For more than 50 years, they have extended the hand of friendship across the sea. And the value of that link was plain to see when Gosport schoolchildren welcomed visitors from the town’s French twin, Royan, over the weekend. Marking the 250th anniversary of Gosport town council’s creation by recreating the dress of the year 1763 for their Gallic visitors, youngsters from Bedenham Primary School gained more than just a fun day out.
Through their preparation for the event, they will have learnt something about the history of their town and gleaned information about the importance of local democracy.
And by sharing their new-found knowledge with dignitaries from France, they will also have absorbed information about what life is like across the Channel.
There are those who fail to see the value of town twinning particularly at a time when money is tight and difficult decisions are having to be made about how it is spent.
But you only have to read how the youngsters have benefited from the scheme to see the benefits that it brings.
As Bedenham’s deputy headteacher Angela Foice says: ‘This all gives them a good understanding of where they live and helps them to feel part of the community.
‘They do learn French at school and we have a school in Royan that we exchange pen-pals with, and some of those children have come over on this visit
‘It’s through that link that we were asked to take part in this.’
Those of us who were fortunate to have a foreign pen-pal as children will know what an enjoyable, exciting and enlightening project it can be.
And young people who perhaps might not otherwise get much of a chance to experience a different culture can learn invaluable lessons about friendship, tolerance and heritage through twinning schemes.
These are lessons that can be learnt in the classroom – but it’s so much better when they come to life in real people and places.
After all, you can’t put a price on friendship.