Thousands of well-wishers gathered in Wallingford this morning to give a warm welcome to the Olympic Torch.

Council officials estimated that more than 7,000 people gathered in the town centre to wave on the Olympic Flame after it arrived shortly before 8.30am.

Among the torch bearers in Wallingford were celebrity chef Raymond Blanc and Private Patrick Burns, 25, from Bicester, of 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment.

Mr Blanc said: "As a Frenchman I’m very proud to carry the torch.

"It is raining but everyone is happy — the torch brings people together."

After carrying the flame, Private Burns, who lost his right leg below the knee in January last year when he stepped on a bomb in Afghanistan, said: “This was a fantastic moment for me and I felt absolutely fine carrying the torch.”

Angela Watkins Rowe, from South Moreton, burst from the crowd to kiss Mr Blanc on the cheek and grabbed the torch.

She said: ”I don’t know which was the biggest thrill — touching the torch or kissing Raymond. It was one of the best experiences of my life.”

As the torch relay arrived in the town centre a Puma helicopter from RAF Benson flew overhead.

Station commander Group Captain Richard Mason said: “It was wonderful to be part of these celebrations.

"The children will remember this day for the rest of their lives."

The torch left Crowmarsh shortly before 9am to be taken by bus along the A4130 to Nettlebed and Henley.