Up, up and away to the Continent

A TELEPHONE box commemorating 40 years of friendship is finally en route to its destination following a number of set backs. All being well, visitors to the village of Fontaine-Henry in Normandy, France, will soon see a classic red British GPO telephone box standing proudly in its main square. The telephone box is a gift from Scoriton & Buckfastleigh Twinning Association to Fontaine-Henry commemorating their 40th Twinning Anniversary.

President of the Scoriton & Buckfastleigh Twinning Association, Anne Goulborn, said: ‘The telephone box has become a potent symbol of our 40 years of friendship with Normandy and when Buckfastleigh Town Council offered us the decommissioned box, we leapt at the chance. Also in the news ‘It was the perfect gift to celebrate our 40th Twinning Anniversary with Fontaine-Henry.’

In came Covid-19 and the subsequent decision by most governments globally to implement travel restrictions left the telephone box destitute. After leaving its leafy bower in Buckfast, the box settled into its temporary home on Twinning member Diana Knight’s forecourt for renovation: restored to its former glory by Twinning member Judy Le Marchant’s brother Bob. Getting the box on the road was no easy feat, a number of seemingly insurmountable challenges presented themselves to the twinning association, as member Tim Coulton explains.

‘Transporting the box to France was fraught with difficulty. ‘The fallout from Brexit meant transport companies and truck hire firms were not interested, too much red tape – we were left scratching our heads.’ Owners of AGM Garden Machinery, Andy Caunter and Cathy Farrer, alleviated the situation and brought in a truck and the wherewithal to take the box to France.

Next up was how to load the box onto the back of Andy’s truck; fortunately local farmer Tom Truman came out of the woodwork and rode to the aid of the association, behind the wheel of his telehandler Tom navigated a freak lighting storm and manoeuvred the cast-iron box onto the truck without error. The ball, or box in this case, is now in the French court and the French Twinners have been hard at work their end, ensuring the project is seen through to the very end; they have covered all the transportation costs to France and spent considerable time researching the new customs requirements. ‘It’s been a real team effort, we could not have managed without everyones help, both here and across the Channel’ Tim said.

After the overnight ferry crossing from Portsmouth, French Twinners will be waiting at the crack of dawn to greet Andy and Cathy at the Port of Caen and to be on hand in case of any Gallic shrugs from French customs officials.

The iconic, striking image of the telephone box is serving an additional purpose for the Scoriton & Buckfastleigh Twinning Association as president Anne Goulbourn explains: ‘We are using its image on our 40th anniversary commemorative plaque, and it will even feature on beer bottles courtesy of local organic brewer Barnabys.’