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Monday, 22 December 2014

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London Olympics athletes will have comfy seat - thanks to Cumbrian wool

Knitters are racing to finish cushions for Olympic athletes and win gold for Cumbrian wool.

Helen Tomkins photo
Helen Tomkins

Needles are clacking furiously as the finishing touches are made to cushions which will be presented to athletes as they arrive at Olympic training camps this summer.

Wool from Andrew and Helen Tomkins’ rare Llanwenog sheep, near Longtown, is being used in some of the cushions because of its bright white hue.

Mr Tomkins, of Hallsford Farm, said: “It’s great our wool is being used. I thought it was a really nice idea that athletes from all over the world will get something very Cumbrian.”

“It’s fabulous that our wool will be used at such a prestigious event.”

The Tomkins’ wool was used by a knitter from Northumberland who is taking part in the nationwide effort to give every Olympian and ParaOlympian a handmade cushion.

There are 12 groups and many lone knitters across Cumbria making cushions that will be taken home by the athletes at the end of the London games.

Cumbrian co-ordinator Dawn Pickles is expecting about 100 cushions to be sent from the county. She is holding a stuffing day at Eskdale Village Hall later this month to bring all the volunteers together.

She said: “The idea is that they will be sent to the different training camps so athletes can pick a cushion.

“Each one is a different design. There are lots of Union Jacks and sheep on the cushions. The athletes will have something comfortable to sleep on during the plane trip home.

“It’s amazing to think they could go anywhere in the world.”

The Eden Valley Guild of Spinners have spun their own wool for the cushions, each of which can take days to complete.”

Some were given to the British Olympic youth team who competed in Austria earlier this year.

The idea was to support British wool, once Britain’s main industry. It is enjoying a renaissance thanks in part to clothes designers switching back to natural products.

This has already made a big difference to British sheep farmers as their wool is worth something again.

Mr Tomkins added: “Our clip (fleece) cheque went up 10 times to £1,000 last year. A few years ago the cheque did not even cover the cost of shearing.”

For more information about cushions for athletes, visit www.woolsack.org.

Meanwhile, a motion calling for part of Carlisle to be brightened up in time for the Olympic Torch relay’s arrival in the city will be debated on Tuesday.

Robert Betton, an Independent councillor for Botcherby, wants the city council to work with businesses to deck out the torch’s route “with hanging bunting and regalia fit for the occasion” this summer.

The torch passes through Carlisle on Wednesday, June 20, as part of a 70-day tour of 1,000 towns and cities across the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.

It enters Cumbria at Brough and travels via Appleby and Penrith, arriving in Carlisle at Tesco. Twenty torch bearers will pass it on every 300m along Warwick Road to Bitts Park.

The torch will continue to Dumfries before returning through Carlisle the next day on the way to Wigton, Aspatria, Maryport, Workington, Whitehaven, Cockermouth, Keswick, and Bowness-on-Windermere. As such, Carlisle is the only UK city to be visited by the torch twice.

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