Volunteers and staff at the much-loved Watercress Line have received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service from HM Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire, Mr Nigel Atkinson.
The Lord-Lieutenant paid tribute to the heritage railway during a special presentation of the prestigious crystal award and certificate at Alresford Station on Monday, February 27.
The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK, equivalent to an MBE given to an individual.
It was awarded to the Watercress Line in last year’s Platinum Jubilee Honours List, but the presentation was postponed following the Queen’s death in September.
The Lord-Lieutenant said: “This award has been given in recognition of the contribution made by the Watercress Line’s many dedicated volunteers over almost 50 years. It gives me great pleasure to present it to you at this heritage railway, which brings such enjoyment to all its visitors.”
President of the railway Richard Lacey said: “We are delighted to receive this award from the Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire. Everybody at The Watercress Line is honoured that our efforts have been recognised by this award.
“Since 1974, our wonderful volunteers, working with our small core of paid staff, have driven the restoration of the railway and reconnected Alresford to Alton by rail.
“Their skills, dedication and sheer hard work in restoring, operating and maintaining the railway, and in delivering events, has benefited the local community.
“Without the enthusiasm and commitment of our extraordinary volunteers, none of this would have been possible.
“I would like to thank all our volunteers, past and present, for their contribution to our thriving enterprise. I hope this award may tempt many more people to volunteer with us and benefit from what we have to offer.”
Two volunteers from the railway will attend a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace, along with other recipients of last year’s award.