The old tradition of having a 'pen pal' has been kept alive and well in Ulverston after visitors from the town's French twin arrived in Cumbria - after 40 years.

Hoad Monument was opened up especially for Valou Blot and Stephane and Delphine Lahcem who came over from Albert.

The Municipal Council of Albert and the Town Council of Ulverston first forged links over 30 years ago.

The union was made to further the cause of international friendship, understanding, peace and goodwill.

Frequent visits and events were arranged between the two communities however have tailed off in recent times. 

In the 1980s, there was a tradition of French students coming over to visit Ulverston Victoria High School students.

Valou, 55, and Delphine, 55, were pen friends with Gill Stevens, 55, and Sarah Deardon, 54, from Ulverston Victoria High School.

The Mail: The pen pals back in the 1980sSenior Monument Keeper Graham Scrogham said: "I was delighted when I got the call to ask if could I open up the monument.

"Our French visitors absolutely loved it they were fascinated with its history.

"It's always really great to have people from other countries over at the monument."

Gill first became pen friends with Valou in 1983 when the pair were around 15 and 16 doing the then equivalent of GSCEs.

She said: "It's quite sad that the tradition of pen pals hasn't been kept alive.

"If you think of today's health and safety, it probably wouldn't be allowed as you essentially used to go and stay with a strange family for a week or so.

"It was a great tradition though as you immersed yourself much more in that culture and the idea was to help you with the language - which it really did."

The Mail: The French visitors were reported to be fascinated with the monument's historyThrough the power of Facebook, the friends managed to re-connect.

Gill went over to Albert last year with Valou returning to Ulverston this year alongside Delphine Lahcem and her husband Stephane.

The trio are now here until Saturday (April 13).

"What better to welcome them back to Ulverston with the Hoad monument," said Gill. "It's so unique and we also took them to see the Roxy and the town hall.

"They remembered that when they were last here they played pool a lot so we took them to the Sun pub and had such a laugh. 

The Mail: The group of pen friends outside the monument

"There were so many simple things that they were nostalgic about.

"My parents still live in the same house so Valou was able to see the bedroom she used to stay in - and says she remembers my mum's butties well!" 

Ulverston Victoria High School had a tradition of visiting Edinburgh so the friends are going to visit there along with Keswick, a visit to Buddhist temple and have already paid a visit to Haverthwaite.

The Mail: (From left to right) Sarah, Delphine, Gill and Valou outside Haverthwaite railwayValou added: "It's been really great to meet both Gill and Sarah's families. We all haven't seen each other for over forty years and once we were together, it was like time melted away.

"Ulverston has changed a lot but I love how pretty it is and its ambience."

The friends plan to keep the pen pal tradition alive with returning visits and encourage others to get in touch with their former pen pals.