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New Year Honours List - salute to our unsung heroes

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: December 31, 2013

By Eva Jones

  • Postmistress Di Bell received a royal honour this year

  • BEM recipient Margaret Peveley from the Mid Somerset Riding Club, who is 'delighted' to receive the honour

  • Stockbroker Peter Hargreaves is among those from the West Country business community to be honoured

  • Dr Don Cameron, founder of Cameron Balloons is among those from the West Country business community to be honoured

  • Di Bell, postmistress in the Wiltshire village of Nettleton

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A postmistress, a school assistant and a hospital volunteer are among those named by the Queen today in the New Year Honours list, which includes more women than men for the first time in its history.

Postmistress Di Bell who set up shop in her living room, has been recognised with the great, the good and the really good from across the West Country.

Well-known women on the list include actresses Penelope Keith and Angela Lansbury, singer Katherine Jenkins and writer and broadcaster Sandi Toksvig. But Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud, from Frome, Somerset, is among the 49 per cent of men on the list.

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West figures range from Lord Lieutenants and chief constables through to an elderly charity fundraiser who brings his wheelbarrow to events.

Prince Charles' Highgrove House manager Iain Gray features alongside Mrs Bell, 63, who opened Nettleton Stores in Wiltshire in 1977 after the parish post office closed.

Nettleton Stores is still based in the three-bedroomed home Mrs Bell shares with husband Frank, 68, but now boasts dry cleaning and shoe repairs, a coffee area and a wide range of groceries.

Mrs Bell, who works a 55-hour week to provide what many regard as lifeline, said she was "amazed" to be awarded the British Empire Medal for services to the community, which includes the villages of Burton and West Kington.

"I am so amazed and gobsmacked," she said. "I thought it must be some hoax at first.

"The community here is lovely and everyone has really embraced us from the beginning. We really come into our own when it snows because the whole village is cut off."

Mr and Mrs Bell originally moved to Nettleton in 1977 to build houses, before deciding to follow in the footsteps of her shopkeeper grandparents when the post office in Burton closed down.

"I used to mix the cement and carry bricks but when I reached the age of 27 my husband decided I was too old to be going up ladders," Mrs Bell said.

"We opened a shop in the sitting-room of the house. It was really good fun. People embraced it quite well and it really took off."

Even when the couple moved house in 1978, they brought the shop with them – running it from what would have been their garage.

Although they are only paid until 1pm, they keep the post office open until they close at 6pm and avoid opening on Sundays so neighbours don't get disturbed by the delivery trucks.

Mrs Bell is now hoping to get a local hairdresser to work from a room above the shop which picked up the Best Village Shop/Post Office Award from the Countryside Alliance in 2007.

She is among the 74 per cent on the list who received an award for outstanding work in their communities.

Nationally the highly exclusive Order of Merit (OM) – there can only be 24 at any one time – goes to orchestra conductor Sir Simon Rattle and to world-renowned heart surgeon Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub.

Marcus Setchell, the Queen's gynaecologist who delayed his retirement after being asked by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to oversee the birth of Prince George, becomes a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.

Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud, who lives in a 15th-century Somerset farmhouse with his wife Suzanna and their four children, is among the showbiz names.

Despite reports to the contrary, footballer David Beckham and Wimbledon champion Andy Murray are not among the 1,195 people to have received an award.

For the first time since the Order of the British Empire was founded in 1917, there are more women (51 per cent) on the list than men. The previous highest was 47 per cent.

The founders of parenting website Netmums.com, Siobhan Freegard, Cathy Court and Sarah Russell are among the 610 women in the list.

Actress Peneleope Keith from The Good Life and Murder, She Wrote actress Angela Lansbury both become dames and knighthoods go to film and theatre producer Michael Codron and sculptor Antony Gormley, creator of the Angel of the North.

CBEs go to actor Michael Crawford, who played Frank Spencer in 1970s sitcom Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em and Just A Minute presenter Nicholas Parsons

Barry and Margaret Mizen, who set up a foundation after their 16-year-old son Jimmy was murdered in London in May 2008, receive MBEs for services to young people.

Awards for sport make up 4 per cent of the total, with an OBE going to Janet Paterson from Radstock for her work as with the London Olympics.

Among those getting community awards are Margaret Peverley, chair of Mid-Somerset Riding Club, who receives an MBE for more than 50 years of voluntary service to equestrianism.

In 1968 Ms Peverley founded the club, which was named the best in the country last year, and several years ago she received the Leo Harris Award, the highest accolade awarded annually to the person judged to have done the most for riding clubs nationwide.

"That was a very proud moment but I am absolutely delighted and very, very proud to be on the honours list," she said.

"Horses have been my life and I can hardly believe I am worthy of it. It will be a relief to be able to talk about it. I had the letter two or three weeks ago but I could not say a word all over Christmas."

Notable names from the West Country include Peter Hargreaves of stockbrokers Hargreaves Lansdown and Dr Donald Cameron, the managing director of Cameron balloons.

"I think it's important that business is recognised more in the honours than it is," said Mr Hargreaves, who employs 700 people and has been awarded a CBE.

"I think people that create jobs and pay huge amounts of tax probably serve the country better than many of the other areas that awards are given.

"There has been a huge team of people here helping me build this business. It has not been a one-man mission. The award is for the business as much as anything."

Dr Cameron, 74, who started his balloon company in a basement flat in 1971, will receive an MBE and said: "I am very flattered and pleased indeed.

"Design and manufacturing is something I have had a passion for all my life. I came to Bristol to work as an aeronautical engineer but drifted into what I am doing now. To be recognised for that is a great honour."

Those to be honoured for services to education include Claire Axten of Brookside Community School in Somerset, David Spencer, founder of Southmead Adventure Playground and Patrica Madden of the Our Lady of Rosary in Bristol.

Volunteer Mrs Madden, 81, can add an MBE to the respect of generations of pupils, parents and staff. She still volunteers five days per week and said she was " absolutely astonished" to be included.

"I enjoy seeing the children progress. If you get a child that needs help and you are able to give them that help and see them progress, it's very pleasing," she said.

Fundraisers on the list range from Wiltshire philanthropist Robin Clark, chairman of the Underwood Trust which last year distributed £5.6 million to good causes, including £866,500 to Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, to seventy-four-year-old Michael Beck from Fifield Bavant who has helped raise £41,000 for Salisbury District Hospital.

Since 2003, Michael has completed sponsored walks and 'pushes' through the Wiltshire and Dorset countryside with his trusty Wally the Wheelbarrow.

Hospital League of Friends volunteers to be honoured include Anita and Anthony Haycock from Tewkesbury who were awarded a British Empire Medal.

Emergency service personnel named include longstanding volunteer firefighter Chris Martin who ran the Lydney station in the Forest of Dean and receives an MBE

Former probation officer Lesley Frazer, who has been involved in shaping policy for older people and children in care in the West Country has been honoured for her work with Clinks, which helps the families of offenders.

Hugo Pike, of Pensford received an OBE for charitable services through the Rotary Club and Worldwaterworks Ltd and Girl Guide leader Pamela Cottle of Gloucestershire gets a British Empire Medal.

Avon and Somerset Chief Inspector Steve Kendall has been awarded the MBE for helping to develop policing and law and order in the Republic of Kosovo.

The 45-year-old undertook an 18-month secondment with the Foreign Office.

He said: "There was tremendous satisfaction in helping a country to develop its police service and it really brought home to me how essential effective policing is for the basic functioning of society."

Paul Savage, Susan Fernley and coastguard Malcolm Wright have all been awarded an MBE for work and fundraising activities connected to maritime and coastal safety in Dorset.

On the day so many women were featured, Lisa Pinney, 36, from Portishead was recognised for services to equality in the workplace.

Ms Pinney, of Portishead, who was awarded an MBE, said: "It was completely out of the blue. Everything I have done at the Environment Agency has been to make it a better place to work and to be recognised for that is a wonderful surprise."

But it's not all about the battle between the sexes. Bournemouth's Susan Dennett and Julie Lankshear have both been awarded the BEM for services to dog therapy after setting up Caring Canines in Dorset.

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