THE people of Westbourne celebrated the achievements of one of their own who touched down to pay a special visit to old friends.
The community came out in force to welcome home British astronaut Tim Peake, who grew up in the village, to unveil a plaque next to an oak tree at Hill Recreation Ground as a lasting tribute and to inspire future generations.
‘In celebration of Westbourne’s own Major Tim Peake’s achievements in space. He aimed high,’ read the words on the plaque dedicated to the village’s famous son, who has become a household name after his international space station voyage.
The British Army Air Corps officer, who is only the seventh man from the UK to have been to space, also officially opened the recently refurbished playground at the location after being invited by Westbourne Parish Council.
Speaking of his pride at being bestowed the lasting legacy, Tim said: ‘Thank you all so much for coming here today – it’s good to see you all. This was really my home turf for many years after growing up in Westbourne.
‘My parents still live in the village so I’ve always loved coming back here. You guys have supported me so much throughout my mission which has been wonderful to see. It’s been great to come back after the mission to present to the primary school and the Cub Scouts as well.
‘So thanks to everyone for all you do in trying to get our younger generations interested in science and space education, which is so important.’
Cllr Nigel Ricketts, vice-chair of the parish council, said: ‘It has been great to welcome Tim back to his home and celebrate his successes with a permanent tribute that will inspire many generations to come.
‘It’s a tradition for astronauts to plant a tree in Baikonur in Kazakhstan before they travel to space and the parish council wanted to do the same for Tim in his home of Westbourne.
‘We were thrilled to see so many residents joining us to celebrate his extraordinary achievements. It was really good of him to come back – we’re glad we were able to pin him down.’
Tim’s former Cub Scout leader Glynise Chaffer said: ‘Tim was here in the early 1980s – he was always very enthusiastic. He went on his first experience away from home with us which is something we’re very proud of, especially as he’s ended up travelling to space.’
Glynise’s husband Derek, who is the group Scout leader, also remembers Tim well. He said ‘We had no inkling he was going to be an astronaut at that stage. It’s a super achievement. He does a lot for us as well – and even took one of our scarves up to space with him.’
David Bristowe, 77, said his son was good friends with Tim growing up after they lived next door but one to each other. ‘My son and Tim were good mates. Tim has always kept his feet on the ground – so to speak – and does a lot for our community. He signed my granddaughter’s book which was nice of him.’