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 eight short-listed design teams have been announced for a competition to redevelop the Windermere Steamboat Museum on the shores of Windermere.
The Lakeland Arts Trust recently secured initial support for a £7.4m Heritage Lottery Fund bid, including £494,000 development funding, to take the project forward. The project aims to create an exciting and active museum which will use the lake and the lakeside setting to display the nationally significant collection of steam launches, motor boats, yachts and other vessels which are all associated with Windermere.
The first stage of the competition attracted 114 expressions of interest. The short-list (in order of the architect leading the multi-disciplinary design team) is as follows: Carmody Groarke; Adam Khan Architects; Niall McLaughlin Architects; Terry Pawson Architects; Reiach and Hall Architects; 6a Architects; Sutherland Hussey Architects; Witherford Watson Mann Architects.
Martin Ainscough, Chairman of the Lakeland Arts Trust, commented: “We are very encouraged by the quality of entries in the architectural competition and the judging panel had a difficult decision to select the final eight for the shortlist. We are looking forward to working with the successful practice to create a world class facility in the heart of the Lake District..”
Gordon Watson, the trust’s chief executive, added: “We are looking for a fresh, well-detailed and sensitive response for the stimulating and highly significant site on Windermere and to display the museum's wonderful collection of boats.”
The second stage of the competition will seek design concepts for the project. Architects will need to take into account the requirement of displaying the boats and other items in the collection in the exhibition space and wet dock, and enabling visitors to see the boats being restored in the conservation workshop, as well as designing an appropriate facility for the location to provide a world-class visitor experience.
The design proposals will be subject to public display and comment in late October 2011 and the design teams will be invited to present their schemes to the jury panel at final interviews in late November 2011.