A GLOBETROTTING childhood and a role steeped in history will not stop the new High Sheriff of Oxfordshire championing the cause of ordinary "unsung heroes".

Former fund manager Sarah Taylor, 58, took up the position at a ceremony in April and will spend her year in office working on behalf of the county's army of unpaid carers.

The mother-of-one was nominated for the role by a committee of eminent persons including the Lord Lieutenant, the Bishop of Oxford and the Chief Constable.

She said: "I am very pleased. It's a great honour to be High Sheriff and it takes you a little bit of time to prepare.

" You get to meet an incredible, varied range of people and see all the amazing things that are going on in Oxford."

Born in Baghdad, the daughter of British hockey player John Paskin Taylor and Ruth Taylor MBE, the young Sarah Taylor was educated at the Lycée Molière, Paris.

This was followed by the Wycombe Abbey girls' school in Buckinghamshire, Marlborough College in Wiltshire before a final stint at Oxford University.

She said: "My first encounter with Oxfordshire was as a student at Wadham from 1976 from 1980.

"I did the usual thing of going to London and then gradually working my way back up the A4."

Following 11 years working in the City of London Mrs Taylor became involved in the centenary celebrations of Thame Community Hospital in 1997.

It would spark a decades-long admiration for those who provide care to others, based on both the work of the hospital - where she has been chairwoman of the League of Friends for many years - as well as a number of experiences close to home.

She said: "I have been very aware of this idea of respite care and how important it is for members of a family caring for someone with a disability.

"My mother-in-law cared for many years for her mother, who was crippled with arthritis, and I saw how difficult that was and how it absorbed the whole of her life.

"Also, more recently, my father was looking after my mother as she got incredibly frail. He occasionally felt slightly trapped and had just got to soldier on."

An estimated 1.2 million people in Britain care full-time and with no pay for a friend or loved one, of which a large proportion are vulnerable themselves.

In Oxfordshire more than 61,000 people are believed to be carers, with about 4,500 aged 80 and above - and an alarming proportion aged under 18.

Mrs Taylor added: "I have been very aware of elderly carers but young carers and children who care are a frightening statistic..

"The Oxfordshire Community Foundation estimates that there are probably 12,000 young carers in Oxfordshire, and their average age tends to be about 12.

"As a result they really struggle at school and feel isolated from everything. It's a big problem, and a slightly hidden one."

In 2000, Mrs Taylor and husband Bernard Taylor took over the running of Rycote Park, a Grade II* listed house on the site of a now-lost Tudor mansion near Thame.

The pair spent five years restoring the house and gardens and establishing the farm's herd of Aberdeen Angus and flock of Castlemilk sheep.

In the coming months Mrs Taylor will juggle her new ceremonial function with a number of others, including Visitor of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum, trustee of the Oxfordshire Victoria County History Trust and vice chairman of the Thames & Chilterns branch of the Historic Houses Association.

The role of High Sheriff dates back to Saxon times, when a 'shire reeve' was appointed to represent the King on taxation.

Mrs Taylor said: "The office of High Sheriff is the oldest secular office in the country outside the monarchy.

"The former powers the office enjoyed have gone but it's now ceremonial, charitable and community functions."

Her predecessor to the role, Adwell resident Tom Birch Reynardson, devoted much of his year in office supporting the judiciary when not attending official functions.

Mrs Taylor said: "Tom is a friend and lives not far away. I am very aware of the amazing things he did with [initiative to show teenagers the criminal justice system] Getting Court, and also supporting Aspire with their new project helping pensioners coming out of prison find their feet. I'm doing something slightly different.

"I'm doing something slightly different. My background is more to do with awareness of the voluntary sector and have gone down that route with carers."

With a grand fundraising dinner at Rycote already planned for the end of June, Mrs Taylor is fully aware of having her work cut out for her this year.

She said: "There's not an enormous amount I can achieve in a year, so I have gone along various routes. I'm offering what I can do and it gives people a bit of a break.

"Something I do normally anyway is give guided tours of the chapel and gardens. We had just over 50 carers come recently, which was amazing.

"In the Autumn we want to set up one or two networking events for all the different organisations that are linking, whether it's the Alzheimer's Society, Sobell House or Helen and Douglas House, to get together and exchange views."

She added that Carers' Week, a national awareness-raising exercise that ended on Sunday (12/6), was an exercise both in bringing organisations together and making the carers themselves feel counted: "It achieves a more co-ordinated, extra publicity to the general public.

"But also it's for carers to know that there is help out there, all sorts of things out there, to give them relief and advice.

"One of the big problems is identifying carers as people don't think that they are carers; they're someone's husband, wife or mother. But they can access help whenever it gets a bit much."