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Kirkley High School's China trip delayed

PUBLISHED: 10:36 23 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:09 06 July 2010

TWENTY pupils from Lowestoft's biggest high school saw their plans for a trip of a lifetime to China delayed this week, when they fell victim to the flight chaos caused by the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland.

TWENTY pupils from Lowestoft's biggest high school saw their plans for a trip of a lifetime to China delayed this week, when they fell victim to the flight chaos caused by the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland.

The group of students from Kirkley High School had been due to fly out with three of their teachers last Saturday as part of a week-long exchange trip with students at the JianPing Experimental School in Shanghai.

But after spending the past year raising more than £15,000 to help fund their trip, the students' plans were left in disarray when the sub-glacial volcano erupted last Wednesday for the second time in a month - producing the huge cloud of ash that caused hundreds of flights to be suspended and left thousands of travellers stranded at home and abroad.

Although there was little chance of their flights taking off, the Kirkley students were initially prepared to travel to Heathrow because they had been told they could lose £11,000 worth of tickets if the scheduled flights left without them. However, history teacher Louise Mace, one of the staff leading the trip, said the school coach was finally called off after air safety experts concluded the ash-cloud posed a danger to aircraft and confirmed no flights would be leaving.

Virgin airlines finally agreed to rebook the flight, and they are now due to leave on May 3 - two weeks later than planned. Miss Mace said: “It's a huge relief because the kids are really looking forward to this trip, and now they know they should be going to China on May 3 - as long as the volcano doesn't do something dramatic.”

The Kirkley youngsters were not the only locals left in limbo this week as a result of the flight chaos caused by the ash-cloud.

The disruption with flights also caused problems for schools in North Suffolk, because many had staff stranded overseas at the end of the Easter holidays. The Ashley School in Lowestoft remained closed on Tuesday because more than half the teachers could not make it to work, but partially opened for the rest of the week with cover staff.

Also in Lowestoft, two brothers who have spent the past two years making a film about an epic round-the-world adventure missed the world premiere of their movie because they could not fly to the film festival in California where it was being shown.

Ben Wylson cycled in every continent, including Antarctica, as part of a madcap adventure with his cousin Jamie Mackenzie.

This week Mr Wylson and his brother Jack were due to travel to the Newport Beach Film Festival for the screening of the film they have made about the trip, called Free Wheels East. Mr Wylson said: “It's just such an ironic situation that after getting across every continent using just bikes and never planes, the one plane we actually wanted to catch didn't go anywhere.”

Meanwhile an event to mark the memory of 10 American airmen who were shot down over Kessingland in the second world war went ahead yesterday despite most of the relatives not being able to make it here from America.

Thirteen relatives of the men who died when the Repulser was shot down in April 1944 were due to travel to Kessingland for the dedication and memorial service, but only one of the family members, who was already in Europe, was able to make it.

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