Our coach of 43 adults and children was warmly welcomed by our Roncq hosts, despite the late hour (we missed the designated ferry).
After a free day with our host families, we drove to the historic town of Guise, to learn of a fascinating social experiment, founded in 1846 by Jean Baptiste Godin. Godin was a ‘Utopianist’ philanthropist who channeled the profits from his cast-iron manufacturing business into building the “Familistère” or Social Palace to house his workers - three huge four-story, rectangular blocks of family apartments, each block with a large, glassed-in central courtyard where children could play in bad weather and to encourage ‘social sympathy’ among the inhabitants.
This ‘palace’ is set in parkland but within a short distance of the factory. The site also provided creches, schools, a theatre, shops with goods at minimal mark-up, a cafeteria, swimming pool, communal laundry, allotments, it was in fact, a worker’s utopia. In 1880 Godin completed his vision by converting his project into a co-operative society, to be owned by the workers themselves. The Society survived two world wars and was only wound up in 1968. An amazing man!
During our visit we also toured a museum showcasing historic crafts and artifacts; a garden centre and a snail farm where we learned how to breed, prepare, cook and, yes, eat them. Our visit to Roncq concluded with a social evening together, with food, music and bonhomie.
A little less than a month later, it was our turn to host a group of some 40 town-twinners from our twinned town of Bramsche. They arrived in Todmorden on Saturday evening, just in time for (some) to be whisked off to the Town Hall to enjoy an excellent opera-themed concert given jointly by Todmorden Orchestra and Choral Society. On the free day on Sunday, most were entertained by the wonderful Hand Made Puppet Parade in Hebden Bridge during the day and an evening at the Golden Lion, listening to an accompanying band from Bramsche. Monday saw a walk around Aysgarth Falls in the sunshine where some of the younger german participants were hardy enough to strip off and swim.
Then it was shopping and fish and chips in Skipton on the way home. The following day the group visited Cliffe Castle in Keighley and then Haworth where they learned about the Brontes. In the evening we hosted our social evening at the Fielden Centre with an excellent buffet from Ham Corner, music and dancing. Wednesday brought non-stop rain sadly. Fortunately the organised trip was to the Armories in Leeds with a chance to shop but the visitors were decidedly damp by the time they returned to Todmorden. The group had an early departure on Thursday, intending to spend the day at Bridlington before catching the boat from Hull. However, the weather thought otherwise so I hope there was a Plan B.! Despite the bad weather of the last days, it was judged to have been a very successful trip and we look forward to our return visit to Bramsche next year.