Last weekend a group of 30+ visitors arrived in Bridgend from Hechtel-Eksel. This town in N.W. Belgium has strong links with the Welsh Guards, and in recent years with the Bridgend Branch. It was in September 1944 that the town was liberated from occupying forces and this was mainly due to the brave efforts of these soldiers. Mr Mike Jones, a former Welsh guardsman, initiated this “Hand of Friendship” link between the two towns. During their stay in Bridgend the group visited Dyffryn Gardens, Caerphilly Castle and Brecon.

The visit was supported by Bridgend Town Twinning Association and members enjoyed an evening meal with their Belgian friends at The Heronston Hotel, which formed the base for their weekend. Before the meal B.T.T.A. had invited representatives from various organisations to “meet and greet” the visitors in order to establish new links between the two countries.

As the guests assembled they were greeted by The Strings + Ensemble conducted by Mrs Becci Goss. Mr Simon Gray, who co-ordinates the Music Services for Bridgend schools, arranged for the students to play, as he was interested in forging links for future visits in Europe. Everyone was duly impressed by the talents of our young people and hopefully this link will provide them with an even wider outlook on their musical future.

Mr. Bob Vranken, Chairperson of Hechtel’s Town Twinning Group, showed the packed audience firstly a film of the countryside and forests around Hechtel-Eksel followed by views of Belgium. The Mayor of Bridgend, Cllr. Stuart Baldwin welcomed the visitors and presented them with one of the products from The Penderyn Whisky Distillery, after which the Deputy Mayor of Hechtel Mr. Raf Truyens replied with gifts of Belgian Chocolates and a bottle of their locally produced Gin.

Mrs. Madeleine Walters, Secretary of B.T.T.A., showed her excellent organisational skills by grouping up the guests to chat informally over a glass of wine. Successful contacts were made with churches, businesses, Bridgend U3A, music (adult and youth) in addition to individuals generally exchanging “life histories”.

We hope these links will be successful for the organisations involved. The country may be in Brexit mode but be rest assured B.T.T.A.’s links with Europe are stronger than ever. If you would like to be involved with our Twinning activities please contact our secretary Mrs. Madeleine Walters.