Friends of Thetford Forest’s work recognised with Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
A volunteer group which has spent more than 20 years helping to look after one of the region's beauty spots has been presented with a royal award.
Since its creation in 1995, the Friends of Thetford Forest (FoTF) have worked hard to increase the understanding, enjoyment and community involvement of the forest.
As a way of recognising the work carried out by the 45 volunteers, staff at the East of England Forestry Commission, which manages the site, nominated the group for the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS).
The QAVS is the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK and the FoTF were the only voluntary organisation in Suffolk to be awarded the honour this year.
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Chairman of the group Anne Mason said: 'We are absolutely proud beyond words. I think it is a wonderful accolade for the volunteers because it is their commitment and dedication that got this award.'
She added: 'We have worked closely with the Forestry Commission over the past 22 years and we can be as much a critical friend as a positive. We seek their advice and they seek ours.
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'We have this really respectful relationship with each other.'
Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, Clare Countess of Euston, presented the award to the group at a ceremony held at High Lodge which was attended by the volunteers and Forestry Commission staff.
The volunteers give more spend more than 3,500 hours every year volunteering at the 18,730 hectare forest.
Some of the work they do includes conservation of wildlife habitats, researching and protecting archaeology and heritage, caring for Lynford Arboretum and helping at the concerts and special events.
Highlight projects include the restoration of Mildenhall Warren Lodge, one of only two surviving medieval warren lodge buildings in Breckland.
Since 2000 FoTF has cared for the 600-year-old building and raised £130,000 to conserve it, including a new roof.
FoTF are also involved in the Forestry Commission's new two-year project called Trailing the Hidden Heritage of High Lodge which will include a new 4.2km trail to inform people about the hidden history which lies beneath the forest.
Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, Clare Countess of Euston, presented the award to the group.
She 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.'
For more information visit FoTF