A CHARITY chief was given the 'honour of a lifetime' after being invited to Buckingham Palace for the first garden party of the year.

Bay Search and Rescue (BSAR) chairman Steve Stebbings travelled to London alongside his wife Fiona to represent the charity alongside hundreds of other guests including Prince Charles.

In 2021 Bay Seach and Rescue was nominated for the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service - the highest award given to local volunteer groups in the UK and is equivalent to an MBE.

The award was handed over by the Lord Lieutenant of Cumbria Claire Hensman at a celebration in front of volunteers and supporters of the charity at its operational station in Flookburgh.

READ MORE: 'It was lovely' - Charity celebrates as it finally receives MBE equivalent

The Westmorland Gazette: Steve Stebbings and his wife Fiona Steve Stebbings and his wife Fiona

Subsequently, the team received an invite for two to the Buckingham Palace Garden Party.

Steve decided to take his wife Fiona and they both travelled down to London for the event on Wednesday.

Steve said: "To be awarded this honour has been quite an emotional experience for me. You don't set out to win awards for doing what you are doing. You do it because you want to give back to your community.

"This award is a testament to the selfless commitment and hard work of our fantastic teams of volunteers and staff together with the immense support from our communities and supporters without whom BSAR would not have achieved this award."

Steve said the garden party was a 'special' event, adding: "It was a wonderful event, it was a once in a lifetime event for me and my wife.

The Westmorland Gazette: Prince Charles at the Buckingham Palace garden party Prince Charles at the Buckingham Palace garden party

"My wife has volunteered with the charity from the start as well and now manages one of our charity shops. We both were really taken aback by the experience.

"To actually visit the place that we have only seen through the gates of in the past was beautiful."

Steve has volunteered at the charity for seven years and has been the chairman for more than four.

Steve said the honour would not have been possible without the members of the community who donate, volunteer and support the charity and said he is 'proud' to of represented and be part of the charity as it stands today.