Ottery twinners headed to Ilsfield after two years of Covid-19 restrictions

The Twinning Association visited Ilsfield

The Twinning Association visited Ilsfield - Credit: Keith Spittlehouse

Ottery St Mary Friends of Phyllis Baxter Action Group in collaboration with Keith Spittlehouse writes for the Herald.

Phyllis Baxter dressed in red sat at her desk with a pen, book and other office equipment

Phyllis Baxter had a dream to write a book and launch a website about Ottery - Credit: Phyllis Baxter

We were delighted to hear that at the end of June, a group of residents of the Ottery Parish embarked, against airlines and airports not yet being fully operational, on their annual trip to Germany, after two years of not being able to visit their German friends because of Covid-19.

We would like to thank Keith Spittlehouse for his collaboration in providing us with the background of a friendship that started 18 years ago between Ottery and its twin town of Ilsfeld in Germany.

Twining was born as an official relationship builder initiated in Europe after the Second World War, in intent to repair damaged relationships between France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

“While not as longstanding as the Ottery twinning with the French town of Pont l’Eveque, the relationship with Ilsfeld has been equally successful and will hopefully continue to be so. As many will know German folk are as well travelled as we Brits so passport issues do not appear to have arisen."

“Ilsfeld is a small town in the wine producing area of Southern Germany about the same size as Ottery. It is near Stuttgart where Mercedes and Porsche are located and not far from the Audi factory so also has a number of specialist hi-tech component producers sited in the area.

“At the beginning of this century the Mayor of Ilsfeld approached our Town Council and an exploratory visit was arranged. This resulted in the first exchange, a busload of enthusiastic German folk arriving in Devon for the first of many weekends of friendship and fun. Bringing local wine with them made the visit even more pleasurable.

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“Since then annual exchanges have taken place -except for Covid years- but due to the distances involved travel is normally by air. Many friendships have been sealed with an Ottery girl marrying an Ilsfeld boy, Ottery Scouts exchanging summer camps, Morris Dancers have performed in Ilsfeld and Ottery twinners have participated in their annual Carnival which coincides with the traditional Ilsfeld Woodmarket which dates back to the sixteenth century.

“The answer to do you have to speak German to be a member, is no (or very little). Most Germans have learned English – the schools start teaching it from age eight and with movies and pop music it is readily absorbed."

Keith’s German is limited to greetings, food and drink menus and numbers below 20, which we think is just what you need to be able to enjoy as many visits as Keith has made to Ilsfeld.

A twinning Charter between the two Towns was signed in 2004. Signatories included the chairmen of the then Ottery Town Council, David Briden in Ottery, and Tom Frazer in Germany.

For this occasion the Ottery Twinning Association commissioned an Ottery embroidery to present to Ilsfeld which was reproduced as a postcard and sold for some time in both towns.

This year a small group of members visited Ilsfeld in June to coincide with the retirement of the Mayor of Ilsfeld, the same Mayor who initiated the successful twinning which we hope will continue for many more years.

To mark the occasion the Twinning Association and Town Council jointly commissioned a plate from Ark Pottery at Wiggaton presented to the retiring Mayor in recognition of the personal efforts he has made to ensure the continuing success of the twinning relationship between Ottery and Ilsfeld.

In Keith’s own words, “this year’s group all commented on the success of the trip. Not only was the weather excellent with temperatures of 20 degrees but their red wines are so good that you can‘t easily get them here because the Germans drink it all themselves."

We at the action group look forward to the return of the visits of our twinning friends from Ilsfeld in 2023. For more information on the Ottery Twinning Association please get in touch with Twinning Chairman, Mark Rix tel: 01404 813123