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.
ONE of the most important collections of watercolour paintings in the world is heading our way.
More than 40 works from the exquisite holdings of Sir Hickman Beckett Bacon (1855-1945), an avid collector of English watercolours between 1895 and the First World War, will be on show at Abbot Hall Art Gallery, from January 12 until April 14.
Now owned by Sir Nicholas Bacon, the precious paintings will be loaned to the Kendal gallery for its next exhibition - Turner and his Contemporaries: The Hickman Bacon Watercolour Collection.
Abbot Hall chief executive Gordon Watson was thrilled at the prospect of the eminent display, which should have the eyes of the nation’s arts world focused on the important regional gallery.
In fact, a fitting time to stage such a grand show as Abbot Hall celebrates a half century since its opened its celebrated doors.
Gordon added: “Fifty years ago on September 28, 1962, Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret officially opened the gallery and since then Abbot Hall has established itself as one of the most significant and ambitious galleries in the north of England.”
Rarely aired in public, the collection will be shown alongside highlights from Abbot Hall’s own permanent collection of watercolours.
Sir Nicholas said that he was delighted to be able to lend the paintings to Abbot Hall.
He continued: “My great uncle Sir Hickman Bacon (Hicky) had unusual tastes for his time and thus the collection is very strong in the type of late, ethereal Turner watercolours that only became widely popular with the advent of abstract painting in the 1940s and 50s. Equally, John Sell Cotman, an artist who had only just emerged from total obscurity, was of particular interest.
“Hicky’s collection represents English watercolour painting at its greatest; like so many collectors he was not interested by the fashion of the day, but he was committed to collecting those objects which fulfilled his heartfelt love of beauty.”
Born in 1855 into a family of landed gentry, Sir Hickman was educated at Eton. He joined the army, later returning to his old-fashioned family mansion. He suffered from ill health early in his life, and remained a bachelor until he died in 1945. He also collected fabrics, wall hangings, ceramics and Japanese prints – a collection he gave to the Japanese Government.
Abbot Hall collections manager Nick Rogers said that an exhibition of watercolours from the ‘remarkable’ Hickman Bacon collection was a cause for celebration wherever it was held. He added: “That it is taking place in Kendal, Cumbria, is particularly appropriate, as this is an area that played a significant role in the development of watercolour as the medium of choice for the itinerant artist in the late 18th and early 19th Century.”