Sir David Attenborough became the first person to receive a Richmonds medal in recognition of his conservation work to the Thames.

The naturalist was awarded the inaugural medal, created by the twinned towns, at a gala evening at Hampton Court Palace on Monday, March 31.

The award, created by preservation organisations Scenic Virginia in the US and the Thames Landscape Strategy and Father Thames Trust in the UK, recognises people who have demonstrated exceptional service to preserving heritage and environment in the twinned cities on either side of the Atlantic.

Lord Watson, chairman of the Father Thames Trust, said: “This medal is in recognition of an outstanding contribution to the appreciation, preservation and enhancement of irreplaceable landscapes that are our heritage.

“Sir David Attenborough’s connection with Richmond is important.

“He is a great advocate and ambassador for the environment in Richmond and I cannot think of anyone more deserving to be the first recipient of this medal than him.”

The Thames Landscape Strategy has seen 280,000 hours of voluntary work improve access to the riverside and help preserve its heritage.

Sir David, who was given freedom of Richmond borough last week and was handed his latest medal by Prince Richard the Duke of Gloucester, said he would wear it with pride.

He said: “The record of the Thames Landscape Strategy is phenomenal.

“To survive the bureaucracies, the problems, the finances, the meetings, the boredoms and still to remain visionary is a real achievement and I congratulate the Thames Landscape Strategy for what they have done.”

Ellen LeCompte, board member for Scenic Virginia, said: “We are so proud to be partners with the father Thames trust on this really important project and vision that the Thames landscape strategy and Scenic Virginia share.”

The two Richmonds began their relationship nearly 400 years ago when Colonel William Byrd II, a wealthy merchant and planter, sailed up the James River and named the area he found “Richmond” in Virginia due to its similarities to the Thames from Richmond Hill in the UK.

Next year the medal will be presented to a prestigious American recipient in Richmond, Virginia.

President of Scenic Virginia Barry Starke said: “I think every year this whole thing will just build and build and not only to recognise Richmond and Richmond but to recognise the importance of views - not because we like them but because they are restorative and part of human nature.”