Runnymede Town Twinning, 1986

Late in 1985, when Chris Jeggo was living in Chertsey, he was asked by a member of the Runnymede Town Twinning Committee whether West Surrey DA would be willing to organise cycle rides for a sports weekend to be held the following May.  This was an annual fixture, with Runnymede, Joinville-le-Pont (just outside Paris) and Bergisch Gladbach (near Cologne) taking turns at hosting, the usual events being football and rowing involving schools, and tennis involving local clubs.  One of the Twinning Committee members was a keen cyclist and persuaded the rest to broaden their sporting horizons.

Chris took the idea along to the next DA Committee meeting, where it was well received, so he then attended the next meeting of the sports weekend committee.  Eventually the topic of cycling was reached, and after brief discussion of the rides, Chris was asked whether the DA would be able to find accommodation for the twenty or so foreign cyclists they estimated might attend.

“Ah!  So you want us to accommodate the cyclists as well as organise their rides?”

“Yes, of course.”

“I see.  Well, we probably can, but I’ll have to come back to you on that.”

The DA doubted whether enough families could be found to provide accommodation, so the Windsor Section of South Bucks DA was invited to participate.  Receiving a positive reply, the DA agreed to go ahead and Chris quickly planned three cycle rides (20, 40 and 60 miles) for the Sunday and supplied the necessary information for the Twinning Committee to be able to send a detailed invitation to their French and German partners.  In due course Bergisch Gladbach replied to say that local cycling clubs had been contacted but the response was negative.  Joinville failed to reply by the deadline.

In the meantime, Chris set about the arduous task of detailed planning.  The hardest part was visiting many potential lunch places and assessing the quality of their beer, ... oh ... , and food, and whether they would welcome a party of the expected size.

At the eleventh hour, after a couple of prompts, Joinville told us that ten cyclists would be coming.

On the Saturday of the weekend itself, all the cycling hosts pedalled to Egham Town FC to meet and collect their visitors.  The coaches were due to arrive in time for lunch, which was laid on.  When the French coach pulled up, all the children erupted in their Gallic way, followed by the adults.  Then, along with the luggage, there emerged from the hold ten identical Peugeot 5-speed bicycles - municipally-owned, we later discovered.  When the ‘cyclists’ found out that they were expected to cycle to the homes of their hosts, in some cases as much as several miles away, they said “Non!”, and other arrangements had hastily to be made.  It seems that, in order not to lose face, Joinville had told ten adults who were coming anyway, and who could be spared from supervising the youngsters, that they had got to be cyclists.

On the Sunday, all but one of the French cyclists did a car-assisted, cut-down version of the shortest ride, i.e., they pootled round Windsor Great Park.  The exceptional one was the Mayor’s secretary, who, courageusement, adorned the back seat of Chris’s tandem for what had become an inter-DA club run of 60 miles.  Chris still remembers whizzing back towards Windsor along the Drift Road - she had a good pair of legs!

Although everyone who actually took part enjoyed the day, for obvious reasons there has never been another attempt to organise cycling with Runnymede's twin towns.


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