The sign at the entrance to town reads:

"Welcome to the Town of Herndon, Sister City of Runneymede, England."

At the end of the month, a dozen Herndon residents, including Mayor Thomas Rust, Town Manager Edwin Martin and Town Clerk Mary Ingram and their spouses, leave for a two-week stay in the Borough of Runneymede, just west of London.

They will stay with many of the same families who spent two weeks in Herndon last summer under the Sister Cities International program, which now twins more than 600 U.S. towns and cities with localities overseas.

Herndon, 104 years old and one of Virginia's largest towns, became linked in 1979 with Runneymede, which dates only to 1977 as a modern borough, or county. First settled in 666, Runneymede is most famous for its meadow along the Thames River where the Magna Carta, the great charter of English liberties, was forced upon a reluctant King John in 1215.

Last year's 23 Runnymede visitors found the Washington area in June a tropical place where residents live on large estates with huge yards and swimming pools, and where "nearly every home has a barbecue," according to an English reporter who accompanied them.

Besides the good will and cultural exhange of residents, Runnymede and Herndon also are discussing possible future exchanges of students and youth soccer teams. Residents who go on the exchanges pay their own air fares but during their stay are guests of the host families. The other Herndon residents leaving on May 27 were hosts to Runnymede residents last year.