Bromley Town Twinning Association – Event reports

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event reports 2012


A party of 80 from the association visited Neuwied at the end of September to mark the 25th anniversary of our twinning. The event featured a formal commemoration and reception, a church service, and a cruise on one of the most scenic parts of the River Rhine by the Loreley rock. The Ravensbourne Morris Men, always popular in Neuwied, gave performances on land and river – The Mighty Rhine. And The Parklangley Club played a tennis tournament. BTTA committee member Sheila Brown and a newcomer to the association, John Dudley, report below.


Pictures of the 2012 25th Anniversary trip to Neuwied

Loreley Rock

Die schönste Jungfrau sitzet
Dort oben wunderbar,
Ihr gold'nes Geschmeide blitzet,
Sie kämmt ihr goldenes Haar

Freundeskreis chairwoman Inge Gütler gets into the spirit of the Rhine and combs her golden hair – just as the Jungfrau (the Rhine Maiden) of legend did in the famous German song The Loreley when her singing lured boatmen to their deaths on the river reefs. The trumpeter playing the tune is Daniela Runkel of the Junge Philharmonie Neuwied orchestra. The translation of the excerpt from the song is:

The most beautiful maiden sits
There up above in splendour,
Her golden jewels shine
She combs her golden hair

Morris on Rhine

The Ravensbourne Morris Men bring a touch of Olde England to the Rhine

Neuwied Church

The Historischer Andacht (Historic Service Of Devotion) at the Evangelische Kirche, Heddesdorf, led by Pastor Freyja Eberding

Ship banners

The cruise ship Deutsches Eck (German Corner) at Koblenz-Pfaffendorf, bannered and bearing the Neuwied flag and the Union Jack. Deutsches Eck
is a famous landmark, a headland where the also beautiful River Mosel flows into the Rhine by Koblenz

Award ceremony

Outside the Evangelische Kirche – the picture is the anniversary gift of the BTTA to the Freundeskreis. It is by Graham Clarke and is titled "All the world
in London" – a montage of places including the Olympic site. Pictured, left to right, are members of the Wiedperlen ladies choir, BTTA Chairman Peter Brown, founder Chairman of BTTA Ken Paterson (wearing Morris Man hat!), Freundeskreis Neuwied-Bromley Chairwoman Inge Gütler,
Neuwied Oberbürgermeister Nikolaus Roth, and BTTA Founder Member
Kate Elliott

Giant wine

The stop-off at Oberwesel during the Rhine cruise.  Left to right are BTTA member Councillor Alexa Michael, BTTA member Maria-Esther Wilkinson,
and Freundeskreis member Susanna Tibus

Rhine fireworks

A firework display greeted the cruise at Boppard

Eck ship

The Deutsches Eck cruise ship approaches Koblenz-Pfaffendorf

On ship one

Tennis players from The Park Langley Club. Left to right, Gill Dawson, Zena Wisdom, Celia Edwards

Onboard one

Inside the Deutsches Eck: foreground, right to left, BTTA members Councillor Ruth Bennett, Councillor William Huntington-Thresher, and Sylvia Weiss; far left, Freundeskreis committee member Urs Baumgartner.

Rhine view

Cruising on the Rhine – facing the camera is Brunnhilde Schmuck, and next
to her BTTA members Helen and Richard Gibbons

Onboard two

Enjoying a relaxed evening on board Deutsches Eck: far right, Fredi Winter (member of the Parliament of the German state of Rheinland-Pfalz), next to him Freundeskreis committee member Uwe Domaschk, opposite them Frau Winter and Frau Agnes Roth, nearest camera

Morris hats

"Wherever I lay my hat..." The Ravensbourne Morris Men disappear
bare-headed. On right, one of the longest-serving members of the Freundeskreis, Joachim Kozlowski

Rhine castle

The Rhine, a river of castles. Pictured is Schloss Stolzenfels

Rhine at night

Boppard by night

Park stroll

Strolling in Neuwied from the Evangelische Kirche – in foreground BTTA member John Alleeson and Freundeskreis member Simone Abel







Sheila's report

It was an unforgettable weekend and keenly anticipated as on Friday, September 21, 80 of us from Bromley set off for Neuwied to celebrate the 25th anniversary of our twinning. Besides members of the association were 11 tennis members of The Parklangley Club, going to play a tennis tournament, and 18 Ravensbourne Morris Men – always popular visitors to Neuwied.

Our arrival in Neuwied was serenaded by the Hornblowers from the Jagdhorn Bläsergruppe Kurtscheid (who had visited Bromley back in the eighties) and we were given a warm welcome from the many Freundeskreis members gathered to meet us. Guests were either swept up by their German hosts or, if staying in the hotel, greeted by a friend from Neuwied who invited them out to dinner for their first evening. Many of us were returning to families we already knew, so enjoyed spending that first evening catching up on all the news from either side.

Saturday morning saw the formal part of the visit, with a church service to mark the 25th Anniversary of our twinning, at the Evangelische Kirche Heddesdorf – Friedenkirche church in Neuwied. We were a little dismayed by the weather as it was raining as we entered the church, not boding well for later in the day.

The informal service of memories, in English, was led by the minister, Freyja Eberding, and included the well-known song “Morning has broken” and organ improvisations by Neuwied’s Jürgen Gelking as well as various reminiscences and reflections.

This was followed by a reception and exchange of gifts. Our anniversary present to Neuwied was an All the World in London Graham Clarke framed print showing famous landmarks and depicting some of this year’s events – such as the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics. Oberbürgermeister Nikolaus Roth presented gifts, among others, to long-standing members who had been part of the original steering group which set up the twinning with Neuwied.

A river trip on the Rhine was planned for the afternoon. Imagine our amazement when the boat drew alongside sporting a banner with a specially created logo proclaiming the 25th Anniversary of our twinning!

Amazingly, too, the weather turned warm and sunny, so many of us were up on deck enjoying the changing scenery and the historic hilltop castles we passed, with an enlightening commentary, in English, from Gerd Flessner.

Our trip took us past the legendary Loreley rock, where a fabled maiden used to comb her hair whilst singing to seduce the sailors, causing them to run aground. This was re-enacted by Inge Gütler, Chair of the Freundeskreis. We broke our journey in Oberwesel and explored this picturesque riverside town. Here the Morris Men lost no time in finding a local hostelry and then entertaining the somewhat astonished populace with their dancing!

Back on board, we were presented with a truly sumptuous buffet courtesy of the Freundeskreis, after which a party mood kicked in and revellers joined in a German version of the Conga, before being entertained by a spectacular firework display at Boppard.

Sunday offered a choice of activities. Some of the group took a trip to Koblenz, where they rode on the recently installed cable car to Schloss Ehrenbreitstein. A tennis tournament took place between the Tennisclub Neuwied and the visiting Parklangley Club, watched by some of the Bromley visitors. The result was very close, but friendships were formed and the link is now established, with a return tournament in Bromley to be held sometime next year.

All too soon it was Sunday evening and the Farewell Party at the Mohr Weinkeller (where we’d also celebrated the 10th anniversary). Musical entertainment was provided by a young local singer and Jürgen Gelking, plus some excellent impromptu songs from one of the tennis group, making for a really lively and festive atmosphere.
Monday morning the weather was turning drizzly, and it was time to bid farewell to our Neuwied friends and thank them warmly for such an excellent and fitting
celebration of our 25 years of friendship. It had been a truly special and memorable weekend – thank you, Neuwied, for such a splendid programme and your very warm welcome.

Now our thoughts turn to the Neuwied group’s return visit to Bromley in April to continue the celebrations, so watch this space for further details!

John reports on his first visit to Neuwied

My wife (a non-German speaker) and I experienced our first Neuwied visit on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the Bromley/Neuwied town twinning. It was a weekend of intense activity, but I’m sure the good citizens of Neuwied do not regularly party until after midnight on normal weekends (neither do we!).

Of course this was an exceptional occasion, as exceptional as the social and ‘official’ events in a programme that kept us on the move from dawn till dusk and beyond. The organisation was impeccable. You have to have been on the organising side to appreciate just how much hard work and frustration lies behind an operation that went as smoothly as this.

Arriving by road across the Rhine bridge in the sunshine, you are struck by confusing thoughts. This is not your typical Rhine Gorge wine town. It is not picture-postcard pretty with vast vineyards ascending the steep slopes above the river. This is a normal medium-sized town, full of ordinary people going about their daily lives in much the same way as we in Bromley.

Also it seems to lie at the wrong angle. The twists and turns of the Rhine, even below Koblenz (which is where Neuwied lies), mean the the river bends north and west here, when your expectation of the Rhine is that it should flow from south to north.
Not that it is a disappointing first impression. Any potential disappointment was more than offset by the fantastic welcome and supreme hospitality proferred to the Bromley half of the twinning partnership.

The town is justly proud of its dyke – built at great expense in the 1920s to protect the citizens from the regular floods of an unpredictable river. The flood marks recorded at the gates, which are closed when the river rises, show a mark (from 1996) 15 feet above street level. Looking from the dyke steps along this line, it is easy to imagine the devastation the annual floods caused when the town was unprotected. Even today, when the river is in flood and the gates are closed, the water pushing back through the street drains on the ‘safe’ side needs constant pumping to keep the town dry.

Clearly the citizens have come through adversity unscathed and have built a clean, modern town which incorporates fine, old, preserved buildings and a magnificent manor house. The uncertainty of the environment does not seem to have depressed them. They do not have a siege mentality and are not downcast.
To a man (and a woman) they are jolly and the welcome extended to the Bromley visitors was overwhelmingly friendly. The hospitality offered both corporately and privately was almost embarrassingly generous.

The river cruise in the sun from Koblenz to the famous Loreley rock, passing through the world heritage Rhine Gorge, was the highlight of the visit. The railway and roads on both sides of the river, and the steady procession of commercial barges, illustrate what an important communication artery the Rhine still is. Castles atop high vantage points are a reminder of feudal days, wars with France and the even greater importance of river travel when the Rhine was the main trading artery from Switzerland to the North Sea.

This trip, passing through breathtaking scenery, with a superb buffet dinner on board, entertainment from the Ravensbourne Morris Men, a female German solo trumpeter (who played the ‘Loreley Lied’ movingly) and dancing complete with traditional German songs, has left a lasting impression.

Topped by a fantastic firework display to rival the renowned ‘Rhine in Flames’ one could not imagine a nicer day out.

Neither could our first weekend in Neuwied have been more enjoyable.
It will be a tall order to entertain the Germans in 2013 as well as they entertained us in 2012. However, the sights of London are of world renown and British hospitality has few equals, so we shall see.



This year our guest lecturer was the Kent historian and journalist Bob Ogley. The date was October 16, a hugely significant day for both Bob and the Bromley Town Twinning Association. The title of his lecture was The Great Storm And How It Changed My Life. Bob is pictured after the lecture signing copies of his books.

BTTA member John Street describes the evening

King Canute famously tried to hold back the tide and failed, but, according to local historian Bob Ogley, the Great Storm of October 15/16, 1987, did just that. At Southend, the strength of the wind was so great that you could have walked, at ground level, to the end of Southend Pier.

On Tuesday, October 16, 25 years after the Great Storm swept across the southern part of England, Bromley’s Town Twinning Association hosted a talk by Bob Ogley. At the time of the storm Bob was the editor of the Sevenoaks Chronicle. The title of the talk was The Great Storm and How It Changed My Life and the venue Bromley Baptist Church.Bob Ogley lecture

There were between 50 and 60 people at the talk, mostly men and women “of a certain age.” Bob gave us a verbal picture of how the storm had changed his life, and then the floor was opened for questions and comments from the audience. What’s below is based on the notes I took and my ability to decipher them on the cool light of day.

Bob Ogley lived in a cottage near the highest point in Kent, not that far from his local pub, the Fox and Hounds at Toys Hill. On the evening of October 15, 1987, he was in the pub and was advised by the landlord not to walk home by his usual route through the woods and that he should ignore Michael Fish’s assertion that there would not be a hurricane that night. Bob ignored this warning but by the next morning the woods had gone – blown away by the storm.

Bob was woken at 2.30am by what sounded like an “express train”; the night sky was lit up by the effect of trees falling on power lines. His first thought was “They’ve dropped the bomb” but then he realised that it was a storm. Daring to venture outside, he narrowly avoided being felled himself by an airborne rabbit hutch. Bob retreated indoors and, along with his wife, spent the rest of the night waiting for trees to fall on his house. They didn’t but the chimney pot came down, part of the roof was lifted off and the glass was blown out of the conservatory.

When Bob opened the front door at first light (he couldn’t wait for dawn) Toys Hill woodland had gone – there were felled trees everywhere.

His top priorities that morning were to get to the office to organise his reporters and to check on the Fox and Hounds. The pub building was damaged and there was no water, no electricity and no working phones. The he set off the six miles to Sevenoaks, mainly crawling and climbing over fallen trees and scratching the earth every now and then to check for a road surface.

Bob’s main memories of that trek, apart from the eerie silence broken by the sound of a solitary chainsaw, were of uprooted trees lying beside houses. Everything beneath the trees had been squashed although the houses themselves were OK. Until he reached Brasted, where a huge beech tree had sliced a house in two.

Bob did eventually reach the newspaper office in Sevenoaks – all the other staff were already there. No phones were working and all the roads were blocked. The best thing to do would be to hire a helicopter or a small plane. Bob managed to speak to the owner of a flying school at Biggin Hill who said that most of the planes had been flipped over during the night but one might be OK. It was, and Bob and a photographer flew over devastation unlike anything he had seen before. They flew over the North Downs, the Thames, Knole Park and saw the extent of the damage – trees toppled, boats relocated out of the river onto the shore, floods in Tonbridge, rail lines blocked by fallen trees.

Another effect of the storm was that all the birds disappeared from the area for around two weeks, and no-one ever worked out what had happened to them. Seagulls were the first to return.

The Seven Oaks on the Vine Cricket Ground, from which Sevenoaks derives its name, had been reduced to one still standing. It soon became apparent that the storm wasn’t just confined to West Kent. It had affected the whole of the south east, from the Channel Islands to the Wash. And at Southend the wind had been so strong that it had held back the tide and it would have been possible to walk along where the sea should have been to the end of the pier.

Bob had collected a great number of photos of the storm damage and approached Hodder and Stoughton with the suggestion of publishing a book of them. They, however, declined to do so. Stuck in a traffic jam, Bob happened to notice that he was outside Landside Printers, general printers, and he went in, spoke to the managing director who thought it was a great idea but needed the copy, the pictures, the index etc with in a week so that it could be published before Christmas.
The book mainly consisted of photos of the storm damage in the Kent area and was titled In the wake of the Hurricane with an initial print run of 5,000 and was in the shops at the end of November. Within a week all had been sold; and by Christmas over 20,000 had gone. Orders were still coming in and the book was at No.6 in the bestsellers list published in the Sunday Times.

Bob’s wife suggested that they write a national edition of the book to raise money for the National Trust. Between them, Bob and his wife visited every affected county and amassed more stories and photos. When the new “national edition” was published, it stayed in the top ten for eight months and sold over 250,000 copies, raising £64,000 for the National Trust.

From this start, Bob gave up his job as newspaper editor and went on to write books on the war years, as well as histories of Kent and Sussex.

Twenty-five years later, it’s apparent that nature has regenerated far more effectively where the fallen trees were left in situ than where there was hurried felling, as unfortunately happened to six of the seven oaks of Sevenoaks that were toppled.
Bob rounded off his talk by inviting comments and questions from the audience. It’s interesting to note that over half the people there claimed to have slept through that night of the Great Storm.



Well, who would have believed it. Our annual garden party on Saturday, June 16, was postponed because of the prolonged wet weather we had all summer and a poor weather forecast for the day. In the event, it was the strong wind, and not rain, that would have put paid to this outside event.Garden party

So we chose a new date, Saturday, September 8, which still seemed risky so late in the summer.

But lo and behold, it was a hot sunny day and it was a very pleasant afternoon indeed.

Our thanks go to David and Lynne Noble for staging the event at their home in West Wickham.

In fact, their hosting went far beyond expectation – Lynne provided us with a tremendous range of home cooked cakes and desserts which must have taken her an immense time to prepare.



So successful was the trip to Berlin last year by a group of members, that they decided to repeat the experience this year and see the places they didn't have time to see last year. Here they are pictured at the Berlin Zoo station.Second Berlin trip

Among the places they saw on this second trip were the Wannsee (the lake near the centre of Berlin), the Brandenburg Gate, the transport museum and the TV tower.

Now they are deciding what German city to visit next.

All members of the association are welcome on these very informal trips.



Pictured at Hawley’s Corner on Westerham Hill (the highest point in Greater London and less than a mile from the highest point in Kent), are some of the participants in the third of four walks around the borough perimeter which concluded the SNOWCAT (Signs of Neuwied Orbital Walking, Cycling and Automotive Trails) walks programme this year which were devised and led by BTTA member Ralph Palfrey to mark the 25th Anniversary of our town twinning.BTTA walkers

This is one of the first three London Borough of Bromley boundary signs which included the Neuwied crest.

These were resited to less busy roads when a further five boards (without the costly artwork but with much larger lettering advertising the link as suggested by our association) were added to mark the tenth anniversary of our twinning with Neuwied.





By highly popular acclaim, the Wiedperlen ladies choir came back to the borough of Bromley at the beginning of October when they gave another joint concert with Orpington's Newstead Singers on Thursday, October 4, at the United Reformed Church in Willett Way, Petts Wood.

Their inaugural visit here was in 2009. It was followed up last year by the Newstead Singers taking part in a joint concert in Neuwied.

Their latest concert with the Newstead Singers was again a great success.



Another joint musical initiative between Bromley and Neuwied took place just two days after the Wiedperlen concert, on Saturday, October 6. The Musikverein Heimbach-Weis joined the Beckenham Concert Band in a concert at St. Barnabas Church, Beckenham.

It was the first time the two bands had played together and plans are already being made for future performances. The Musikverein Heimbach-Weis has been performing for 92 years.


To hear the concert, click

Beckenham Concert










Musikverein badge














For our 2011 reports, click:

Reports 2011