A HAMPSHIRE rescue group celebrating its 50th anniversary has been awarded the highest accolade a voluntary group can receive in the UK.

Lepe-based Solent Rescue will be presented with The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service by the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, Nigel Atkinson, later in the summer.

Originally a beach rescue unit, the organisation was formed following a rise in the number of incidents in and around Lepe Country Park, which overlooks the water.

Over time it evolved into an additional lifeboat service available to the thousands of sailors who use the Western Solent each week in the summer.

It operates two inshore boats and works closely with other safety organisations that monitor one of the busiest leisure and commercial waterways in the UK.

Solent Rescue is based in a cliff-top lookout near Lepe's new cafe and visitor centre.

Members say they are usually at their headquarters or on the water training, which means they are often able to respond to incidents more quickly than crews who have to be paged.

Solent Rescue is one of 241 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service this year.

It was created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen's golden jubilee and aims to recognise the outstanding work done by volunteers across the country.

Wayne Monks, Solent Rescue's press officer, said: "We are delighted to receive this award, which highlights the high standards our charity works towards."

The organisation was nominated by South Waterside councillor Cllr Alexis McEvoy, who described the award as well deserved.

"There aren’t many nominations that succeed at the first attempt. This just shows how special Solent Rescue and all the volunteers are," said Cllr McEvoy.

A reported in the Daily Echo Solent Rescue has also been awarded a £17,000 grant by a fund named after Hampshire adventurer Charles Burnett III, who died in a helicopter crash in New Mexico in 2018.

Mr Burnett, 61, entered the record books in 2009 after his attempt to set a new world record for the fastest steam-powered car ended in triumph.

He achieved a speed of 148.308mph at Edwards Air Force Base in California, easily beating the previous record set by Fred Marriott in his Stanley Steamer in 1906.

Mr Monks said the grant would enable the service to keep running "for years to come".