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.
THOUSANDS of punters flocked to Cartmel Races for the course’s biggest meeting of the year, spread over three days.
The traditional Bank Holiday Monday event attracted a crowd of 16,000 to watch the seven races.
Jonathan Garratt, Cartmel Racecourse managing director, said the bookies did not fare too badly.
“I think it has been mixed; they have had some favourites going in but I’m sure they have had ups and downs.”
Punters successfully backed legendary racer Tony McCoy, who appeared on Monday.
Yesterday, too, proved a rare highlight for racegoers as three Cheltenham Festival horses went on parade for Veterans Day.
Chief Dan George, who is trained just a mile from Cartmel by Jimmy Moffatt, was joined by Mister McGoldrick and Hussard Collonges.
“We have had a lot of people who are on half-term holiday but it’s also the day when racing enthusiasts from all over the country come and have their day at Cartmel because the course is slightly less overcrowded,” said Mr Garratt.
Meanwhile, a racing steward became the first person to join an exclusive Cartmel ‘club’.
Officiating at Saturday’s races signalled a landmark for Colin Vickers — it meant he had visited every racecourse in Britain.
Cartmel Racecourse chairman Lord Cavendish presented Mr Vickers with a souvenir badge, which coincided with the launch of an I’ve Saved The Best Until Last club.
Anyone completing a visit to all Britain’s racecourses with a trip to Cartmel will now receive one of the specially-commissioned badges.
Mr Garratt said: “When I came here I was amazed how many people said they had been to every other racecourse before they tasted the unique delights of Cartmel.
“I realised that they were saving the best until last.”