On 21 April we were delighted to welcome Mayor Alex Nuttall from Barrie for a few days, together with his partner Margaret (Meg) Stanton. He is Barrie’s 47th Mayor, having been elected in October 2022 for a four year term.
For his first visit to Harrogate, Alex had expressed a particular interest in meeting people and building links with the Harrogate business community, as well as seeing the town and what it has to offer.
Following a tough trip from London (with cancelled trains and standing room only!) there was only time on the first day for introductory meetings and a meal with the Harrogate International Partnerships team who had organised his packed schedule.
Day 2, Saturday 22 April, commenced with a breakfast meeting in town with Martin Mann from the Harrogate Chamber of Commerce, learning about business sectors in each town and finding common areas of focus. This was followed by a walk down to Valley Gardens to attend and enjoy the ceremony for opening the refurbished New Zealand Garden, which gave the opportunity to meet a number of local dignatories. These included the Harrogate Charter Mayor Michael Harrison, the Deputy Lieutenant of North Yorkshire Mr Simon Mackaness, and local MP Andrew Jones, as well as other councillors and former mayors who were attending.
After the ceremony, Alex and Meg were driven over to the Harrogate Spring Flower Show taking place at the Yorkshire Events Centre at the Harrogate Showground. Walking in, the first thing they could see was the HIP Twinning Community Garden, with the obelisk showing the four twin towns and planting to reflect each one – and from the direction they were brought in, the panel for Barrie was facing their way! So impressive, and a real WOW factor – a huge credit to the design and horticultural team who were also there to meet him, namely Jan Gleaves for the graphics, and Sue Wood for the planting.
After a quick sandwich lunch, there was then time to have a look round the show, and meet the Flower Show Director Nick Smith and some of the trustees.
Back into Harrogate, there was an early evening meeting with representatives from Harrogate RUFC, Ralph Zoing and Matt Dunscombe, discussing the forthcoming rugby under 16’s exchange trip coming up in July. That was followed by a business dinner at the Yorkshire Hotel with Matthew Chapman and Jo Caswell from Harrogate Business Improvement District (Harrogate BID). Afterwards Alex and Meg said, as did Matthew and Jo, that it had been really interesting to compare notes on local challenges and the respective approaches of Harrogate and Barrie – and particularly to exchange ideas for initiatives.
Day 3 was Sunday 23 April. This started with a special experience – being shown round Ripley Castle by Sir Thomas Ingilby. This enabled Alex and Meg to see first hand the historic family connection with Sir Robert Barrie who gave his name to their city. He married into the Ingilby family in 1816, and is buried in the family vault in Ripley’s All Saints’ Church. The 7th June is now officially “Sir Robert Barrie Day” in Barrie.
After that they were driven to Harrogate’s Stonefall Cemetery to attend the ANZAC commemoration ceremony. Although the event itself is to remember those from the Australia and New Zealand, Stonefall also is the location where over 660 Canadian aircrew are laid to rest, so it was entirely appropriate that Mayor Nuttall should join in the ceremony to lay a wreath to remember them. He and Meg also visited the grave of Flying Officer William H Porritt from Barrie to lay a private wreath – he was stationed in Yorkshire and died in an aircrash at East Moor near York on 16 April 1945 and is buried alongside others from his crew. Following the ceremony there was a reception afterwards at the Cedar Court Hotel where Alex gave a short speech, before his cake-cutting skills were put to the test.
Sunday finished on a relaxed note with a small home-hosted meal to round off the visit.
Following a speedy reciprocal invitation, plans are afoot for Harrogate to be represented in Barrie to celebrate 10 years of twinning. Hopefully this will include Sir Robert Barrie Day (7 June 2023) and the Barrie Air Show the following weekend, as well as the opportunity to follow up with civic and business contacts.