Introducing the Champions for 2016
On 22nd March 2017 the 2016 Countryside Alliance Awards, nicknamed the Rural Oscars, were handed out by the Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom MP at a Parliamentary reception. Businesses from across England and Wales, who had already won their regional title, came to Westminster to find out if they had taken the national title. Shortly after the prizes were handed out Westminster went into lockdown following a terrorist incident. While the attending rural business men and women, and Countryside Alliance staff, are all safe, our thoughts are very much with those affected by the incident. The professionalism and care shown by Parliamentary staff and security services was much appreciated and we all offer our thanks to them for their commitment.
At the Awards event in the House of Lords, the Environment Secretary told the assembled rural businessmen and women: “Rural businesses are not just the beating heart of our countryside – they are also a vital part of the UK’s economy, generating almost £230 billion every year. I’m really pleased the Countryside Alliance is honouring some of these hard working businesses and ensuring they get the recognition they deserve. Today’s winners and nominees represent the very best of Rural Britain and I’m delighted to celebrate the crucial role our post offices, farm shops and food start-ups play in connecting communities across the country.” The Awards are the Countryside Alliance’s annual celebration of rural produce, skills, enterprise and heritage through our small hard-working businesses. They are now in their twelfth year and have become the definitive rural business award to win. In 2016 we received over 7,500 public nominations, which were whittled down and judged.
The British Champions as presented at Parliament are: Champion in the Local food/ drink category: Lawns Farm Shop and Morthen Milk, nr Rotherham, S Yorkshire https://shop.lawnsfarm.com/ Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Tim Bonner told the room: “This third-generation farm really impressed the judges, not least by its location, close to two huge motorways, which can be seen from the farm. The 2014 crisis in milk prices necessitated many changes for what was then predominantly a dairy farm, but realising that if the cows were to continue to be at the farm, change was needed. Action was taken, first by opening a farm shop to sell locally produced food and setting up a dairy to produce, bottle and deliver their own milk locally. The ethos will resonate with everyone here today: we aim to provide high quality produce, direct from the producer with authenticity, traceability and sustainability. Education is also central to the Lawns Farm Shop mission, and a number of open days are held each year honouring the fine traditions of piglet racing, welly wanging and afternoon tea. One fan put it well, saying: “Farm shops do not get better than this. There will never be a supermarket purchase for my meat products again as long as Lawns are trading.”
Highly Commended: Foxholes Farm Shop, Butchery and Tea Room, Hertford www.foxholesfarm.
Champion in the Village shop / Post Office category as sponsored by the Daily Telegraph: Ponsanooth Village Stores, Cornwall. www.ponsanoothvillagestores.co.uk Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Tim Bonner told the room: “Since the new shop and Post Office opened after a flood, Michelle has diversified the store from the very dull to a shop now described as “an Aladdin’s cave of local gorgeousness!” All things local are stocked, and hot drinks and pasties are also available to bring people together for a chat. The main draw is that for many village residents in this remote community, this store and Post Office are a lifeline. Michelle, with her partner Ben, don’t stop work when the shop closes, caring for villagers if they are unwell and taking the phrase “above and beyond the call of duty” as something of a job description.” Read more about the shop in the Daily Telegraph here. Highly Commended: Napton Village Shop, Warwickshire, www.naptonvillagestores.co.uk
Champion in the Tourism Enterprise category: Bluebell Dairy, Derby www.bluebelldairy.co.uk Tim Bonner said: “Our Champions have embraced tourism to great effect to keep their dairy farm alive. Having been running the farm for almost 28 years, our champions realised that continuing poor milk prices & children wanting to come back to the farm meant diversification was vital to survival. They considered various options before deciding to add value to their milk by making, retailing & wholesaling ice cream. Key to the decision was the location of the farm – between Derby & Nottingham, close to a good national network of roads, with a population of two million. Bluebell Dairy started trading in December 2008. It began with a small ice cream production area, a small tea room with just 24 seats & a tiny play area. They now have a 100-seater tearoom, a wholesale ice cream business, they are just about to launch their own milk vending machines and the farm also includes activities for the whole family to enjoy. Around 1500 schoolchildren visited in 2016, including many inner-city children who met farm animals for the first time in their lives. In all over 125,000 visited Bluebell Dairy in 2016, a phenomenal figure. This family never stands still and a dairy visitor centre is in the works. The old cow shed will be replaced with a new high tech unit & a viewing area will enable visitors to watch the process. A ‘cow to cone’ film will be shown in the café providing an invaluable learning process for adults & children. The Browns have achieved what they set out to do – they are still milking their cows, and their modernising plans will ensure the business is sustainable for the years ahead.” Highly Commended: Beverley Food Festival: (Contact Helen Watson at the Council on 01482 8796)
Champion in the Farm Enterprise category: Hayley Hanson Hide, Brecon www.hayleyhansonhide.co.uk Tm Bonner said: “This category is dominated by feisty farming women, and our Champion is an energetic one-woman enterprise. The strand of the business for which this mother of three is being rewarded today began in 2011 when Hayley got married and couldn’t find someone in the UK to tan the hide of the heifer killed for their wedding breakfast. She has since developed a network of people who can help her do parts of the process with the hide coming back to her micro-tannery on-farm. Products made on site include hide rugs, footstools, handbags, bound notebooks and a recent contract with a pewter company to make bound hipflasks. Smaller pieces and hairs are also marketed and snapped up by fly fishermen for tying. Hayley recently won a contract in New York for goods to complement a range of luxury bathroom items. Hayley Hanson Hide markets her services direct to farmers, particularly those who have excelled in the show ring and at fat stock sales, and being able to produce a hair-on-hide of their favourite beast. Hayley uses local people, skills and resources, including a local engraver for hip flasks, Ludlow Bookbinders for diaries and notebooks etc. Hayley is community minded and keen to support organisations and groups, offering a percentage off goods for the local hunt and Young Farmers.” Highly Commended: Brinkworth Dairy, Chippenham, Wiltshire, www.brinkworthdairy.co.uk
Champion in the Butcher category : Pete the Meat, Evesham Road, Astwood Bank, Redditch, Worcestershire, 01527 892654 Our Champion is a force of nature who has been a butcher for 40 years. His team includes two thirty somethings who came to him as apprentices and never left. There is an apprentice on the team now and our Champion feels very strongly – as we all do - that butchers have a duty to support the upcoming generation of butchers so these skills are not lost. After 40 years in the same shop our Champion has great relationships with all suppliers, including the local small abattoir, which will always source rare breed pigs when he has none of his own available. Basing his trade around local, high welfare produce sees him visit all suppliers & farmers regularly. His commitment to his customers is also impressive: he sleeps in the shop in the lead up to Christmas. Having been burgled twice he wants to ensure all turkeys reach the right Christmas table. The team breaks down carcasses on-site and makes, bakes & produces almost everything in the small shop. Our judges still speak enthusiastically about the pork pies with cider chutney and Colston Bassett cheese, which they described as “supernatural”. In 1999, having been diagnosed with a rare form of brain tumour, the surgeons said Pete Lawton would need between three and six months off work. Three weeks after the 11-hour surgery he was back at work, securing the freehold to the shop from the Co-op. The range of community activities undertaken can be anything from the team spraying their hair pink for a breast cancer fundraiser to Pete giving a talk and advice at a seminar for local farmers about the effects of vaccinations and slaughter methods on meat quality. In short, it’s a marriage of taste, welfare and community. Highly Commended: Lavenham Butcher, Lavenham, Suffolk www.lavenhambutchers.com
In addition, three Rural Heroes, all village shop owners, were rewarded for their inspiring community contributions (Daphne Eddington of Braithwaite in Cumbria, Dave Hull of Blanchland, Co Durham and Rob Ruck of Wellington, Herefordshire). Finally, the Clarissa Dickson Wright legacy award was presented to Briddlesford Lodge Farm on the Isle of Wight for its work to keep its Guernsey Herd going, to promote food and farming, to educate the next generation and to ensure farming’s future.
Notes to editors:
- Our regions are: South West, South East, East, Midlands, North, Wales.
- The national judging panel which chose the Champions from amongst the pool of regional champions is: Philip Johnston, Assistant Editor of the Daily Telegraph, Emma Penny of Farmers Guardian, Peter Gott of Sillfield Farm (and founder of Borough Market), Clarissa Dickson Wright’s friend Sally Merison and Tim Bonner, CEO of the Countryside Alliance.
- The Parliamentary reception was held at the House of Lords on Wednesday 22nd March 2017.
- More information on our Rural Heroes and the Clarissa Dickson Wright Award winners are available.
Friday, 3 February 2017
The Countryside Alliance Awards, Wales’ premier rural business awards, were handed out by Leader of the House and Chief Whip, Jane Hutt at a reception at the Pierhead, Cardiff Bay, on Wednesday 1st February.
The Awards, nicknamed the ‘Rural Oscars’, are now in their 13th year. They were set up to celebrate rural communities, produce, skill, heritage and enterprising spirit and they run across five categories which enable the Countryside Alliance to give a platform and a voice to diverse rural businesses. Welsh Government Leader of the House, Jane Hutt, said: “For over ten years, these awards have highlighted and celebrated rural businesses across Wales. It is important that we recognise the crucial role played by rural businesses in Wales and champion the ongoing growth and improvement of our rural economy. There is currently some uncertainty surrounding the Welsh economy following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. It is therefore more important than ever that the rural economy remains resilient and we maximise and manage the opportunities to ensure long term success. The Welsh Government is fully behind rural businesses in Wales and I would urge all businesses to take advantage of the support available. Our Rural Development Programme offers a range of opportunities to support businesses, organisations and communities throughout rural Wales.” The reception was kindly sponsored by Assembly Members Paul Davies, Welsh Conservatives, Simon Thomas Plaid Cymru and Neil Hamilton, UKIP, and Countryside Alliance Director for Wales, Rachel Evans, announced the winners, who were chosen from thousands of public nominations. The Champions for Wales now advance to the British finals, to be held at the House of Lords on 22ndMarch.
The winners were announced as:Read more
Local Food Champion:
Pen-min-Cae Welsh Black Beef and Lamb, Gellynen Lodge Cwmbach Builth Wells Powys LD2 3RP
Rachel said: “This farming family enterprise pride themselves on selling onlytheir own produced Welsh beef and lamb. Familiar faces on the show circuit to many I am sure, the Nixon Family cook up fabulous home reared meat joints and burgers made by the family. Full traceability of the livestock, highlighted by photos on the trade stand of farming through the year gives consumers confidence in their produce and encourages them to ask questions about agriculture, which is always welcomed! The mail order side of the business grows daily with customers from far and wide buy with ease knowing exactly where their meat comes from. Popular amongst the locals and celebrity followers alike, it has been said by one customer that her mother hasn’t tasted meat as good as theirs, this side of the war! I am delighted to award the top spot of the local food category to the Nixon family of Pen-min-Cae Welsh Black Beef and Lamb.”
Runner up: Caroline Dawson of Fodder in the Field, from North Wales
Edwards of Conwy, High St, Conwy LL32 8DE
Rachel said: “The winner of this category is a farmer’s son and butcher who has been in the trade for over 30 years, carrying with him the same farm supplier of beef and lamb for the shop. Opening his first shop at 21 years of age, Ieuan Edwards now employs over 75 staff at both the shop and factory unit, having developed his own brand Edwards of Conwy and now trading with some of the biggest names in supermarkets, he absolutely refuses to change the recipe that delivers quality and consistency. The products are now a familiar household name from here to Hong Kong. A huge selection of both un-cooked and cooked meat and Welsh produce is displayed to perfection at their shop in Conwy, with beef and lamb hung behind the glass frames for all to see. A butchers block in the front window gives live displays of butchery and customers can see first-hand this age old skill. A true ambassador for butchery, for Welsh produce and for Wales.”
Runner up: Shan and Geraint Bowen of Bethesda Farm Shop in Narberth
Pembrokeshire Falconry, Picton Castle & Gardens, Haverfordwest SA62 4AS
Rachel said: “The winning enterprise in this category has been providing unique experiences for tourists to Wales since 2004, welcoming hundreds of visitors from over 15 countries in 2016 alone. The unique offering in Pembrokeshire to meet and fly birds of prey has been recognised by neighbouring County Carmarthenshire and from 2017, Pembrokeshire Falconry have been chosen to set up the first British Bird of Prey Centre at the National Botanical Gardens of Wales. They will run this alongside an already well established tourist attraction at Picton Castle and are all set to welcome thousands more visitors to the world of birds of prey. I warmly congratulate Alex and Emma Hill of Pembrokeshire falconry as the winners of this category.”
Runner up: Gower Heritage Centre, Parkmill, Gower, Swansea, SA3 2EH
Village Shop and Post Office Champion:
Pennard Stores, Southgate, Gower, Swansea
Rachel said: “The winning village shop and post office who will represent Wales at the House of Lords is situated in a small village, with a few more hamlets scattered in between on the edge of the Gower. Since Jodi and Jamie Francis took on the family business they have worked tirelessly to move forward with the times and to explore new opportunities for the business. They opened a café and ice cream parlour to run alongside the shop and rescued the post office along with its two members of staff when the post office closed. Local artists’ work decorate the walls and they have recently purchased the run down council facilities next door, giving them a total refurb and removing the eyesore of this popular beautiful part of the Gower. Pennard Stores on the tip of the Gower Peninsula is the heartbeat of the community and I am very pleased indeed to be able to crown them as our Champions.”
Runner up: Charlotte Christie and David Evans of Llanwrtyd Wells Auto Services and post office
Farm Enterprise Champion:
Hayley Hanson Hide
Rachel said: “The winner of the best farm Enterprise This one-woman enterprise has evolved from her sheer love of cattle and farming, but particularly her strong feelings that every part of the beast can be used. Hayley Henson Hide is a by-product from their own cattle and Hayley takes orders from farmers and producers too. Show winning hides from fatstock shows have made their way to Hayley’s farm in Breconshire where she transforms them in to all kinds of goods from footstools to handbags, cufflinks and leather bound hip flasks. It’s a lengthy process taking over twelve months with great care and detailed processes ensuring that the hides are kept in good order and transformed in to keepsakes fit for generations. A recent contract selling to a hotel in New York has given this small farm enterprise a significant boost thus providing support for the farm income and a definite future for Hayley Henson Hide. I think it only right that I quote Hayley’s words from her entry to the competition “I will always be a cattle farmer. Aside from my family it’s my one big love”. These cows have put a roof over our heads, provided us with a home, I have so much respect for the cattle. I need to secure the future of the farm for myself and my children, not only to be viable but profitable”.
Runner up: Rob Morgan and Lloyd of Gower Fresh Christmas Trees
Notes to editors
Photographs should be credited to Peter Anderson, Anderson Photography
The Champions will all now represent Wales at the British final in London on 22nd March 2017
British Champions are selected by a panel including the Daily Telegraph and Farmers Guardian
For more information contact Rachel Evans, Director for Wales on 01550 777997 or 07825 337978, or email [email protected]