Hampshire’s heritage railway, The Watercress Line, which runs over 10 miles from Alresford to Alton, has been honoured with The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

The award has been made in recognition of the contribution made by the railway’s many dedicated volunteers over nearly 50 years.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK and is equivalent to an MBE awarded to an individual.

President of the Railway Richard Lacey said: “Everybody at The Watercress Line is truly honoured and thrilled 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 ground-breaking special events, such as our Steam Illuminations, has brought huge benefit to the local community.

“Without the enthusiasm and commitment of our extraordinary volunteers, none of this would have been possible.

“Being part of The Watercress Line’s volunteer team is a wonderful opportunity for people to come together to share experience and learn new skills and it brings value to the local community, as well as to the individual.

“I would like to send a huge thank you to all our volunteers, past and present, for all their contributions to our thriving enterprise. I hope that this award may tempt many more people to volunteer with us and benefit from what we have to offer.”

Representatives of The Watercress Line will receive the award crystal and certificate from The Lord-Lieutenant for Hampshire, Nigel Atkinson Esq, later this summer. In addition, two volunteers will attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2023, along with other recipients of this year’s Award.

The Watercress Line is one of 244 local charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service this year. Their work, along with others from across the UK, showcases all the ways in which volunteers contribute to their local communities and work to make life better for those around them.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by local volunteer groups to benefit their communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate The Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each year on June 2, the anniversary of The Queen’s Coronation.

Award winners this year are wonderfully diverse – they include volunteer groups from across the UK, including: a rural support group for farmers in Shropshire; a community magazine addressing isolation in the Western Isles and a food bank in Greater London.