The Countryside Alliance handed out its “Rural Oscars” at a Parliamentary reception on Wednesday 3rd February. British titles have gone to businesses from Cumbria, Yorkshire, Worcestershire and Dumfries, political awards went to Sir Alan Beith MP and Philip Dunne MP and the Rural Hero of 2009 Award went to Lincolnshire’s Agricultural Chaplain, Rev Canon Alan Robson.
The fifth annual Countryside Alliance Awards were launched in September and attracted a record 2.500 nominations from across Britain. Regional winners were declared in December and those winners went forward to the grand final, judged by Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Simon Hart along with Clarissa Dickson Wright, Farmers Guardian Editor Emma Penny, Daily Telegraph commentator Charlie Brooks and British Food Fortnight Director Alexia Robinson. Simon Hart announced the winners at a packed reception which was attended by all regional winners, keen to add a British title to their regional one. The winners of 2009 are:
Local Food Award: Beadlam Grange Farm Shop and Tea Room, Pockley, Yorkshire.01439 770303. http://www.beadlamgrange.co.uk Simon Hart says: “This Award goes to a family run farm with total commitment to local produce, the surrounding community and the future of farming. To help their children have a career in the industry, this family gave them the best possible start, converting the foldyard into a farm shop and tea room which is now a much-used for a variety of different events, from Young Farmers Club parties to craft fairs and local schools’ days. The produce speaks for itself and is truly the best: all beef and sheep are from the farm and the local abattoir is only four miles away, meaning all meat can be hung on site and butchered by the resident butcher. The tearoom serves a huge variety of traditional dishes and you can be assured a huge Yorkshire welcome whenever you visit from owners Mark and Jenny Rooke.”
Highly Commended: White Haywood Farm, Herefordshire
Village Shop/ Post Office Award: Feckenham Community Shop, Worcestershire, 01527 894272. Simon says: “By definition, this award goes to an entire village, because it is a community enterprise that is run by an impressive 70 volunteers. After 20 years without a shop a group of volunteers with no previous retail experience bought, upgraded and opened a new one. Villagers raised over £40,000 in just 7 months and over 300 parishioners signed up as shareholders. The result has been a resounding success, not just because a shop has returned to the village after so long, but also because of the feelgood factor the project has brought to the community. This has rippled outwards and local schools and businesses are also benefiting from this shop’s support. Inspired by their achievement the community is now planning phase 2, which will see a tearoom added to the shop, and you can guarantee it will be the most successful tearoom in the West Midlands! Congratulations to the whole team at Feckenham in Worcestershire, you officially run Britain’s best village shop.”
Highly Commended: Otley Village Store, Suffolk
Rural Enterprise Award: Machars Movies, Isle of Whithorn, Dumfries. 01988 500284 http://www.isleofwhithorn.com/islescreen.asp Simon says: “I don’t think there is another enterprise quite like it. Machars Movies has the distinction of being the most southerly cinema in Scotland at the isolated Isle of Whithorn, population 300. Volunteers have worked hard to see the crumbling St Ninian’s Hall become an all-purpose venue with an 80-seat cinema, and undertook the repairs, decoration and promotion of the project themselves. From grant funding, Machars Movies is now self-funding. Better than that, it returns its profits to the village hall and other local projects, so in turn provides essential facilities for a variety of village groups. The judges were impressed that the community started this project from scratch, providing a now-vital social enterprise in an isolated rural location.”
Highly Commended: Seasalter Lamb, Kent
Daily Telegraph Traditional Business Award: The Greyhound Inn, Grizebeck, Cumbria 01229 889224http://www.thegreyhoundinn.org/ Simon says: “A unique initiative, this is a community-run pub which I think can provide a model for other struggling village pubs. Rather than see their local pub falter, Grizebeck’s locals pulled together and saved it. This is especially impressive when you consider how many local pubs are closing every month. Initially run totally by volunteers, it is now once again a thriving traditional village pub which forms the centre of the community, running events such as quiz and music nights and serving local produce. Saving the Greyhound has brought together people from different parts of the local area to work with a common focus, and in doing so they have saved something which, if lost, may never have been revived.”
Highly Commended: SW Doughty Butcher, Doddington, Kent.
Rural Hero of 2009: Canon Rev Alan Robson, Market Rasen, Lincolnshire. Simon says:“This year’s Rural Hero is someone for whom serving the countryside isn’t so much a job as a calling, having been Lincolnshire’s Agricultural Chaplain for the past 10 years. He formed the Lincolnshire Farmer Support Group, which is run by a group of volunteers with a wide understanding of farming issues and offers a confidential telephone helpline. As well as this, Reverend Canon Alan Robson works with local groups to support the migrant worker population which contributes significantly to the area. Alan’s most recent achievement is the Epic Project, a centre for innovation to explore new technologies and responses to global warming. The centre was his brainchild and through his determination the £6.2 million building which was opened last summer. Alan Robson is a heroic character with a passion for agriculture, food production and pastoral care.”
Highly Commended: Tim Rollings, owner of Fishers Farm Park in West Sussex, for employing and encouraging over 30 young people a year at his rural educational park.
Grassroots Award: Sir Alan Beith, Liberal Democrat MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed. Simon says: “As a rural MP for more than 35 years Sir Alan understands the unique challenges facing some of our most rural communities; this is especially the case when you realise that his constituency is the most northerly and sparsely populated constituency in England. Sir Alan has a long track record of campaigning on a range of issues in his constituency, not least schools budgets, flooding, affordable housing, public transport, the problems of rural deprivation and, with the decline of more traditional industries, the importance of tourism to the rural economy. A busy, dedicated and, as we saw from the many nominations he received, a well-respected constituency MP, he is a worthy winner of the Grassroots Award.”
Westminster Award: Philip Dunne, Conservative MP for Ludlow. Simon says: “This Award goes to someone who, in a short time in Parliament, has a heroic track-record of serving the countryside through his work at Westminster. He is a tireless champion of rural life and country sports. His support for his local hospitals saw him using all of the parliamentary tools at his disposal, including debates and questions, to raise the issue in Parliament, and as the Chairman of the Parliamentary All Party Group on Rural Services he has helped provide a valuable focal point and forum for Parliamentarians and stakeholders alike in this important area. He will also be popular with those of you here who run a Post Office because he has been consistently vocal against Post Office closures, not only as a constituency MP but also as the Secretary of the All Party Group on Post Offices. Being the MP for Ludlow, famous for its local produce, he is also passionate about farming and food production and a great champion of an industry which often does not get the support and recognition that it deserves. Congratulations to Philip Dunne MP on being the recipient of the Countryside Alliance Westminster Award.”