AN ARCHAEOLOGIST from Ruthin says she is “surprised but pleased” to have received an MBE.

Fiona Gale, 65, has become a well-known figure in Denbighshire due to her work in promoting and conserving the county’s heritage.

After working for the Clwyd County Council Archaeology service, she was the County Archaeologist, a post she held up to retirement in 2018.

Speaking after being appointed an MBE, Fiona said: “It came as a real surprise but of course I'm pleased. I received a letter at the end of November to notify. I had to stay quiet about it until last Friday but the messages of support I've received since the news broke have been amazing.

“You don't do the work for any praise or recognition, but to know that some people do take notice of your efforts do make it all worthwhile."

Fiona has led a number of major conservation projects - most notably the £2m Heritage Lottery Funded Heather and Hillforts Landscape Partnership, a pioneering cross-disciplinary project that undertook conservation and access works on the Clwydian range Iron Age hillforts.

This is held up as a flagship project of its type in Wales and cited as an example of ‘best practice’ to others

"I would say the Hillforts project is the one that stands out the most throughout the years," she added.

"It was a large one spanning five years and saw us working with two of my favourite landscapes - the Clwydian Range and Llantysilio mountain. It was a very satisfying project"

In March, Fiona discovered a rare ornate frieze at the former Wynnstay Arms building in Ruthin. Fiona and husband Andrew bought the Well Street building three years ago and contracted builders Lloyd Building Services to carry out refurbishment work.

Underneath a layer of Victorian plaster, builders found decorative wall covering which experts dated to the late 16th century.

Fiona was also instrumental in the successful HLF project bid in support of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site.

She is currently a trustee of both the Clywd-Powys and Gwynedd Archaeological Trusts, the Cambrian Archaeological Society, the Council for British Archaeology and an active member of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site Conservation Group.

Fiona is now looking forward to another surprise - finding out when she will actually received her MBE medal.

"It's all very exciting - all I've been told is that I will be notified some time in the new year as to when I will receive the medal. It will be a real family celebration.

"I would like to say a big thank you to all my colleagues who have helped me throughout the years as without their enormous help, none of this would have been possible."