at Cheviré to over 2km at Saint Nazaire.

Below Nantes, between which point and La Martiniere (below Pellerin) the channel is embanked, and then widens out between marshy shores, passing Paimbceuf on the left and finally Saint-Nazaire. The  drainage area of the Loire is 46,700 sq.m. 

A lateral canal (built in1881-1892 at a cost of about £1,000,000) known as the Maritime Canal of the Loire between Le Carnet and La Martinière enabled large ships to ascend to Nantes. It is 15km. long.  At each end is a lock 405 ft. long by 59 ft. wide. It was quickly abandoned at the begining of WW1 as a ship canal and has now become an indispensable fresh water reserve for water management in  the agricultural areas on the south bank in the Pays de Retz area..

France is very keen on its modern art as can be seen at the easterly lock entrance to the Maritime Canal ,with a Yatch appearing to dive over the lock wall. Is it a lighthouse or a house? - no its modern art but in this case you can stay overnight in the house part if you are prepared to join a very long waiting list.

The Dyked part of the Loire has dykes on both riverbaks. The dyking process started in 1756-1768 and completed in the 4th period between 1892-1898. The north bank of this part of the Loire is occupied by many industries and also by a number of ancient sites which nowadays have fallen into ruin.

The middle part of the Loire crosses a nature area with swamps on the northern bank which has been exploited since the middle ages. The EDF Cordemais Electricity Power Plant with a capacity of 2600 MWatts  is the biggest open fire plant in France.

This part of the River Loire was made navigable between 1907 and 1925 but a lot of small islands had to be removed to make it navigable at low tide. This was the reason for the closure of the Martière Channel.

The Maritime part of the estuary is the most important part both economically and environmentally. A large part of the northern bank is occupied by port operations and accounts for 90% af all port activities. The largest French Total oil refinery and terminal is situated here with the largest LNG terminal in Europe.

The port at St Nazaire shipyard is now owned by Alstrom and has built 4 super tankers but now specialises in the construction of cruise ships and LNG tankers. The cuise ships include the "Ile de France"(1927), "Normandie" (1935),"France" (1962) and "Queen Mary II" (2003 ). It also builds ferries and the current ship on the stocks was ordered by Libya (2011), but who is going to pay for it is not known.


The "Neves Amzer" arrived outside the lock gate at Saint Nazaire at 12:15 hrs and everybody disembarked. There was a moderate walk passing the lock and through the old submarine pens to the restaurant, which  was built at the shore end of one the pens. Lunch was then held with two sittings. 

The lock and Submarine Pens were built during the German occupation at the beginning of the WWII to service the submarines whose "Wolf Packs" harassed  Allied shipping in the North Atlantic. For those who remember the TV series and film  "Das Boot" will remember the lock and Pens from this excellent film which showed  "the claustrophobic world of a WWII German U-boat; boredom, filth, and sheer terror."

Hosts and guests departed Saint Nazaire at 15:30hrs for the return sail to Nantes.

Saturday the 4th of June 2011-

On each visit from Verwood and Three Legged Cross a different commune takes the lead and this year it was the turn of Drain which meant that most of the local events and venues for the twinning visit were in and around Drain. 

On Saturday morning some guests visited the library in Drain to see an exhibition themed on England - this consisted of the Alphabet with English words connected. For instance H had words like "Harry Potter" and "Hat". There were childrens books, magazines and newspapers also in English.

On display was the banner made by the Verwood stitchers and presented to our French friends at "Moors Valley" on their visit in 2004.

The Association had also taken some cakes (Baked by some ladies of the committee - and one man), sweets and soft drinks to add to the show.

We were welcomed by the the ladies of the Library and the Mayoress of Drain. Wine and English Tea were offered to go with English produce.



Saturday the 4th of June 2011-

At 16:00 hrs after an afternoon with their hosts, families and guests were welcomed by Brigitte & Gerard Migon in their 19th Century mansion,"Le Mésangeau" near Drain, for drinks and nibbles in the garden, There was a chance to view his collection of veteran cars, one of which had taken part in the recent 2011 London to Brighton run.

"Le Mésangeau" is part of the "BienVenue au Chateau" chain of private residences which do bed and breakfast  and evening meal so there was also a chance to visit the main rooms in the house including one of the bedrooms. 

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Saturday the 4th of June 2011-

At 18:00hrs everybody returned to the "La Maison Commune des Loisirs" for the soirée where a folk band entertained and everyone enjoyed an exellent meal consisting of :-

- Ananas Garni.

- Pintade vallée d'Auge, Galette de carottes sur fond d'artichaut et rostis.

- Fromage.

- Dessert en duo

- Café.

Wines included Malvoisie, Gamay rosé and Gamay rouge and Crémant de Loire.

During the evening Verwood's Chairman, Terry Bright, made a presentation to his opposite number in Champtoceaux of three framed paintings by Lynda Appelby, of houses connected with the novels of Thomas Hardy. Much to the amusement of the French, an unused Verwood brick, courtesy of Pam Reeks, was given along with a framed explanation.



Later after the meal there was dancing and singing and as on the previous visit there was another thunderstorm.

Sunday the 5th of June 2011

All the guests enjoyed a day with the hosts though unfortunately the day dawned inclement.

Monday the 6th of June 2011

Those travelling by coach had to be up early at 05:00 hrs on the Monday morning in order to catch the 10:00hrs ferry from St. Malo to Portsmouth. 

pictures and text by Stuart Clifton.



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