Express & Star

Crowds line Dudley streets as Queen's Baton Relay continues Black Country tour

It was Dudley's time to shine this afternoon as the town and wider borough hosted the Queen's Baton Relay ahead of the Commonwealth Games.

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The Queen's Baton Relay visited Dudley Castle during its tour of the Black Country

Anticipation was building in Halesowen as throngs of people lined the streets and Black Country flags waved proudly in the air.

At 1.45pm, the first baton-bearer ran down Halesowen's high street, to the whoops and cheers of the crowd - and the soundtrack to Superman.

If he had arrived just two minutes earlier, he would have been accompanied by Darth Vader's theme from Star Wars.

Some were more interested in ice lollies than the baton

As the baton was carried around Halesowen, it was beckoned to the starting line of the Halesowen Fun Run by a group of drummers called Bhangra Smash Up.

Composed of cousins Josh and Ryan Chahal as well as Shiv Sehmar, the group were excited to be a part of the special day.

Josh said: "For the last four or five years we've been playing at major community events, raising money for charities like the British Heart Foundation and the Mary Stevens Hospice.

"Today has been amazing and tomorrow we'll be in Sandwell Valley for the Queen's Baton relay."

The Halesowen circuit was finished by five-time Paralympic medallist, Helen Scott, who hails from Halesowen herself.

As well as being a sprint cyclist, Helen was an able-bodied tandem cyclist in the Paralympics, who since 2011 has acted as pilot for Paralympian Aileen McGlynn, Sophie Thornhill and Alison Patrick.

The champion cyclist said: "It's amazing. Carrying the baton was great, it was much heavier than I thought it was going to be! To carry a piece of history was so special.

"It surprised me completely how many people came out to celebrate the baton coming through Halesowen.

"And I'm from Halesowen as well so I've got friends and family here and I genuinely thought it would just be them lining the streets, so to have other people supporting and really getting behind the Birmingham Commonwealth Games is really, really special.

"I won't be competing this time round but it brought back so many lovely memories of competing for Team England.

"It's just been so special to be a part of, really one of the highlights of my career."

Queen's Baton Relay at Black Country Living Museum

The Mayor of Dudley, Sue Greenaway, then counted down to the start of the Halesowen Fun Run as the Commonwealth Games team headed to their next venue.

The team made their way through Mary Stevens Park and to the Red House Glass Cone, before arriving at the Black Country Living Museum (BCLM).

600 free tickets were offered to the public to watch the baton pass through the museum from 4pm to 5pm, meaning the attraction was buzzing with energy as they awaited the baton which was carried in style.

First, it was wielded by a baton-bearer in a motorcycle sidecar, before it was handed over to Andrew Michael Cashmore, who took the baton onto a horse and cart, and then hopped into a vintage yellow car.

Mr Cashmore is a retired firefighter who had to leave the profession after breaking both of his legs. He and his son, William, have been avid fundraisers for The Fire Fighters Charity.

Reflecting on his experience, the retired firefighter said: "It's superb. Fantastic. The number of people down there was great and BCLM pulled out all the stops with the different modes of transport. I knew the driver of the car as well so that was a nice touch.

"I retired last year after 27 years. Unfortunately I had an accident two years ago and broke both my legs and had to use the rehab facilities up in the Lake District that are run by The Fire Fighters Charity. My son William also used them a few years ago when he damaged his leg and over the years we've raised quite a bit of money for The Fire Fighters Charity."

The Lord Lieutenant of the West Midlands with a baton-bearer

William, along with his sister Annie, watched his father hold the baton. Later in the year, William will run the London Marathon to raise money for the charity, as the son of a former firefighter.

The baton tours Sandwell on Monday, visiting Oldbury, Wednesbury, Tipton, Cradley Heath, Rowley Regis, Blackheath, Bearwood, Smethwick and West Bromwich.

From there it will visit parts of Birmingham from Tuesday onwards until the start of the Commonwealth Games on Thursday.