Witnesham: Alternative torch to burn bright along six-village route

WHEN the official route of the Olympic Torch Relay was unveiled, villagers in Witnesham were more than a little disappointed that the flame would not be passing close by.

Stephen Henley, 63, said that after previously being visited by Sir Ian Botham during one of his famous long-distance walks as well as the riders of the Tour of Britain, he felt the community should be more involved in the occasion.

Mr Henley, a former director at Willis, and a group of friends from Witnesham came up with the idea of planning their own torch relay to bring the spirit of the Olympics to the village and its neighbouring communities.

Starting and finishing in Witnesham, the relay – using an official Olympic torch, borrowed from an appointed bearer – will also take in the surrounding villages of Ashbocking, Otley, Swilland, Tuddenham and Westerfield.

Mr Henley said: “It’s not coming through our community – we had Ian Botham many years ago and the Tour of Britain, so it was a bit disappointing and we thought ‘let’s have our own one’.

“We grew it a bit as we didn’t think we should be too selfish, and finally decided on a six-village race. We are calling it the Six-Village Olympic Torch Relay.”

The run will commence at the Barley Mow pub, run by Les Osborne, brother of Ipswich Town FA Cup final goalscoring hero Roger. Mr Henley added: “We want to give everybody as much chance as possible to enter. The distance is 14.73 miles, in tribute to the 01473 Ipswich area code.”

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The relay will commence in Witnesham at noon on July 7, then head to Otley, Swilland, back through Witnesham, on to Tuddenham and Westerfield before arriving back in Witnesham at the Barley Mow.

In each village the torch will pause at a local landmark and people can take pictures, while the event will raise money for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices.

There will then be a social event in Witnesham in the evening. Each runner will cover a 300-metre stretch and the aim is to involve as many people as possible.

More details about the route and how to take part will be available soon.