Saturday, 13 August 2022

Volunteers awarded Town Medal

A VOLUNTEER driver for the elderly and a wildlife conservationist have been honoured for their work

A VOLUNTEER driver for the elderly and a wildlife conservationist have been honoured for their work in the Henley community.

George Leslie and Sally Rankin were awarded the town medal at a special ceremony at the town hall on Wednesday last week.

More than 40 family and friends of the two recipients attended the ceremony, which was led by Mayor Martin Akehurst.

Mr Leslie, 86, of St Andrew’s Road, Henley, has spent more than 20 years as chairman of the Henley Volunteer Drivers, which provides transport for elderly people to get to medical and social appointments.

The former RAF navigator moved to the town in 1962 with his wife Mildred when he was posted to RAF Benson.

He was nominated for the medal by Deputy Mayor Jeni Wood, who was friends with Mrs Leslie before her death in 2007.

Mr Leslie said: “It was a real shock when I found out I would be receiving the medal. It’s delightful and very flattering.

“The volunteer drivers are absolutely vital - without it, I don’t know how so many people would get to their appointments.

“Over the years that I’ve been chairman I’ve been fortunate enough to work with so many wonderful people and this medal is for all of them.”

The charity, which was formerly known as the Henley Volunteer Bureau, helps dozens of people each year.

It provided transport for guests at last year’s Mayor’s Christmas party for the elderly at the town hall, which was attended by more than 80 people.

Councillor Wood said: “I first met George through his dog, who used to come round my gate in Blandy Road. I then met his wife who went to the Bluebells day centre.

“I was delighted to put George forward for the town medal. Anyone who chairs something for 20 years deserves one.”

Mrs Rankin, 62, of Coldharbour Close, Henley, founded the Henley Wildlife Group in 1993 after she was approached by the town council to help preserve Mill Meadows when the River and Rowing Museum was built.

The group now organises regular talks, surveys and nature trails and was instrumental in Mill Meadows winning the Green Flag conservation award last year.

Mrs Rankin, who was born in Melbourne and moved to Henley in 1977, was nominated for the medal by wildlife group member Chris Bond.

He said: “Sally has starred in her role for 22 years. The wildlife has benefited from her work and so have the people of Henley.”

Mrs Rankin, who was joined at the ceremony by friends as her husband John was unable to attend, said it was an honour to receive the medal.

“I didn’t think the town council would rate wildlife initiatives so highly,” she said. “It usually goes to those like George who do things for people.

“My work is indirectly for people but I think one of the things the council liked about it was that it helped us secure points in Britain in Bloom.”

Mrs Rankin, who runs an IT company dealing with nature habitats, hopes to become involved in recording parts of Oxfordshire for the 2020 version of the Botanical Society of the British Isles atlas.

The town medal is awarded to residents who have achieved notable accomplishments or given at least 10 years’ service to the community.

Councillor Akehurst said: “Our ability to have people who roll up their sleeves, get stuck in and make a difference is what makes Henley special.”

The Henley Volunteer Drivers are based in Market Place. For more information or to volunteer as a driver, call 01491 572923 from 10.15am to noon, Monday to Friday.

The Henley Wildlife Group organises regular meetings and work parties. For more information, call Mrs Rankin on on (01491) 578633 or email

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