The Countryside Alliance handed out its prestigious “Rural Oscars” at a Parliamentary reception on Wednesday 7th March. British and Irish titles have gone to businesses from Suffolk, Dorset, Shropshire and the Republic of Ireland and the Rural Hero of 2011 title has gone to a Co. Antrim Angler who founded a Trust to combat river pollution.
The seventh annual Countryside Alliance Awards, nicknamed the “Rural Oscars”, were launched in September and attracted over 2.500 nominations from across Britain and Ireland. The Awards are the Countryside Alliance’s popular annual celebration of our countryside and shine a spotlight on those who go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure rural communities and businesses thrive. The Awards run across ten regions and four categories. Each region declared its winners in January with those winners then qualifying for the grand final.
Countryside Alliance Chairman Kate Hoey MP announced the winners at a packed Parliamentary reception which was attended by all regional winners, keen to add an overall title to their regional one. The winners’ plaques (and commendation certificates) were presented by Defra Minister Richard Benyon MP and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and Government Spokesperson for Defra, Lord Taylor of Holbeach.
Richard Benyon MP commented: “Today’s been a great celebration of the best of British rural life. The winners of these awards have really made a difference to their local community either through boosting local businesses, protecting the natural environment or supporting a thriving rural community. It’s been a privilege to share their success with them.”
You can read Kate Hoey MP's speech to the reception, with full citations for the commendations and champions, here
Suffolk Food Hall, Wherstead, Ipswich, Suffolk 01473 786610 www.suffolkfoodhall.co.uk “The winner in the Local Food Category goes to a business run with a zeal for produce, the surrounding community and the future of farming. Set up by farmers for farmers, all the produce is sourced from as near to the enterprise as possible. The shop is a converted cattle shed which now houses something of a collective for local producers. The produce from the owners’ farm is sold alongside that of a huge range of local producers and the set up also houses a restaurant, butcher, café, fishmongers, deli and garden centre. The enterprise has drawn together the best of the local area, producers have a fair outlet and customers are served by people who know what they are talking about because they have made it! Here is a great example of the local farming community really pulling together not just to survive but to thrive. The local judge observed that the East of England is not just a big prairie producing thousands of tonnes of cereals. We are inclined to agree. Congratulations to the Suffolk Food Hall at Wherstead near Ipswich for taking the UK & Ireland Local Food title.”
(L-r: Gerard King, Suffolk Food Hall Butcher, Clarissa Dickson Wright, Lord Taylor of Holbeach and Oliver Paul of Suffolk Food Hall)
Daily Telegraph Village Shop/ Post Office Award
Ludwell Stores and Post Office, Ludwell, Shaftesbury, Dorset, 01747 828227 http://ludwellstores.co.uk: “Run by Phil and Jo James, Ludwell Stores are clearly the heart of this village. This category celebrates community spirit and “going the extra” mile for local people, and Phil and Jo have turned this into something of an art form. The immediate community benefits from their care – books by local authors, cards and paintings by local artists, dry cleaning, clothes mending, a heating oil buyers’ group, the shop does it all. Phil also runs the valued Post Office counter, an ever dwindling resource, while Jo is a governor at the local Primary School. But it’s not just the community, Dorset food producers also win: on sale are 4,000 products and more local produce than any supermarket. The crestfallen village shop that came second to Ludwell in the South West region rather graciously phoned us and said that, having visited, they agreed with our judge – Ludwell is the best! Congratulations to Phil and Jo, you now officially run the best Village Shop in the UK & Ireland.”
(L-r Defra Minister Richard Benyon MP, Jo and Phil James of Ludwell, Philip Johnston of the Daily Telegraph)
Rural Enterprise Award
Park Hill Farm, Hales, Market Drayton, Shropshire 01630 652178 www.parkhillfarm.co.uk “Here is a working family farm which continues to use traditional methods for the production of fabulous meat, all of which comes from native breeds. However, this worthy enterprise champion is so, so much more than a farm. Regular free-of-charge open days concentrate on re-connecting the next generation with where food comes from and how farming works in a fun and accessible way. Visitors can meet Spotty the cow, Ham the pig and Hermes the Heavy Horse and take tractor and trailer rides, try pond dipping and enjoy a barbeque with local produce. One nomination declared that the team “reaches out to us townies” and it is to the family’s immense credit that they have put their hearts and souls into promoting farming in an accessible way for all; this is something the Countryside Alliance is passionate about. It’s enterprises like this one that make you feel optimistic about the future of food and farming. Congratulations Pat and John Pimlott of Park Hill Farm, at Hales in Shropshire.”
(L-r: Defra Minister Richard Benyon MP, John and Pat Pimlott of Park Hill Farm, Chris Dewbury of Hunter Boot)
Nolan’s of Kilcullen, Kilcullen, Co. Kildare 045 481229http://nolansofkilcullen.com: “A family affair, this butcher shop is a fourth generation outfit that has been serving this rural community with pride since 1886. The produce is top notch and the owners are rightly proud of the quality and traceability of everything sold on the shop floor, whether from their own farm or from other local farms. There is an abattoir on site and when the judges visited there was a team butchering and boning out the carcases with impressive skill in the back-stage area which is a beacon of excellence in modern day butchery. Nothing is wasted and they have started producing dog food from offcuts – simple but great ideas that cater for customers’ needs. The shop also sells fruit, veg and has a deli counter alongside the award winning butchery products. I am proud to reveal that 2011’s Butcher Champion for the UK & Ireland is Nolan’s of Kilcullen in Country Kildare.”
(L-r: Defra Minister Richard Benyon MP, James and Emma Nolan of Nolan's of Kilcullen, Clarissa)
Special Award:Rural Hero of 2011
Michael Patrick Martin of Mallusk, Co. Antrim www.sixmilewatertrust.co.uk/: “This year’s Rural Hero doesn’t seek or expect praise – he does what he does out of a genuine passion. He has been instrumental in setting up the Six Mile Water Trust, formed as a result of a disastrous pollution incident in June 2008. The Trust seeks to protect the 26mile long river which runs through heavily populated and industrial areas of Co. Antrim. Michael Patrick Martin is involved in an education programme with local schools, teaching the importance of plant life and invertebrates in the river and how to introduce fingerling trout. He works closely with Government agencies, local councils and local businesses all in his quest to improve the river for the good of the community and the associated flora and fauna. He is an avid fly-tyer, angler, dog-handler and shot and makes himself available, whenever possible, to promote good practice and love of the countryside. Michael’s resolve, knowledge and quiet firm manner tempered with humour has meant that he has gained the respect and support of many, including the Countryside Alliance. Congratulations to Michael.”
(L-r: Defra Minister Richard Benyon MP, Michael Patrick Martin, CA Chairman Kate Hoey MP)
Commended Village Shop Humshaugh celebrate with Defra Minister Richard Benyon (centre) and The Daily Telegraph's Philip Johnston (second left)
Commended Local Food outfit, Foxbury Farm, celebrate with Defra's Lord Taylor of Holbeach (left) and Clarissa (right)
Commended Enterprise The Cholmeley Arms: L-r: Chris Dewbury of Hunter Boot, Lesley Berry of the Cholmeley Arms, Defra's Lord Taylor of Holbeach and John Berry of the Cholmeley Arms
Commended butcher Vicars Game are congratulated by their constituency MP, Richard Benyon, who also happens to be a Defra Minister. L-r: Richard Benyon MP, Ellen Hayward, Joseph Hayward, Alan Hayward (all representing Vicars Game) and Clarissa.