Bath’s own baking sensation Mary Berry was back in her home town today helping youngsters from Widcombe Junior School plant just some of five thousand bulbs which mark 70 years of friendship between the city and Alkmaar in the Netherlands.
Mary’s brother Roger was in the first group of Bath children to be invited to the Dutch town immediately after the Second World War. That was as a result of Bathonians hosting 50 Dutch children who had suffered terrible deprivation as a result of a deliberate famine in Nazi-occupied Holland during the winter of 1944/5.
The people of Bath decided to ‘adopt’ Alkmaar, before the war ended, and raised the equivalent of £250,000 and sent crateloads of food, clothes and equipment to alleviate the effect of the famine – especially on the children.
In gratitude, Alkmaar sent Bath 5,000 tulip bulbs in 1945, and invited children from Bath back to Alkmaar for a special post-war summer holiday in 1946 – sealing the friendship between the cities.
Starting this autumn the two towns are celebrating 70 years of friendship. Alkmaar has again donated 5,000 tuliop bulbs to Bath. Three thousand two hundred are being planted in Bath parks and 1800 have been distributed to city junior schools for children to plant and mark this special, international relationship themselves.
Mary – the star of the BBC’s Bake Off series – was kind enough to chat for Bath Newseum and tell you about her family’s ties with the Bath-Alkmaar twinning. While the school youngsters got planting underway in Bath’s Parade Gardens.
The Mayor and Mayoress of Bath, Cllr and Mrs Paul Crossley were also on hand to help with the bulb planting and welcome Mary back to Bath. As was Chris Davies of the Bath Alkmaar Twinning Association.
Meanwhile, Councillor Martin Veal, Bath and North East Somerset Council Cabinet member for Community Services said:
‘As a former Widcombe Junior School pupil myself, I’m pleased that Mary Berry is joining the school children to help them with the Alkmaar Dutch tulips.
I am sure they have enjoyed meeting her and this project will help to further encourage their interest in gardening and the outdoors.
We are very fortunate to have many wonderful parks and green spaces across the district and it’s great to see young people playing an important part in their upkeep.’
Mary’s life-long friend Bridget Wakefield was also on hand to help today. She was one of the original group of children who went to Alkmaar.
Find out more about the Bath-Alkmaar Twinning Association via www.bath–alkmaar.eu/