Asfordby man and long-serving Brooksby Hall groundsman is awarded British Empire Medal in New Year’s Honours

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A groundsman who has worked at Brooksby Melton College’s Brooksby Hall for more than half a century has been awarded a British Empire Medal for service to horticulture and land-based education.

Christopher James Willder (70), who lives at Asfordby, still works part-time on the land around the 16th century manor house and the Brooksby Melton College campus.

He said: “I’m quite honoured to receive this award. My brother John was awarded a medal in the honour’s list a few years ago for services to teaching so it’s nice for the family to get another one.”

He first got involved in work on the land while helping his father on his smallholding with animals and poultry off Dalby Road in Melton while he was growing up.

Mr Willder, who started work at Brooksby Hall 54 years ago, said: “The work has changed tremendously in that time.

“There were 15 students when I first worked there and it was just a farming and agriculture college.

“Now there are 400 students and about 40 different courses. We also don’t have the amount of staff we used to have. I’ve always enjoyed the work, though, because I like to work outside.”

The person who nominated Mr Willder for the award said: “He is a legend at Brooksby Melton College.

“His role is to keep the grounds (approx 20 acres) around Brooksby Hall in immaculate condition.

“He has been an exemplar of hard work to generations of staff and students.

“He has time for everyone and is a source of advice and information on the development of the grounds over the years.”

The nominator added: “Mr Willder regularly works beyond the call of duty whenever required, often late into the evening and at weekends, to ensure that the job is done to the best possible standards.

“There are others employed in the college grounds, but he is unique in that Brooksby has been the centre of his life for over 50 years (he is by far the longest serving member of staff).

“His dedication to the college and his diligence has been inspirational to generations of young people and colleagues. He is also a much valued member of his local church in Asfordby.”

l Pictured right at his home in Asfordby is British Empire Medal recipient and Brooksby Hall groundsman Christopher Willder PHOTO: Tim Williams