Twinning Visits

Twinning Visits

Anyone going on an official twinning visit to Meylan or Planneg will be expected to join as a member of the Association.  The Association has third party insurance that provides cover to members in certain circumstances when on a visit.  You should also take out your own travel insurance.

You will be expected to pay your own travel costs and arrange your own tickets although we do try to make sure we travel on the same flights/trains.

Once in the twin town, the majority of expenses (meals, entry fees, local travel) are paid by the host twinning organisation.

Although you do not have to be able to offer accommodation in return to our visitors, it does help if you can. We are always interested in finding new people to host our visitors.

You do not have to speak a foreign language to participate, as many of our visitors speak some English, but you will have plenty of opportunities to try out your language skills.

Visits usually include a day out to a local place of interest. We have seen a cheese factory, hydroelectric plant, caves and castles in France while in Germany we have been invited to the Oktoberfest, watched the maypole being put up in the town square and visited Munich and local lakes. In return we have shown visitors Oxford, Wittenham Clumps, the Downland Museum as well as Didcot’s new town centre and the Street fair.

See the Diary of Past Visits (below) to find more about what we have done in Meylan and Planegg as well as around Didcot on the visits.

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Didcot strengthens links with Planegg

A (lucky) group of 13 headed by the Town Council Leader, Mocky Khan, and including 4 other town and district councillors has just returned from a visit (12-15 September 2019) to one of Didcot’s twin towns, Planegg near Munich in Germany.

The group took part in a programme of events organised by the Planegg Town Hall and were hosted in the homes of local families.

The programme included a tour on Friday of the Victualienmarkt (food market) in Munich where we were able to sample local produce of cold meats, cheeses, chocolates and fruits. Later we had a guided tour of the mid 19th century gothic revival Munich Rathaus (town hall) where we were able to see the newly refurbished council chamber and the fabulous law library. In the evening we were invited to a dinner hosted by the Mayor of Planegg, Herr Hoffman, where we reaffirmed our commitments to the twinning partnership. Speeches from Didcot were given by Mocky Khan, Town Council leader, and Axel Macdonald, Chair of the Twinning Association.

Saturday was a day for our hosts to take their guests to a wide variety of sites and events in the area including going up into the mountains (the Alps) on foot or by cable car, to castles, monasteries, museums and breweries depending on the interests of the guests and hosts. In the evening there was a traditional Bavarian band and dancing in the next village which we attended and some, like Mocky and Axel, got fully involved by joining in the dancing!!!! On Sunday other trips were arranged until we had to leave Planegg in the afternoon for our return home.

As expected discussions between hosts and guests during the weekend often turned to what was happening with Brexit and it was agreed that whatever transpired the twinning partnership was more important than ever.

Twinning serves many purposes including to allow the twinned towns to share best practice and ideas, and for individuals to get to understand how people in other societies than their own live. This trip met these objectives perfectly and renewed friendships that had been created on previous meetings as well as establishing new friendships.

It was a wonderful weekend thanks to the organisation of the Planegg Town Hall (special thanks go to Herr Stefan Schaudig) and the warm welcome we received from our hosts. The brilliant weather helped too!!! We’re looking forward to returning the hospitality shown to us when Planegg come to Didcot in 2021.

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Didcot visits Meylan

 A group of 17 including the Mayor, Bill Service, and 3 Councilors, visited Meylan for a long weekend from 20 September to 23 September 2018.  We were welcomed at the mairie (town hall) by the new mayor of Meylan, M Jean-Philippe Blanc and met up with our host families.  After a glass of champagne, some canapés and short speeches from Bill Service and Axel Macdonald, Chair of the Twinning Association, to say “thank you” to Meylan for welcoming us we headed off for a meal with our hosts and to bed.

It was an early start the next day for our visit by bus to Lyon, about 80 miles NW of Meylan.  Lyon is the third largest city and second largest urban area in France.  It has been an important area since roman times and and today is major centre for banking and the chemical, pharmaceutical and biotech industries.  Our visit enabled us to see some of the major historical areas including the roman remains, the Basilica de Notre Dame de Fourvière, the old buildings for weaving silk and the traboules (passages between the houses).  Lyon is also a famed gastronomic centre specialising in dishes involving offal so we were lucky to enjoy lunch in one of the  traditional restaurants found in Lyon called “bouchons”. In french bouchon has a couple of meanings, one is ‘cork or stopper’ and another is ‘traffic jam’, and on the way home we experienced the latter, it taking 2 and a half hours to get through the traffic around Grenoble!

 On Saturday morning we met with an association called Accueil des Villes Francaises who make new residents in Meylan welcome by providing them with guidance and friendship so helping them to settle in quickly.  The Mayor and Councilors then held a meeting with their French counterparts from the mairie of Meylan to discuss areas of common interest and to share ideas for overcoming the problems both our towns face.  The rest of the day was spent with host families visiting some of the various places in this beautiful and interesting region.

The Gala Dinner was held on Saturday evening at Le Chateau du Mollard where we enjoyed a delicious meal.  Bill Service and Axel Macdonald both gave speeches in English and French (thanks to the help of Penny Wilde) and exchanged gifts with the Mayor of Meylan and the President of the Meylan Twinning Association, Michel Bally, respectively.

Sunday morning arrived too soon and the majority of us had to catch the shuttle bus from Grenoble at 11 am back to Lyon airport for the flight home.  As always we were looked after grandly by our hosts and the Meylan Twinning Association.  Old friendships had been renewed and new friendships established; the town councils found that we have more in common than we have differences  – the future of twinning in Didcot looks good.

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Planegg visits Didcot

Planegg Guests and Didcot Hosts 2017 [click on image to see more photos]

On Thursday 5 October we were delighted to welcome a visiting group from Planegg. They were met at the airport by committee member Geoff Oldham and arrived to meet their hosts in time for tea. Their programme started with a welcome reception in Harwell’s refurbished Village Hall where the mayor of Didcot, Mrs Jackie Billington, greeted the mayor of Planegg, Herr Heinrich Hofmann. The guests were entertained by a group from Didcot Choral Society. They were also treated to a visit by one of the newest fire engines in the area.

After a full day travelling, the guests then dispersed for dinner with their hosts. On Friday morning the group went to Oxford for a guided tour of sites in the city familiar to viewers of the Morse and Lewis TV programmes. It was also an opportunity to learn something about how the university functions and the tour passed under the famous Hertford Bridge and concluded with a visit to New College (one of the oldest) and its beautiful gardens backed by the remains of the city walls. Some visitors stayed in Oxford for the afternoon taking time out for more sight seeing or for shopping while others ventured further afield. Two of the Planegg guests, themselves fire fighters, expressed an interest to see a fire station and were welcomed by the Oxfordshire Fire Service at their station in Rewley Road. The visitors and hosts then got together in sociable groups for dinner. As usual in our twinning programme, Saturday was left free for hosts and guests to decide what they would like to do. For some this amounted to a tour of Didcot, taking in local sites of employment and new housing developments, for others it was a day at one of our many local tourist attractions including Oxford or a train trip to Bath. Finally we all met again for the Gala dinner at the Bear in North Moreton where we were treated to a delicious meal, great conversation, some brief speeches and an exchange of gifts. All too soon it was Sunday afternoon and we were waving goodbye to our new friends as they set off home. Although our next meeting will not be until 2019, close ties that were established during the visit mean many people will be keeping in touch in the interim.
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Meylan visits Didcot

Mayor of Didcot, Steve Connel with Mayor of Meylan, Damien Guiguet. [for more photos click on this image.]

The group from Meylan were welcomed with a reception to which other friends from the community were invited. We were delighted to see Steve Connel, Mayor of Didcot who warmly greeted Damien Guiguet, Mayor of Meylan. This event also provided a chance for Hagbourne school to give a booklet that they had made about their school into the keeping of JeanYves Delacoux, to deliver to their partner school in Monbonnot, near Meylan. Finally we were entertained by Didcot Choral Society, singing in French in honour of our guests. 


Chaza Hanna, responsible for urban planning in her district of Meylan and the mayor of Meylan, Damien Guiguet, met with two experienced councillors (Nick Hards and Bernard Cooper) to to find out what we do here in the UK.

School contacts Diane Jenkins accompanied M and Mme Delacoux on a visit of 3 of the Didcot schools (DGS, SBS and Hagbourne Primary) which are linked with schools in Meylan and where they had the opportunity to meet some of the senior staff and some of the students.

On Friday morning a group of about 25 (including the majority of our visitors from Meylan plus a few hosts) visited the Diamond Light Source (DLS) and in the afternoon the whole party came together for lunch and to visit the Didcot Railway Centre to experience an important part of our local and national heritage and history.

The Gala dinner, attended by 43 people, including the mayors of Didcot & Meylan, their wives, the deputy mayors and the party of 17 from Meylan, was held at Drayton Park Golf Club. The speeches from the two mayors, the chair of Didcot Twinning Association and the President of the Twinning Committee of Meylan had a common theme – the importance and value of links between schools, clubs, associations, individuals and at the civic level. A convivial evening was enjoyed by all. New friendships were made, not only between the French and English, but also within the groups, some of whom were new to twinning. 

A more detailed report can be found in Newsletter #60

An an article on the visit in the Didcot Herald can be found here

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Didcot visits Meylan

Mayor of Meylan, Marie Christine Tardy (2nd from left) welcomes the party from Didcot at the Reception. [for more photos click this image]

Torrential rain was not a good start to our  visit to Meylan. However, by the time we arrived at the reception the sun had come out and we could see the spectacular mountain backdrop to the town hall.

It was during the welcome address that the Mayor of Meylan, Mme Marie-Christine Tardy, announced that she had recently decided to stand down as mayor and that her replacement is to be Damien Guiguet, someone we have already met several times.

The next morning we were taken to the town of Vienne, in the Rhone Valley to visit the Gallo-Roman remains and the associated museum .   Most memorable perhaps were the many segments of mosaic which had survived from Roman times. Outside the sheer scale of the site was impressive with the remnants of several significant villas that had been excavated.

After lunch we had a guided walk through the history of this fascinating town.  We went through the cool serenity of the cloister of the church of St André le Bas where we met the Green Man grotesque amongst others and then after passing through the narrow streets we emerged into the square surrounding the Temple of Augustus and Livia.  Moving through the ages we passed in front of the Renaissance style Town Hall, briefly entered one of the private courtyards to see the ancient spiral staircase, and then climbed up to the Roman amphitheatre.

Saturday was  spent with hosts, in a variety of activities. Some went walking in the mountains, others visited local towns such as Aix les Bains, Chambéry or Annecy, but everyone had the chance to learn more about this magnificent region of France.

In the evening we were reunited to listen the the music of one of the bands from the Espace Musical de Gaston Baudry before going on to dinner at the Chateau de la Veyrie in Bernin. Another superb meal followed, with speeches and exchanges of gifts.

Finally on Sunday we had a quiet morning before meeting for lunch in the Jardins de Meylan. By the time we had finished eating (again) it was time to get on the bus back to the airport for our flight home. 

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Didcot visits Planegg

Signing the Twinning Charter L to R: Heinrich Hoffman, Mayor of Planegg; Axel Macdonald, Chair, Didcot Twinning Association; Gabi Fink, Planegg Twinning Committee

Friday March 27th 2015 saw the final stage in the twinning of Didcot and Planegg, when the twinning document was signed by the Mayor of Planegg, Heinrich Hoffman, and Didcot Town Councillor, and previous mayor, Axel Macdonald. Axel is also Chair of Didcot Twinning Association. Following the formal part of the ceremony, the nine visitors from Didcot and their German hosts were entertained with traditional Bavarian folk music and then served with a delicious meal of local specialities. There was also an opportunity to try the ‘strong beer’ that, in this area, was drunk during Lent so that the monks who brewed it could sustain their fast without going hungry.

The following day we assembled in Marienplatz, in Munich, in front of the impressive Gothic Rathaus, arriving just in time for the full performance from the mechanical clock. In the ensuing guided walk around Munich’s historic centre we learnt of the rivalry between the city’s two main football clubs, the unreliability of some myths, the importance of siting your city on an important trade crossroads and how beer funds charitable works in the city. It was impossible to ignore that flags were flying at half-mast following the tragic loss of life in the Germanwings air accident.

The tour ended at the Oktoberfest and Beer museum with lunch, a beer tasting and a tour of the museum.

The rest of the visit followed our usual pattern of unscheduled activities, leaving time to be spent with hosts. On Sunday, some ventured into the mountains whilst others explored more cultural venues. Perhaps most surprising were the surfers on the Eisbach, a side arm of the river Isar, where an artificial wave provides hours of fun for surfers and spectators alike.

All too soon the visit was over the Didcot group was on their way back to the airport and home. More interesting experiences enjoyed and more friendships formed and strengthened. Pretty much a normal twinning visit, then.  

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We should have visited Planegg this year to hold a formal twinning ceremony like the one held in Didcot in 2013.  However due to the untimely death of the Mayor, Frau Annemarie Detsch this was postponed until a new Mayor had been elected.


Didcot visits Meylan

The 2013 visit started with quite a long drive into the mountains to the village of Beaufort to visit the cooperative producing the famous Beaufort cheese. Donning a less than flattering ‘charlotte’ (hat to cover the hair) we were told about how the production of this alpine cheese was revived in the 1960s and gained appellation d’origine contrôlée status in 1968. The visit ended with a tasting of the cheese and a local wine before we set out to discover the village itself. After lunch we drove on to the hydroelectric dam at Roselend (Savoie) from where we were able to see Mont Blanc. This visit was particularly special as, in addition to the adults, there was a party of school children from Ladygrove Park school in Didcot on their first trip to Ecole des Bealieres, Meylan, accompanied by some of their teachers. There was time during the visit to go out with our host families, taking a walk in the mountains, attending the nearby Gala of Flying, or lunching on the Bastille overlooking Grenoble. The gala dinner ended with dancing.

Planegg visits Didcot

In 2013 we were finally able to formalise the twinning with Planegg when, in July, the mayors of Didcot and Planegg signed a twinning charter. To mark the occasion, Didcot presented the Planegg delegation with a unique artwork in glass depicting the south Oxfordshire countryside. Our German visitors also spent time with their hosts – when they had the opportunity to visit local sites of interest, with some venturing a little further away to Stonehenge and Winchester.


Didcot visits Planegg

 In 2012 a small group travelled to Planegg to finalise arrangements for future twinning between the two towns. Again the visit coincided with one from Meylan and we were able to benefit from the three-way links. In addition to spending time with our hosts, the group travelled to the picturesque riverside town of Wasserburg, almost completely surrounded by the river Inn. During the visit there was a chance for newcomers to experience the raising of the maypole, this time with mechanical assistance. At the gala dinner, which marked 25 years of twinning between Planegg and Meylan, there was an exchange of gifts and speeches from the mayors of the three communities. Didcot’s gifts included some commemorative 2012 tee-shirts which were sported as we departed the following day.

Meylan visits Didcot

The eighteen delegates were shown something of the work that goes on at the Rutherford-Appleton Space Centre before being taken to Abingdon where, after a short guided walk there was time to visit the Museum. The following day was spent with host families with a variety of activities on offer


Didcot visits Meylan

In 2001 a group of around 20 people were taken on a trip to the Castle of Virieu and then on to the Lac de Paladru where we had lunch in a lakeside restaurant. This was followed by a visit to the Archaeological Museum where we were able to see the artefacts dug up in excavations of settlements along the lake shore. Later that afternoon there was a chance for some boating and swimming at the lake. The next day we attended Meylan’s annual Meeting for Clubs and Associations where people can find out what activities are on offer in their town. We also spent time with our hosts.

Planegg visits Didcot

The visit from delegates from Planegg in 2011 was timed to coincide with Didcot’s Street Fair which, although on a smaller scale that the Christmas markets in Germany, is one of the best loved of Didcot’s annual events. Because Planegg is very keen to encourage links between the young people of our two towns, the following day we visted both Didcot Girls’ School and St Birinus. With both schools being specialist language colleges, the Planegg delegates were keen to find out about language teaching in them. The party then moved on to visit both the ambulance and fire stations to learn a little more about how these emergency services are organised in the UK. A dinner for delegates was held in the home of one of the twinning committee members.


Didcot visits Planegg

The ten people who travelled to Planegg in 2010 were able to get to know the town a little better. This included dinner at a beer garden, visits to various town council-run facilities such as the fire station, the library (where we saw how much energy was being generated by the solar panels on its roof), the nursery school and the highways depot. We were also delighted to be invited to Planegg Castle to see their historic chapel and for an aperitif. The following day we had a fascinating visit to the Nymphenburg Palace, located just outside Munich, and in the evening had a delicious meal in a local restaurant. On the last day of our visit we spent the morning at the world famous Oktoberfest, where our Planegg hosts had reserved a table in the tent of their local brewery.

Meylan visits Didcot

In 2010 the programme included a breakfast meeting for visiting councillors with business and council representatives from Didcot. Taking the train to Oxford the visitors were then taken around the newly-re-opened Ashmolean Museum before being taken out for a traditional pub lunch. In the afternoon there was a choice of a guided walk, an open-topped bus tour or shopping. The programme also offered a chance to visit Basildon House where we took tea in the Orangery.


Didcot visits Meylan

This visit in 2009 started with a beer in the sunshine. It also included an informative visit to a hydroelectric generation plant (Grand Maison) and then to nearby Bourg D’Oisans, a charming town perhaps best known to British travellers as ‘on the way to Alpe d’Huez’. There we visited the Minerals Museum. The following day we walked the Grand Traverse, the route through the linear parks of Meylan before visiting the local vineyard and having a picnic in the grounds of the Clos des Capucins.

Planegg visits Didcot

When the first delegation of 8 people came to Didcot from Planegg we wanted to give them a taste of our area. In addition to a visit to the Rutherford Appleton laboratories, they were shown around Didcot’s Orchard Centre and Cornerstone. The following day they spent some time in Oxford and then attended a reception and dinner with members of the twinning committee and Didcot town councillors.


Didcot visits Planegg

In 2008 the first small group of 6 people were invited to Planegg. Their visit coincided with one from a delegation from Meylan and it was good to have the chance to renew old friendships as well as forging new ones with the people of Planegg. As the visit included May 1st we had the chance to watch the erection of the Planegg maypole, hauled into a vertical position by some strapping firemen. We were struck by how many local people were wearing national costume for this event. Once the maypole was safely up, we had a couple of beers and some food. More beer was on offer at the restaurant at the top of the mountain that we visited the next day. From there we had a wonderful view over the Schliersee and later in the afternoon we were taken on a boat trip on that lake. The scenery all round was magnificent and the painted buildings were beautiful. This first visit also included time to look around the historic city of Munich, just a short train ride away. The civic part of the visit concentrated on celebrating 20 years of twinning between Planegg and Meylan and included a visit to the Parc de Meylan in Planegg, where an artwork created by a collaboration between children in the two towns – all carried out by computer contacts – was unveiled. Before leaving we were invited to lunch at the local fire station.

Meylan visits Didcot

The programme for this visit included a visit to a beekeeper in Britwell cum Sotwell and a guided tour of Mackeney Farm. This was followed by a visit to the Nuneham Courtenay Arboretum.   The second day was spent with host families, covering a range of activities, such as visits to Bath and Winchester, to Didcot Railway Museum, to local National Trust properties and along the Thames. A civic reception was held at Didcot Town Football Club


Didcot visits Meylan

The group who travelled to Meylan in 2007 were treated to another varied visit programme. The first full day was spent visiting Grenoble itself, including a tour of the Palace of the parliament of Dauphiné. Unfortunately the poor weather meant that the planned trip up to the top of the Bastille had to be cancelled. The next day began with a visit to the Arc-nucleART site near Grenoble. This team, funded by government as well as charitable donations, is responsible for the conservation of archaeological and cultural artefacts, particularly organic and porous materials. We saw examples of the conservation and restoration of wood from early boats and canoes and of leather boots from the 14th century. After lunch we drove through beautiful countryside, with groves of mature walnut trees, to the commune of Vinay where we visited the newly-opened Maison du Pays de la Noix, housed in a restored drying shed. We were shown the process of harvesting and drying the walnuts and introduced to the unexpectedly large number of varieties of this crop. The visit also included some time spent with hosts and a delicious gala dinner.


Meylan visits Didcot

This year’s visit included a chance to learn more about the Diamond Light Project. In addition to an introductory talk, visitors had the opportunity to see the accelerator. The afternoon was spent at the Vale and Downland Museum where the hands-on display provided some interesting memories and a cup of tea at the end of the visit was very welcome. The highlight of the next day was a visit to the newly-opened Oxford Castle attraction. The gala dinner was held at Brookes on the Park Restaurant at Milton Park where delegates ate a menu based on local produce.


Didcot visits Meylan

  • In September  the trip to Meylan started with a visit to a distillery. The famous Chartreuse liqueur was created by Carthusian monks and the precise combination of ingredients that give the liqueur its distinctive flavour is surrounded by secrecy. Our tour covered the various stages of processing and refinement, interspersed with short films describing the sometimes turbulent history of the monastery. The afternoon was spent visiting old Grenoble including the very interesting Musée des Automates. The following day we set out for the caves of Choranche and then the beautiful riverside town of Pont en Royans where we spent a fascinating hour in the Musée des Eaux. Finally we returned to Meylan for the official naming of the Didcot Roundabout, sited at an important junction in the town.


Meylan visits Didcot

In 2004 we welcomed 19 people to Didcot. After an early flight they were met from Heathrow airport and taken into the centre of London where they took an open top bus tour around the capital, followed by a trip up the river Thames. The following day we met for a picnic at Wittenham clumps, were met by a representative of the Earth Trust and then some of the group walked to Dorchester. In addition to the usual gala dinner, our visitors were entertained to an aperitif in the garden of one of our members.


Didcot visits Meylan

In March of 2003, 22 people travelled to Meylan. The weather was cold and bright for our visit to the community of St Antoine l’Abbaye (Vienne) where we toured an ancient abbey set up as a Benedictine community, whose monks cared for the shrine and the relics, while the Brothers cared for those suffering from the then common malady of St. Anthony’s Fire. During our stay the Mayors of Meylan and Didcot planted a tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) in one of the parks, to mark the occasion of the twinning of the two communities.


Meylan visits Didcot

In May a group of 25 people from Meylan were taken to visit Windsor Castle on the way from Heathrow to Didcot. The following day was spent in Oxford where visitors could take a guided tour around some of the colleges, visit the Oxford Story or ride on the Open Topped bus. In the afternoon, there was a chance to do some shopping. On the Sunday morning the mayors of Didcot and Meylan joined forces to plant a tree in Didcot’s Millennium Wood.


Due to the threat of terrorism the anticipated visit by Meylan was cancelled.


Didcot visits Meylan

Sixty people travelled from Waterloo to Grenoble,via Lille by Eurostar and TGV. After a welcome at the Mairie we were dispersed to host families. The next day we visited Clos des Capucins, a 17th Century Abbey set in 2 hectares of park which overlooks the town of Meylan. After meeting some workers on the allotment gardens based there we went inside for lunch. During our stay we also walked the Meylan Grande Traversée, a green way that links a number of parks in the town. We also travelled into Grenoble to look round this historic city before taking the cable car to the Bastille with its magnificent views over Grenoble and the surrounding area. Views were also a feature of the venue chosen for the gala dinner of the trip. After completing all the formalities of signing the twinning agreements and exchanging gifts, the dinner was held in the Fort Saint Enard, perched on the top of the cliff which provides a dramatic backdrop to the town on Meylan. As the sun set, we shared a delicious meal and then some French and English folk songs. A wonderful first meeting.


Meylan visits Didcot

The very first large scale meeting between the people of Didcot and Meylan took place in Didcot in 1999. The programme included opportunities to visit various facilities around the town such as the Ambulance and Fire Stations and the local library as well as a series of workshops on issues of mutual interest. The most important event of the visit was the signing by the mayors of the two towns of the twinning charter. A video of this historic event can be found here. The friendship between the communities was cemented by an evening of folk dancing at the Power station social club.