December 31, 2015
Long-serving community champion's surprise at New Year's Honour

A long-serving community volunteer near Burnham-On-Sea has been recognised in the Queen's New Year Honours.

Keith Hart says he is "hugely honoured" to have been awarded a British Empire Medal for his services to the community of Lympsham.

"It's come as a complete surprise," he told "I had to read the letter three or four times before I believed it."

"It's a wonderful honour. Lympsham is a great community and I have been keen to protect its facilities over the years."

Keith played a lead role in safeguarding the village's school and village shop, and has been a central part of the community for over 35 years.

Keith and his wife, Liz, together with their three children, moved to the village in 1977 when he quickly established himself as an active member of the community.

He became a governor of the village primary school and remained in that role until the mid 1980s at a time when the school was threatened with closure. He, along with the other governors, fought an ultimately successful battle to ensure that the school remained in Lympsham and went on to become the success that it is now.

Keith has also been the chairman, treasurer and secretary of the village's sports club and pavilion at various times over the years. During his time as chairman, Keith was also responsible not just for the bar and for organising the bar rota but for ordering in and collecting supplies, liaising with the sport teams and keeping the diary of events, whilst also working behind the bar whenever that was needed.

"He was always there, through thick and thin, even at times when the club struggled through lack of help from others. On countless occasions, he would come at short notice to fill in for someone who could not do their 'duty'. It was he, more than anybody, who has kept the club going as the heart of this village," one villager, James Counsell, told

And in 1997, when Lympsham's village shop came under threat because the shopkeeper wished to give up and convert the shop into a private house, Keith again came to the rescue.

The village formed a committee to raise funds to build an annex onto the side of the sports pavilion so that the shop could move to new premises. Keith played a lead role in raising more than £10,000 to help proceed with the new building.

Keith brought his background as a bank manager and his more recent experience, running a retail and trade hardware business in Weston, to that role. He has always been prepared to 'muck in' to do anything, working many hours in the shop, all voluntarily, helping to recruit new shopkeepers from time to time, going out to buy stock, dealing with the weekly takings, sitting on the committee, and working behind the counter.

"It is through Keith's hard work that the shop has survived while many others in neighbouring villages have sadly gone," added James.

Keith has also been a member of Lympsham Parish Council for several years and a member of the Manor Hall Management Committee, the charity which runs the village hall. He also set up an archaeological group in the village and has been involved in the Harvest Home since it re-started 13 years ago, and has been a key helper at the annual church fete for many years.


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