Monday, 11 December 2017

Henley links with Slovenian beauty spot

HENLEY is to be twinned with a Slovenian town famous for rowing.

HENLEY is to be twinned with a Slovenian town famous for rowing.

The town’s partnership with Bled, which hosted the world rowing championships in 2011, will be its third twin town following links set up with Leichlingen in Germany and Falaise in France.

A ceremony will be held in the town hall on April 22 to sign and seal the new twinning charter.

Mayor Elizabeth Hodgkin said the link would be “quite special”.

Bled has a population of 5,000, about half the size of Henley, and is strongly linked to rowing because the Slovenian national team trains there.

It hosts an international music festival similar to the Henley Festival and relies on its tourist trade. Marriages are held on an island in the centre of Lake Bled in the same way they are on Temple Island.

Henley Town Council can apply to the European Union for funding that is available for establishing links with emerging countries and a twinning association run by members of the community will be set up.

The Mayor was part of a steering group set up in November to investigate linking the towns and the idea was supported by Andrew Page, the UK ambassador to Slovenia.

Speaking at a meeting of the council’s town and community committee, Councillor Hodgkin said: “This isn’t all about rowing links, although we’ve concentrated on them as that’s the obvious link.

“This has been driven by the community, not just the town council, which is really important for it to be sustainable as a twinning link.”

A group from Henley including Leander Club captain Debbie Flood, two junior eights from Henley Rowing Club and Upper Thames Rowing Club and civic dignitaries will visit Bled.

Cllr Hodgkin said: “Most of our rowing fraternity have visited there already. We will focus on youth, which is why we’re taking two eights. The young people will experience rowing on Lake Bled.”

Councillor David Nimmo Smith said he supported the idea but was concerned at the timing of the agreement. He said: “Twinning is more than giving support, it’s a serious civic commitment.

“I haven’t met anyone from Bled and haven’t seen any presentation. I’m just concerned we’re running before we can walk.”

Councillor Will Hamilton said: “The easy part is the twinning but there are other parts which could do with more work. I think we could take this to the annual town meeting.”

Councillor Pam Phillips, who chairs the committee, said the Henley Festival organisers, schools and other groups had been contacted about having a role in the twinning link.

She said: “There’s a huge amount of activities that could happen and I think that will actually work with all sorts of different groups, not just rowers. If you look at the mountains in Bled they would be ideal for triathlons. We’ve contacted some of the cyclists in Henley who think it’s a really good idea.”

Deputy Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak said: “We’ve got to start somewhere. I’m sure when the Leichlingen twinning came about people were having similar discussions and that’s been a wonderful twin, as witnessed by the AFC Henley football match.

“There’s already a natural synergy between Henley and Bled. We have the River and Rowing Museum and there could be educational links.

“The one thing we really have to focus on and I think should be ongoing is putting our emphasis on youth. Young people getting together in competition or in an artistic environment will be great for the town.”

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