A voluntary team, who have worked within Thetford Forest for than 20 years, have received the highest honour from Buckingham Palace.
Friends of Thetford Forest (FoTF) were given the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service by The Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, Clare, Countess of Euston this week.
Anne Mason, chair of the FoTF, said: “It is absolutely incredible we have been given the award. We do it because we just love supporting the Forestry Commission in helping people enjoy all aspects of the forest.”
The FoTF were set up in 1995 and were the only voluntary organisation in Suffolk to be awarded this year for the honour.
Ms Mason said this added an extra special dimension to the prize, that was part of a double celebration after she was given a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s birthday honours.
She said: “Again that in itself is absolutely amazing, I am just immensely proud of all the volunteers for the commitment they bring.”
The volunteering undertaken by Friends’ members includes conservation of wildlife habitats, researching and protecting archaeology and heritage, caring for Lynford Arboretum, inspecting the walking trails, carrying out a ‘Meet and Greet’ role at High Lodge Centre and helping at the concerts and special events.
They contribute more than 3,500 hours to the forest each year, which does not go unseen and is fully appreciated by the chair.
She said: “I thank them for their continuing enthusiasm, when you talk to the volunteers they say they find it very rewarding themselves to help people enjoy the forest. They feel it is a good way to give something back.”
The award is the equivalent of an MBE and was created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.
The Lord Lieutenant said: “The excellence that FoTF’s large team had demonstrated in achieving this outstanding award was a credit to the County. Suffolk is very, very proud of the contribution the group had made to ensuring that this precious local environment is intact for future generations to enjoy.”
Ms Mason feels the award shows the great work the team of 45 volunteers and six committee members does, and knows this award will only help the Friends’ continue their good work.
She said; “I think it is a wonderful accolade that will inspire us to do even more for the forest and the people who enjoy it in the future.”
For more information about the work of Friends of Thetford Forest go to www.fotf.org.uk