FIFTEEN Rotarians from Germany winged in to meet their Chepstow twin counterparts in a biannual visit.

The Westerwald (Western Forest) visitors and their wives enjoyed visits to Castel Coch near Cardiff, the Royal Mint at Llantrisant, the Cathedral of the Forest in Newland, Clearwell Caves and the neighbouring Secret Forest with its scowles and Iron Age round houses.

The Westerwald is a low mountain region of Germany on the right bank of the River Rhine of some 1,350 square miles – more than 30 times the area of the Forest of Dean. 

In spite of the rain at Castel Coch’s 19th century Gothic Revival castle, the visitors were amazed at the beautiful fairy tale folly with its delightfully painted interior. 

After a pub lunch in Llantrisant, the group then visited the Royal Mint where many minted their own £1 coin, although it was pointed out that their new 2017 coins will not be issued to the public until next year.   

A celebration dinner at Abbey Mill, Tintern, was on a Welsh theme that included cawl and Welsh pork with leeks followed by Caerphilly and Snowdon cheese.

Afterwards, the German club made a generous donation to a water project in Romania which is supported by Chepstow Rotary.

Following coffee and Welsh cakes at Abbey Mill next day, the Cathedral of the Forest was the first stop. Dating back to the 1200s with its celebrated Miners Brass depicting a miner in working garb with his tools and his lighted candle, the German guests were impressed with the amount of history contained within the village church. 

Then the group descended deep into the caves of Clearwell under the guidance of owner Jonathan Wright. 

In the gloom, they wondered at prehistoric bones, an ochre workshop, the remains of the iron mining industry and a spectacular projected light show of the creatures that had inhabited the waters long ago before, following a picnic, heading for the Secret Forest with its scowles and Iron Age round houses. 

In the evening, everyone relaxed at a barbecue when the German visitors exclaimed their admiration for the diversity of the area and the great hospitality of their Rotary hosts. 

Chris Wilson of Chepstow Rotary said: “While many of them had visited UK cities, they all remarked that this was the real country where they had been able to discuss and better understand the British people and their land. 

“The bonding of people through understanding was clear to see and everyone agreed that this had been a most successful exchange visit.”