In 2002, in celebration of Her Majesty's Golden Jubilee the "Queen's Award for Voluntary Service" was established. It is the highest award given for volunteering in the United Kingdom. Any group of two or more persons may be nominated for the award and the majority of the group must be volunteers.
To be nominated they should do work that provides a service and meets a need for people living in the local community; is supported, recognised and respected by the local community and the people who benefit from it and is run locally. Volunteer groups should have been running for three years or more to be nominated.
In early 2011 we were surprised to be notified that Oldland Parish Council had nominated the Avon Valley Railway Heritage Trust to be considered for the award. At that time the only Heritage Railway that had received the award was the Bluebell Railway.
We were advised that we would receive a visit from an assessor who would make a report to the Local Assessment Panel. The Panel would then decide whether to submit the nomination for consideration by the National Awards Committee. The Committee then makes its recommendations to the Cabinet Office which sends a final list to the Queen for her approval.
In due time, an appointment was made for the assessment and a representative of the Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire visited. I had the pleasure of taking him around, introducing him to our working members and showing him the kind of work that our members carry out. I was able to answer all of his questions easily and to quote examples where required. He was particularly interested in the Young Members' activities and the involvement of our "supported" assistants. He appeared particularly impressed with the amount of engineering work carried out and the history of our re-building and re-opening of the railway.
On 13th May 2011, we received a letter stating that the award would be made to us with effect from 2nd June 2011. We therefore put in hand the arrangements for the award ceremony.
Saturday 18th June 2011 proved to be a beautiful day. In the presence of a large number of members Dame Janet Trotter, the Lord Lieutenant of Gloucester made the award on behalf of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second.
The citation on the award reads:
Avon Valley Railway Heritage Trust Restoring and preserving the local railway heritage, providing a leisure facility and operating its trains for educational and instructional purposes.
It was received by Terry Osborne who was one of the founding members of the Bristol Suburban Railway Society (later the Bitton Railway Company Ltd) which preceded the Avon Valley Railway Heritage Trust. He was accompanied by Matthew Cowley and Alix Kemp two of our young members.