Volunteers at Walton Firs

Volunteers at Walton Firs

A group of mountain rescuers and an outdoor activities centre have been honoured for their work.

The Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association and Walton Firs Foundation and Activity Centre have both received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

The award is the equivalent of an MBE and is the highest accolade for voluntary groups.

The LDSMRA is the umbrella body for the 12 mountain rescue teams in the Lake District and Cumbria.

Representatives of the Lake District’s teams will receive the award from Claire Hensman, Lord Lieutenant of Cumbria later this summer. Two volunteers from the group will attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2021, along with other recipients of this year’s award.

The organisation’s chairman Richard Warren said: “This award is an incredible recognition of the huge amount of work and commitment put into mountain rescue by the current 400 volunteers within the 12 teams and by all members from our 70 years’ history.

“We are all truly humbled by the nomination and look forward to the recognition it brings. “Thank you to everyone who has supported our teams over the years.”

Walton Firs Foundation and Activity Centre is a multi-purpose adventure, activity and learning site located in 36 acres of forest in Cobham, Surrey. It offers a large range of indoor and outdoor pursuit to groups, schools, Scout-affiliated clubs, colleges and adults which can be enjoyed over a day, weekend or longer.

It offers accessible outdoor education opportunities, such as camping, climbing, caving, archery and bushcraft, to young people, and its team of volunteers support the delivery of the programmes, as well as maintaining the facilities and equipment. Since opening in 2008, Walton Firs has enabled more than 250,000 young people to develop new skills and abilities within the natural environment.

The activity centre also supports vulnerable and ‘at risk’ young people to develop their social and vocational skills though mentored work-experience placements, and it was these youth support programmes which were, in part, key to Walton Firs receiving the award.

The LDSMRA represents 12 teams in the area

The LDSMRA represents 12 teams in the area

Izzy Devonshire, 17, said: “Volunteering at Walton Firs has taught me valuable skills. It has helped me stay connected with my friends since finishing school. It’s helped me develop team working skills and brought me and my friends closer together.”

Centre manager Chris Scott said: “Receiving the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is a tribute to the many hundreds of people who have given their time as volunteers to the activity centre over the past twelve years.

“I have to say a big thank you to every one of our past and present crew members and leaders for their inputs to Walton Firs.”

Rob Woolford, chairman of the Walton Firs Foundation, added: “We have a long-standing commitment to deliver high quality volunteering opportunities, and we’re all thrilled our tradition of supporting young people to develop the skills and knowledge required to become happy and successful adults has been recognised.

“As with many charitable organisations, the present difficulties arising from the Covid-19 pandemic is giving the activity centre some financial difficulties, with enforced closure at a time which would normally provide a substantial proportion of the annual income.

“Sadly, this lockdown also means our volunteer service teams and corporate sponsored work teams are not able to help with their volunteer days. Every little counts and we are hoping to find a few generous sponsors to help us through these difficult times.”

The centre will be formally presented with the award by the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey during a commemorative event at a future date where all past and present volunteers will join directors to celebrate.

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