A Burnham-On-Sea Olympic torchbearer has defended her decision to sell her official torch and uniform on eBay, which have been snapped up for a huge £153,100.

Sarah Milner Simonds, pictured, was nominated as a torchbearer for her work as a community gardener in social housing areas, and is due to run with the flame through Dunster at 4.38pm today (Monday).

As first reported here, she took the controversial decision on Sunday morning to sell her official Olympic torch and uniform on eBay to raise money for the community gardening group The People’s Plot after seeing other torches selling.

Her auction ended at 10.33pm last night (Sunday) after attracting 163 bids and Sarah told Burnham-On-Sea.com that she was “overjoyed and flabberghasted” by the amount raised.

“An invoice has been sent to the winning bidder for £153,100, which we hope is not a hoax. Bids on eBay are legally binding contracts, but we do have a number of second choice bids to fall back on if required. This money will make a huge difference to the work we do.”

Sarah added: “I am thoroughly proud to be representing Burnham in the torch relay, but rather than look at the torch for years to come on my mantelpiece I have decided to auction it and put it to long-term benefit for the community.”

“Trying to get funding for community groups during the current financial downturn is incredibly difficult and I see this as a super opportunity,” added Sarah, who is Horticultural Programme Manager at Bridgwater College.

“When I saw one torch sold on eBay for over £3,000 yesterday I started to think about what good this could do. I am astounded and excited that by lunchtime today my torch had attracted bids of over £7,000.”

She added: “I am dismayed that I am getting hateful messages on eBay from people saying I should not be selling the torch. They don’t understand my motives.”

“I was nominated for my environmental regeneration work with The People’s Plot as a community gardener, so I am just continuing this. The money will give us an opportunity to run training sessions and help people across the country. It will help hugely in difficult economic times.”

“I want to create practical, long-term benefit from my brief involvement with the Olympics.”

Sarah’s work as a community gardener has seen her visiting hard-to-reach groups in high density social housing areas across the UK where she gets people out of their homes, meeting their neighbours, growing fruit and vegetables.

They would then tend the crops together, share the produce and Sarah would invite local chefs into the gardens to cook – often outdoors – with the participants, helping them to remove dependency on ready meals and poor quality food. She did this on disused pieces of land, creating allotments were once people dumped rubbish. She also helps them with tackling issues such as neighbour disputes, noise and isolation along the way.

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