Garden link strengthens twinning bond between Scoriton-Buckfastleigh and Fontaine-Henry

Colline aux OiseauxDuring their latest twinning trip to Normandy’s Fontaine-Henry members of the Scoriton and Buckfastleigh Twinning Association checked in on a nearby garden designed and built by Buckfastleigh resident John Goulden.

Anne Goulborn, president of the Scoriton and Buckfastleigh Association, said “It’s great to find something else that links our town and the South Hams area with Caen.  The twinning visit overall was a great success and further strengthened the strong bonds we have forged over the last 30 years with our friends in Fontaine-Henry. It’s such an interesting and valuable experience to discover how much we have in common.”

John’s garden is within the Colline aux Oiseaux, a 17-hectare memorial peace park on the outskirts of Caen, Normandy. Twinners from Scoriton and Buckfastleigh have regularly enjoyed the park on visits organised by their twinning hosts from nearby Fontaine-Henry.  But no one realised the South Hams contribution was the work of a Buckfastleigh resident.

It came up in conversation at a quiz evening at Buckfastleigh’s Kings Arms pub.  Twinners Anne Goulborn and Martyn Welfare were discussing the group’s upcoming visit to Normandy.  When they mentioned the Colline aux Oiseaux, John Goulden enlightened them.

“At the time I was the South Hams Parks Manager,” says John.  “The Colline aux Oiseaux was built on a former Caen rubbish tip.  Initially towns around France were asked to create peace gardens within the park, then the invitation was extended to towns abroad.  There are gardens from as far afield as the USA, Würzburg in Germany and a joint garden created by Egypt and Israel.  The South Hams was invited due to our role in the D-Day training at Slapton Sands.”

The task fell to John to manage the design and implementation in Caen.  “It was the first time I’d been on a ferry with my car and had driven abroad which was a little daunting!  I spoke no French and the five gardeners assigned to me in Caen spoke no English.  But we muddled along surprisingly well.”  The garden includes a mosaic representing a Celtic knot of friendship.

The grand opening was in 1994 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of D-Day.  “There were dignitaries representing the various towns,” explains John.  “It was quite an event, very well attended, culminating in a release of doves.  All in all it was a fantastic experience.”

John has not been back to the garden since so was curious to find out what it looked like today.  While they were visiting Fontaine-Henry, Anne and Martyn paid another visit to the Colline aux Oiseaux to take some photos.

John was delighted to see the garden in pristine condition, beautifully maintained by the French in the intervening 22 years.