A MAN who helped thousands of disabled people access the Purbeck countryside via horse-drawn carriage will become the first ever posthumous recipient of a British Citizen Award.

John Newell, of Lytchett Minster, was nominated for the national award for his services to volunteering and charitable giving at the East Holton Driving Centre.

The former builder dedicated more than 20 years of his life to the centre at Holten Lee, near Wareham.

Shortly after learning of the nomination, the 88-year-old, who had been fighting throat cancer, passed away.

His daughter, Caroline Page-Brown, will receive the medal in his honour at a plush London ceremony later this month.

She explained: "The riding centre wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been for my father and my step mum, Margaret.

"He was aware he had been nominated but he was already very ill at that point and sadly passed away before he could be given the British Citizen Award.

"He would’ve been very proud to have been given such an honour but he wouldn’t have wanted anyone to make a fuss about it, that’s just the kind of person he was.

"The riding centre gave him a purpose in life. He did everything there from picking up poo to fundraising. We’re all very proud of him and the award will be a lovely tribute."

The East Holton Driving Centre, which is affiliated to the Riding for Disabled Association, provides around 1,000 horse-drawn carriage drives a year for the disabled and their carers.

Mr Newell, along with his wife Margaret, who died in 2007, became involved in the centre when the yard was effectively just a derelict area.

He used his construction skills to personally renovate the stable yard and buildings, and carried out running repairs to the site, field fencing and carriages in the years afterwards.

Even serious illness did not stop Mr Newell’s dedication to the cause.

He was diagnosed with throat cancer in October 2016 and successfully underwent radiotherapy treatment. A routine follow-up in April 2017 found the cancer had returned. Despite this, Mr Newell continued to attend the centre until he went into hospital for an operation in May 2017, shortly after which he sadly lost his battle with the disease.

His award will be the first-ever BCA given posthumously.

Mr Newell's posthumous award is one of 36 medals that will be given at a prestigious ceremony on January 25 at the Palace of Westminster.