Southrepps Common volunteers collect Queen’s Award

Nature fans who tend a north Norfolk wildlife haven have received their 'MBE for volunteer groups.'

The Southrepps Commons Trust is celebrating having its work recognised with a Queen's Award for Voluntary Service, presented to chairman John Houlgate by the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk Richard Jewson.

The tireless efforts of members maintain the local nature reserve, half of which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of the plant life which includes four species of orchid.

Mr Houlgate said: 'People are delighted and amazed. This award is for our volunteers, every one of whom deserves to be proud of what they have achieved here and will carry on achieving.

'It shows that a large public amenity can be maintained and even improved by sustained and organised community effort.'

Mr Houlgate said its educational work had been a factor in its success. The trust had helped create an open air classroom at the nearby Antingham and Southrepps primary school, whose pupils also visit the common. Local scouts were involved with reclaiming a pond last year.

The trust's education role also saw it running a wildlife survey, encouraging people to discover and record the local flora and fauna.

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'We have moved beyond a brief of just cutting the grass,' said Mr Houlgate.

Looking after the 25-acre site demanded a high level of specialised care. Working parties of 15 to 20 villagers were a regular sight on winter weekends when the heavy work of cutting and clearing the site was done.

It all started in 1990 when a small group of villagers offered to manage the land after the parish inherited it, he explained.

'All credit goes to those people, one of whom – John Daniels – is still a trustee. They built the first boardwalk and without their vision we wouldn't be where we are today.'

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