SINGING schoolchildren joined thousands of flag-waving revellers as the Olympic Torch’s Cumbrian odyssey reached Ambleside.
Crowds began gathering from mid-afternoon as anticipation mounted ahead of the historic moment.
Greeted by cheers and applause, torch bearer Tom Wright, 15, of St Bees, passed the Olympic flame onto Windermere’s Stephanie Booth as it reached Borrans Park at around 6.20pm.
The beaming 14-year-old Lakes School pupil, nominated by her head teacher, told the Gazette it was the ‘best moment’ of her life.
“I was quite nervous but very excited,” she said.
“Everyone was really friendly and happy.
"It’s been the best experience.”
Sports-mad Stephanie is a keen swimmer and participant of triathlon and cross-country events and will compete alongside her sister in this weekend’s Great North Swim.
Her proud mother Christine said: “I didn’t sleep last night, I was so excited for her.
"I’m just really unbelieveably proud of her.
“The last week has been a little bit overwhelming.
"She was determined to be involved in the Olympics and this could be the closest she gets.”
Spectators Gordon Allatt and Norma Pearson made the trip from Northampton especially to see the torch.
And Mr Allatt was thrilled when he got to touch it.
“I’ll never wash this hand again,” said an emotional Mr Allatt.
“The Olympics is one of those things that brings the country together and makes us feel good.”
Mrs Pearson added: “I think it’s absolutely great and I shall be watching the Games every day while they're on.”
Children from Ambleside, Hawkshead, Langdale and Coniston primary schools performed a song especially-assembled for the occasion as the torch made its way to Waterhead to board the Bowness-bound vessel, the Tern.
It was helped on its way by a flotilla, christened Brathay’s ‘whalers’, as other boats sounded their horns in tribute.
Marj Waddecar, of Ambleside, who was looking on, said: “I was born in the year Britain last held the Olympics so I thought I ought to come down and see the torch this time.
“It’s good we have got the Olympics and let’s just hope there’s a bit of a spin-off for tourism in areas like this.”
Visitor Julianne Harlow, of Brighton, added: “It’s a really big event that we won’t be seeing in this country again and, rightly or wrongly, a lot of money has been invested in it.”
People were invited to write goodwill messages about the Games for inclusion in an eye-catching yellow ‘balloon tree’.
The Kendal Windows on Art project was led by Pam Williamson, who said: “I have worked with older people, schoolchildren and members of the public, asking them to send their messages to welcome the torch from Ambleside to London and the rest of the world.”
The balloons were given to children after the torch passed through and the messages will now go on display at Ambleside Library before featuring in a special opening ceremony at this year’s Ambleside Sports.
The Borrans Park festivities were organised in part by Barry Porter, of Rufty Tufty’s, Ambleside.
Mr Porter said: “I thought it would be a really positive thing for Ambleside - it really profiles the area.
“Anything that builds up Ambleside is great for local businesses and local people. The kids are really enjoying it.”
An Olympic Torch relay celebration, titled On the Night Shift, presented by Kendal Arts International, takes place on The Glebe, Bowness, tonight.
THE Bassenthwaite Ospreys have moved home to live in marshes nearer to Bassenthwaite Lake.
After successfully nesting at their treetop summer home at Dodd Wood since 2008, the pair decided it was time for a change and have been gradually building a new nest since returning from their wintering grounds in West Africa.
Fortunately, the new site is visible from the Dodd Wood viewpoint so visitors can still enjoy watching the birds of prey this season.
Ospreys are normally faithful to successful nest sites, so the move was a bit of a shock for staff at the Lake District Osprey Project (LDOP). This is only the second time staff have seen the ospreys change nest in the project’s 11-year history.
Nathan Fox of the RSPB’s Lake District Osprey Project, said: ‘It has been an interesting and exciting start to the season, with the birds deciding to move. We have been working closely with local landowners and farmers to make sure that the birds are fully protected and therefore have a good chance of raising their chicks.”
A PAIR of ospreys have returned to their nesting site in the Lake District. The birds are back at Bassenthwaite Lake - 10 years after the first male osprey chose the area for a nesting site.The bird, known as No Ring, was the first to nest in the Lakes for 150 years. Experts say he has returned with the female he paired up with for the first time in 2007.
It is hoped the birds will rear an 11th generation of young after two male chicks were produced last year.
Graeme Prest of the Lake District Osprey Project said: "It is wonderful news that the ospreys have returned for another season and have already mated. With a bit of luck, the female will be laying her eggs soon.”
Almost 100 people are part of a volunteer project to provide 24-hour observation on the nest. They also engage with the public about ospreys at the Dodd Wood viewpoint and Whinlatter Visitor Centre.
The public Osprey Viewpoint at Dodd Wood, near Keswick, has been opened and telescopes are being provided to see the birds.
Live images from the nest are also being beamed to a big screen at the nearby Whinlatter visitor centre. The osprey project is managed by a partnership of the Forestry Commission, Lake District National Park Authority and the RSPB.