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New Year Honours: Inspirational, selfless faces of our region

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: December 29, 2012

Simon Pugh-Jones pictured in the midsts of his Orchid Project, for which he has received a MBE, at Writhlington School in Radstock

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A leading organiser of the West Country’s contribution to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, an inspirational teacher, a renowned artist and dedicated foster-carers are among the dozens of West Country people receiving New Year Honours.

Simon Williams, head of 2012 Operations for Weymouth and Portland Borough Council is appointed an MBE for services to the Games. The resorts played host to the sailing events, and Mr Williams and his team rose to the challenge of ensuring Dorset was ready for the international spotlight.

Leading conservationist Martin Coulson Spray, chief executive of the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust based at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire also becomes a CBE. The trust is one of the world’s largest and most respected wetland conservation organisations, and is playing a leading role in the reintroduction of cranes to the Somerset Levels.

Mr Spray said: “This honour is not something I was expecting at all.”

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The trust concerns itself with wetlands, and water management whether it affects wildlife or people. He said: “The whole weather system we have had this year highlights the fact that we have to manage our flood plains like they used to be. Better management of our whole water system should be a priority for the Government after this year because of the hardship to people and the economy.”

Richard Long, the Bristol-born and based Turner-prize winning sculptor, painter and photographer also becomes a CBE. His art is made by walking in landscapes and he uses materials such as stone, wood and mud collected on lengthy walks world-wide to reflect man’s relationship with the natural world.

Rail boss Julian Crow, First Great Western’s regional manager for the West of England becomes an MBE. Paying tribute to Mr Crow, David Redgewell, of the South West Transport Network, said: “He is hugely committed to railways in the South West and public transport from Cheltenham to Penzance, and has put in a huge amount of effort to secure improvements.”

Inspirational Somerset teacher Simon Pugh-Jones becomes an MBE. He founded The Orchid Project at Writhlington School in Radstock, which has involved students in global conservation and research for more than 20 years.

Orchids propagated at the school are sent out to communities world-wide, providing locals with a crop and an income without having to take plants from the wild. Highlights have included gold medals at Chelsea Flower Show and expeditions to some of the world’s most remote tropical habitats.

Mr Pugh-Jones said: “There is no experience for young students interested in science and horticulture quite like travelling to remote areas like Southern Laos to share their laboratory skills with local people and help to make a real difference for conservation and rural development.

“I am delighted that the work of my students and I has been recognised and this recognition will help us in our continuing efforts to develop initiatives for the benefit of communities in tropical countries and of course the Writhlington pupils who put so much into those initiatives.”

In 2013 students will travel to Rwanda and to Sikkim in the Himalayas to work with schools.

At a time when more foster-carers are needed nationwide, one Dorset couple who have helped to transform the lives of almost 100 children become MBEs.

Philip and Wendy Hopkins of Sherborne, who have four children of their own are still fostering at the ages of 67 and 73. Mrs Hopkins said yesterday: “Fostering keeps you fit, you haven’t got time to feel old. It’s something I always wanted to do. We’ve had children staying short and long-term. It’s very rewarding I would really recommend it.”

Philip White, chief executive of the Hestercombe Gardens Trust, who mortgaged his house to begin restoration of Hestercombe’s 18th century landscape garden, becomes an MBE.

Hestercombe already boasted a Grade I-listed formal Edwardian garden, but it was Mr White’s determination to uncover the landscape garden that transformed the whole site into an acclaimed attraction, listed among the top 20 gardens in Britain. He secured major grants including £3.7million from the Heritage Lottery Fund to complete the work.

“This has come as a great surprise, but it’s been a great privilege to be able to restore Hestercombe’s extraordinary historic landscape. I have been associated with the gardens since 1992 when I first realised that hidden beneath the coniferous woodland and brambles in the valley behind Hestercombe House, were the remains of a once beautiful, 18th century landscape garden complete with lakes, cascades, garden buildings and stunning vistas. You could say, it then became my life’s mission to restore it!’

John Henry Batchelor, the Wimborne-based illustrator, whose work has thrilled generations of aviation enthusiasts, receives an MBE for services to illustration. He worked for the technical publications departments of Bristol Aircraft Co, Martin-Baker Aircraft Co and Saunders-Roe Ltd before going freelance.

His work has appeared in technical magazines as well as The Eagle comic and beginning in the 1980s he has produced artwork for postage stamps for many countries.

David Edgington of Westbury, Wiltshire, whose books on historic Lister engines have helped enthusiasts maintain their own examples is awarded an MBE for services to Industrial heritage.

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