Civic welcome for Baton runners

Mayor of Honiton travels to Staffordshire to support the Baton charity and the National Memorial Arboretum.

THE Mayor of Honiton was on duty in Staffordshire on Sunday to provide a civic welcome to Baton Run participants as they crossed the finish line at the National Memorial Arboretum.

Councillor Peter Fleming, along with around 60 local residents, travelled hundreds of miles to support the Honiton-based Baton charity, founded by Alan Rowe MBE to spread a message of support for service personnel and their families.

The 110 mile run, which started from RAF Lyneham on Saturday night, aimed to promote the Baton, the National Memorial Arboretum and the work of the Royal British Legion.

“It is absolutely brilliant,” Councillor Fleming told the Midweek Herald.

“What Alan is doing is drawing attention to the Baton, and its message, and, of course, Honiton, which is the home of the Baton.

“I am finding the arboretum quite an emotional place. It think it is absolutely smashing.”

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Councillor Fleming said he was surprised a national memorial of such importance has to rely on donations to keep going.

“The taxpayer, I am sure, would be quite happy to support something like this,” he said.

After 16 hours on the run, the Baton team arrived at the arboretum at around 2pm. Army Cadets from Honiton and Sea Cadets from Taunton provided a guard of honour as the runners approached the arboretum’s awesome Wall.

“You can see why I am passionate about encouraging people to come here,” Mr Rowe said. “It is such a special place.”

After covering a large distance overnight, the runners were held up on their approach to the arboretum by injuries and a well-meaning couple, who sent the runners in the wrong direction.

Mr Rowe’s son-in-law, Adrian Lane, a press officer for Devon County Council, bravely sprinted to the finish after sustaining a tendon injury.

“We hit some really rough weather, but how lovely it was to see our local youth taking part in such an event for the right reasons,” said Mr Rowe.

“They really wanted to be there. We have got a lot to be proud of in Honiton.”

Mr Rowe paid tribute to the station commander and his staff at RAF Lyneham. He said they went out of their way to see off the runners late at night.

He also praised the support crew, saying the run, the second annual event of its kind, would not have been possible without such excellent back-up.

Referring to the Baton’s message, Mr Rowe stressed: “We must remember that when we eventually pull our troops out of Afghanistan, the issues will not go away for those who have served.

“Many of those issues will stay with them for the rest of their lives. We must not forget them.

“It concerns me that people no longer talk about Iraq, but the issues for those who served there remain.”

l The Baton Run team comprised: Alan Rowe MBE, Adrian Lane, Paul Merchant, Steve Little, Mark White, Mark Tierney, Baz Gray, Alex Robinson, Ceri Green, Tom O-Connell and John Mabbett.

Support crew: Bob Higgins, Steve Steer, Jeremy Clarke, Paula Rowe, Kev Jeram, Dave Little, Andy Billing, and Pauline Rowe.

With thanks to: Hookways coaches, Daniel Lavery, John Capon and all supporters.