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.
BBC Radio 1 DJ’s Chris Moyles and Greg James are packing their bags early and taking their shows to Carlisle a week before Radio 1’s Big Weekend.
The pair will broadcast their shows live from Cumbria from Monday (May 9) to Friday (May 13) when they arrive a week ahead of the main event. In addition to their daily shows, Chris, Greg and their teams will be getting out and about in the city and surrounding areas, meeting the residents and celebrating all that Carlisle has to offer.
The pair will immerse themselves in the local community for a whole week, and they also plan to meet the city’s students in a Q&A session during the week.
Chris Moyles says: “The Big Weekend is always the highlight of my year and I'm so excited that we get to go up to Carlisle for a whole week beforehand and settle in before everyone else arrives. I'm hoping the good people of Carlisle are going to show us a good time!''
Greg James adds: “I’m really looking forward to this year’s Big Weekend and to bring my show live from Carlisle. Chris and I will be out and about meeting the locals during the week and I'm hoping we can experience the best of the city!"
BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend is the UK's biggest free ticketed festival and 40,000 lucky music fans will be able to enjoy performances across four stages at Carlisle Airfield where the event is taking place – the Main Stage; the In New Music We Trust Stage; the Outdoor Stage and the BBC Introducing Stage. This year’s artists include, Lady Gaga, Foo Fighters, The Black Eyed Peas, Tinie Tempah and Ellie Goulding.
A truly multiplatform experience, Radio 1's Big Weekend will be broadcast on Radio 1, with a major interactive presence online and many live performances available to watch on demand. There will be highlights on BBC Three and extended performances can be seen via BBC Red Button on digital TV during the weekend.