An 86-year-old fitness instructor has been recognised in The Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Joyce Nicholls of Oakhill Crescent in Woodford Green was awarded the British Empire Medal in recognition of her services to keep fit in Essex.

The former obstetric physiotherapist is president of the South West Essex Keep Fit Association, and still runs four classes a week.

She said: “I was very surprised when I got the letter telling me I was getting the award. It came completely out of the blue.

“I’m a big admirer of The Queen, she is the same age as me and obviously keeps herself very fit, too.

“After getting the honour I have been invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace next year. I’m very excited about that.”

Mrs Nicholls has been a qualified keep fit instructor since the early sixties and used to run classes for mums through her work at Whipps Cross.

She said: “I retired from my job at 70, but I kept the keep fit classes up.

“I still teach some of the women who I met when they were mums taking my classes at Whipps. Now they are grandmothers.

“Some of the people who come to the classes are in their nineties. I enjoy the exercise but there’s also a wonderful social side to keep fit and I’ve made a lot of great friends down the years.”

Until recently, grandmother of seven, Mrs Nicholls also played table tennis but she has given that up since her husband Ted was diagnosed with dementia.

She said: “I look after him full-time now and so I had to cut back a bit.

“It is tiring, and sometimes I think ‘I wish I didn’t have a class to run tonight’ but I always go and afterwards I’m always glad I did.”

She choreographs all her classes herself and says the hardest part is not the exercise but finding the right music.

She said: “I find a lot of modern pop sounds awful and doesn’t work at all.

“I use a lot of show tunes – like ‘Hello Dolly’. Anything with a melody.”

And, while she has always exercised and eaten well, she says she is not a fan of some modern fitness regimes.

She said: “I don’t do jogging. Never have. I don’t think it’s good for the knees!”

Mrs Nicholls is not the only Redbridge resident to be honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Dr Francis Chinegwundoh, a Consultant Urological Surgeon for the Barts Health NHS Trust who lives in Wanstead, has been awarded the MBE for services to the NHS.

Fellow Wanstead resident Paul Herman has been awarded an OBE for his work as a volunteer for Leonard Cheshire Disability, an organisation that provides support and services to disabled people.

Another  Wanstead resident, John Drew, has been awarded a CBE for services to Youth Justice.

Mr Drew recently retired from his role as Chief Executive of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales and is currently acting Director of Children’s Services at Redbridge Council.

He previously held the post of Social Services,  Director of Adult Social Services and Chief Children and Families Officer at Redbridge Council.

Ann Frances, who lives in South Woodford has been made a Companion of the Order of the Bath for  services to Special Education and Social Care.

She works as a Director of Foundation Years and Special Educational Needs at the  Department for Education.

Kevin Walker, a retired paramedic from Ilford, has been awarded the British Empire Medal for services to emergency healthcare and the community in Essex.

And, while he no longer lives in Redbridge, actor Tony Robinson, who grew up in Raymond Road, South Woodford, has been knighted.

Mr Robinson, who found fame as the turnip-munching simpleton Baldrick in BBC comedy Blackadder, attended Woodford Green prep school and Wanstead High School.

He now lives in Bristol and said he was ‘thrilled, flattered and a little gobsmacked’ by his knighthood.