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Bridgnorth helps Queen's Baton on its way as Commonwealth Games approach

Bridgnorth provided a perfect backdrop for the final Shropshire leg of the Queen's Baton Relay – with the route taking in some of the town's iconic sites.

Harry Hemmings, 15, helps the baton along its way
Harry Hemmings, 15, helps the baton along its way

The baton has been on a journey across the country ahead of the start of the Commonwealth Games on Thursday.

Today saw it arrive in Bridgnorth in style – on the specially painted Jubilee Elizabeth II train, before a tour of the town that included a stop at the Severn Park, a tribute to a long-standing councillor, and a journey on the cliff railway.

The Severn Valley Railway was the first port of call, with Jess Benyon, 27, from Stourport delivering the baton to Michelle Southall, who took the first leg from the station into the town.

Jess had been chosen for her role with the Dwarf Sports Association, while Michelle 52, from Redditch, was selected for her efforts raising more than £100,000 for charity after her 12-year-old daughter Lucie, died from leukaemia.

After being cheered onto the platform Michelle carried the baton out of the station through a guard of honour from Severn Valley Railway volunteers with overhauls and raised shovels.

The route across the town involved another eight baton holders – Dana Power, Lindsay Pulley, Arun Kapur, Harry Hemmings, Davinder Chatha, Andy Pheasant, Neil Taylor and Lauren Cooper.

Their efforts were followed by Jean Childs who was given the honour of carrying the baton on the iconic cliff railway.

There were huge cheers from the crowds at a succession of handovers as the people lined the streets to cheer on the baton bearers – flanked by a special team of police support runners.

Dana, a well known figure in Bridgnorth having run numerous marathons in his familiar 'Puff' the dragon costume, has raised thousands for asthma charities.

As he collected the baton there were predictable cries from the crowds of "where's Puff", with the runner sticking to the traditional baton wearer uniform for his stretch.

Neil Taylor, 52, who runs the Fox Inn at Shipley, was on the second to last leg of the route – selected for his efforts in raising nearly £200,000 for Birmingham Children's Hospital.

Neil's charity efforts have been inspired by the hospital's help for his daughter Kihana, who has needed five major operations for a heart condition.

He said he was proud and humbled to have been chosen for the role.

He said: "It is a massive honour. The whole experience. We followed it in a media bus with six outriders, it was like 'what is going on'.

"It is just a massive honour and lovely to have been asked.

"It is about spreading the awareness for the fantastic work that Birmingham Children's Hospital do."

As part of the occasion the Severn Park was also hosting a number of taster sessions for different sports throughout the day – trying to encourage people to have a go and get active.

As the baton bearers were celebrated on stage Dame Louise Martin, President of the Commonwealth Games Federation, also made an appearance, saying she had been "stunned by the reception," adding: "It is unbelievable."

Before the baton exited for its final trip across the town, Councillor Kirstie Hurst–Knight, paid tribute to long-standing Bridgnorth Councillor Les Winwood, who died earlier this week.

The crowds joined in applause in memory of Councillor Winwood, who served the town for more than 40 years.

The final leg saw the baton make its way to the cliff railway, where Jean Childs was given the honour of carrying it for the journey on the historic railway.

Mrs Childs, 71, and from the town, was selected for her role as a volunteer supporting swimming.

She has been involved in swimming for 34 years, is a qualified British Swimming referee – and was returning to the British Swimming Championships in Sheffield after her stint with the baton was over.

Mrs Childs who has been part of North Gate Bridgnorth Swimming Club for 34 years, is also chair of Shropshire Swimming Association.

She said: "To do this on the iconic cliff railway is amazing.

"Just to have the chance to do something like this. It is for all the people who volunteer and give up their time, I had the baton for every one of them."

It was not the end of Mrs Childs' involvement with the Commonwealth Games either, and she will be taking on a volunteer role at the event at the aquatic centre."

Baton-bearer Michelle Southall

It pulled into Bridgnorth on a train from the Severn Valley Railway on Saturday morning, to be greeted by a lively crowd of well-wishers having been carried into Kidderminster after celebrations earlier in the day.

Once the fanfare of its arrival was done, baton-bearer Michelle Southall took up the relay and made good pace with the baton.

Michelle, from Redditch, was chosen in recognition of her efforts to raise more than £100,000 for charity after her daughter Lucie died from leukaemia.

Bridgnorth's own running legend Dana Power took over part of the relay through town, albeit without the dragon costume he has become famous for wearing in countless charity runs. Observers shouted 'where is Puff?' as Dana made his way through town without the familiar get-up.

Tributes were paid to popular councillor Les Winwood, who died recently. Ludlow MP Philip Dunne and politicians of all stripes from Bridgnorth and Much Wenlock honoured the late Mr Winwood.

Other bearers including 15-year-old Harry Hemmings helped the baton reach the town's famous cliff railway to see it off on its way to Codsall, while townspeople celebrated the occasion at Severn Park with sports, activities, refreshments and interviews from sportspeople.

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