A dedicated volunteer who has devoted his time to County Durham’s natural cemeteries and given support to bereaved families has been honoured for his work.

Stephen Robson, from Langley Park, has been awarded the Chairman’s Medal, which is the highest honour that can be bestowed by Durham County Council.

The medal is presented to individuals and organisations who have made outstanding voluntary contributions to the county.

Stephen worked at South Road Woodland Cemetery after he was made redundant from Finchale Training College in 2012. Since 2015, Stephen has been a volunteer at The Durham Woodland Cemetery.

Natural burial grounds seek to limited the environmental impact of burial. For instance, biodegradable coffins may be used and headstones and embalming chemicals might be forbidden. The cemeteries are also run as much as possible to be havens for wildlife.

Stephen has worked tirelessly to preserve the peaceful and tranquil atmosphere of The Durham Woodland Cemetery, which is a beautiful natural glade.

He has helped to maintain and improve the cemetery, performing tasks such as keeping foliage at bay and cutting the grass. He has also looked after funerals and offered support to bereaved relatives.

Stephen was nominated by several people for the Chairman’s Medal, through his local councillor.

Stephen, 62, was joined at the award ceremony by his wife Jan, his sister, nephew and three trustees of the cemetery’s Friends group. The medal was awarded in recognition of the time, energy and passion Stephen puts into looking after the burial ground.

After receiving the medal, Stephen said, “The award was totally unexpected but gratefully received. It’s important for me to ensure people have somewhere beautiful for their loved ones to rest in peace.”

“The work in itself is a reward. Knowing that I’ve helped people through tough times makes it all worthwhile.”

Presenting the award, the chairman of Durham County Council, Cllr John Lethbridge, said, “Durham County Council are very proud to run the picturesque Woodland Cemetery site, and the Friends group offers us fantastic support with this.”

“Stephen plays a significant role in making sure the cemetery is a truly beautiful place.”

“I know that many people will be very happy that his hard work and sensitivity have been recognised.”

(The featured image shows Stephen Robson receiving the Chairman’s Medal.)

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