Uckfield organises its own Olympic Torch relay race

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UCKFIELD might have been by-passed by the ‘official’ Olympic torch, but as soon as townsfolk heard they would not be taking part they vowed to organise their own ceremony.

The result was a sensational parade - complete with rolling road closures - that recognised the town’s truly Olympian spirit on Tuesday.

Police and marshals manned road closure barriers as children from seven local schools took part in Uckfield’s version of the event which was carefully timed to coincide with the relays through Crowborough, Lewes and Pevensey.

Runners began at 10.30am at the junction of London Road with the A272 at Budletts Roundabout. The route took them along London Road, down Uckfield High Street, right through New Town and along Lewes Road almost to the Little Horsted roundabout, taking it within reach of almost everybody living and working in the town.

The whole distance was 2.9 miles and each school was given a distance of about 750 yards to cover. They were able to choose whether to have one child running the entire distance or split it between more children.

The torch itself was designed by the technology department at Uckfield Community Technology College.

The Alternative Uckfield Torch Run was organised by the Uckfield Festival committee and chairman Dorothy Sparks was delighted there was so much support for runners. Thousands of townspeople turned out to cheer, wave flags and urge the runners onwards.

The idea came about when Dorothy discovered the official Olympic torch would by-pass Uckfield and there would be times when it would be carried in a van rather than on foot.

She said she was hugely disappointed because she thought runners would accompany the torch for the whole distance so people on the road could see it. Then she realised the date was during Festival week and decided to approach schools to find out whether they’d like to become involved in an Alternative Torch Run.

The schools involved included Manor, Rocks Park, Holy Cross, St Philip’s, Harlands, Little Horsted and the Community College itself.

Uckfield Rotary Club members volunteered to marshal the event along with townspeople. Hundreds came forward to take part. Dorothy was delighted with the outcome and believes this once-in-a-lifetime spectacle made the day something for people right across Sussex to remember.

The sun shone and the media attended in force, with advance information given out on both BBC and independent TV programmes. It also featured heavily on social media sites.