Royal award for Friends of Thetford Forest
- Credit: Archant
A group of volunteers who lovingly help to look after one of Britain's best-loved forests has been given a royal award.
The Friends of Thetford Forest (FoTF) was set up in 1995 to increase people's knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of the historic woodland, which was created after the First World War to help deal with the country's timber shortage.
The group's 3,500 to 4,000 hours of volunteering each year includes conservation of wildlife habitats, researching and protecting archaeology and carrying out a meet and greet role at the High Lodge visitor centre.
FoTF also supports special events at the forest, including the live concerts with top name bands and musicians.
It has cared for Mildenhall Warren Lodge since 2000 and has raised £130,000 to conserve this 600-year old building, including a new roof.
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And now the group has been rewarded for its tireless work with The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service 2017.
It will be presented with a certificate signed by The Queen by the Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, Clare Countess of Euston, at an event later this year.
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Staff at the Forestry Commission, which manages the 18,730 hectare site, nominated the volunteers for the award.
'That was an honour in itself,' said FoTF chairman Anne Mason.
'To actually be a recipient of the award is beyond anything we imagined.
'To have our work for Thetford Forest recognised in this way, with the highest acknowledgement any voluntary group can ever be given, is the most incredible achievement and reflects the outstanding contribution made by our volunteers, both past and present, to Thetford Forest.
'Hopefully it will raise our profile. It's proof of the work we're already doing for the forest and also it encourages all of us to want to do even more in the forest.
'It's the most amazing endorsement and encouragement of what we do.'
The forest offers many different places to visit, including outdoor play facilities at High Lodge, the history and heritage of Mildenhall Warren and Lynford Arboretum and the peace and tranquillity of the walks around St Helen's.
For more information about the work of the group, visit www.fotf.org.uk