THE Mayor of Barnstaple has reacquainted the town with old friends from across the pond. At the same time as David Cameron spent the week buffing Britain s special relationship with America during his first official visit to the US as prime minister,
THE Mayor of Barnstaple has reacquainted the town with old friends from across the "pond."
At the same time as David Cameron spent the week buffing Britain's "special relationship" with America during his first official visit to the US as prime minister, the delegation from North Devon was given a "prime ministerial" welcome of its own.
Councillor Ian Roome, Mayoress Linda Lewis, Cllr Bruce Vernon and town clerk Anne Jenkins travelled to Barnstaple's twin town of Barnstable, Massachusetts, to celebrate and strengthen a 71-year friendship between the two towns.
The party was invited to attend a series of special events on the Cape Cod peninsula by Louis Cataldo, a former Barnstable police chief who has done much to foster a twinning relationship that started with the US visit of Mayor, Charles Dart, to mark Barnstable's tercentenary in 1939.
Mr Cataldo, 90, is a passionate historian and conservationist and was awarded the title of Honorary Burgess by Barnstaple Town Council in recognition of his "outstanding work in international relations."
The trip began on Monday week with breakfast with the Rotary Club of Barnstable Sunrise. Later the same day, Cllr Roome lay a wreath at the base of a memorial stone to mark Battle of the Bulge on the Town Green during a ceremony to honour veterans of both Barnstable and Barnstaple.
Other events during the six-day stay included a meeting with Barnstable Town Council President Fred Chirigotis and the County Commissioners for Barnstable County. The civic party was also taken on an ice cream run in a 1952 Bentley, and the Mayor was made a honorary member of the Cape Cod British Car Club.
Cllr Roome, who was interviewed on four television and two radio shows, said the aim of the trip was to strengthen ties with Barnstable and to promote Barnstaple and North Devon as a destination for American visitors and businesses.
"It's so important that we don't remain insular and that we promote the facilities that we have in Barnstaple," he said.
"We need to foster our links and judging from the comments I've received, I'm positive that our relationship with Barnstable will continue to grow."
Situated on the northeast coast, the town was one of the first to be settled by the English in North America. It shares many similarities with its North Devon namesake, in particular, its coastline, maritime heritage and summer tourism trade.
Among the stories dominating the local news is a long-running row over plans to erect 130 wind turbines off the Cape Cod coastline.
"There are many things we can learn from one another," added Cllr Roome, who is able to claim expenses for his and his wife's travel and accommodation through the town council's Mayoral account. Clerk Anne Jenkins and Cllr Vernon paid for the trip themselves.
"Barnstaple has currently implemented its own BID (Business Improvement District) plan, and it was interesting to see how a similar scheme in Barnstable has been running very successfully over the last 10 years."
Local newspaper the Barnstable Patriot wrote that the delegation from Barnstaple had been "eliciting smiles wherever it goes." It went on to say: "Your Mayor is a delightful fellow and your Mayoress a peach."
"Everywhere we went, the welcome we received was wonderful; people couldn't have been friendlier," said Cllr Roome.
"I'm positive that the trip will encourage investment links to North Devon and I'm certain we'll see business and school exchanges as a result. Some people who saw me being interviewed on the television came up to me in the street to ask about Barnstaple and the area and some even asked about heritage tours of our Guildhall. It is hoped that the president on their town council will be able to attend Barnstaple Fair opening in September
"It was a very successful trip that I'm sure has forged some really good connections for Barnstaple and North Devon.
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