Harrogate volunteer receives MBE

Volunteer Keith Wilkinson at Buckingham Palace. (S)
Volunteer Keith Wilkinson at Buckingham Palace. (S)

A dedicated volunteer from Harrogate has received an MBE for services to Conservation.

Keith Wilkinson, a volunteer with the Bilton Conservation Group, has been campaigning for the protection of Nidd Gorge, Bilton and north Harrogate since 1982.

He travelled to Buckingham Palace on Friday, February 7, to be presented with the award after he was recognised in the 2013 Honours list.

“It has been really gratifying to help secure the wild life and countryside for future generations to enjoy,” he said.

Mr Wilkinson’s volunteering efforts grew out of his concern that Nidd Gorge was in poor condition, with footpaths neglected, the river banks dangerous, bog areas making walking difficult and anti-social behaviour common.

In 1982, he organised a group from within the local residents’ association and, marshalling the help of the local council, police and army, the damage was halted.

“Thanks to his voluntary work over 30 years through Bilston Conservation Society, the area has been restored and conserved for the future,” a spokesman for Buckingham Palace said.

“The 1.5 mile footpath through it is now the most attractive stretch of the 20 mile Harrogate Ring Way Path of which it became part in 1990.”

A founder member of the Bilton Conservation Society, Mr Wilkinson served as its chairman for over 20 years before becoming its secretary, a role which he still holds. Over that time he has worked closely with Army cadets, Scouts, Guides, local schoolchildren and the probation service.

“The MBE is a great honour and I accept it as a tribute to the efforts of so many over three decades,” he said.

“From the acquisition of 200 acres of the Nidd Gorge for the Woodland Trust, to the planting of thousands of trees, the refurbishing of the ancient packhorse bridge at Knox, taking small animals into schools and the opening of the Nidderdale Greenway from Harrogate to Ripley Castle.’

“It has been a privilege to work alongside so many dedicated people.”