Champions_terraceThe 2013 Countryside Alliance Awards (aka the Rural Oscars) were presented to top rural businesses by the Secretary of State for Defra, Owen Paterson MP, at a ceremony at the Houses of Parliament on 30 April. The Awards are the Countryside Alliance’s annual celebration of the rural produce, skills, enterprise and heritage of our small hard-working businesses. They are now in their ninth year and have become the definitive rural business award to win. Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said: “These awards celebrate rural businesses across the UK from post offices to butchers, they are the backbone of rural life and it is vital that we do all we can help create the right conditions to allow these businesses to compete and thrive.” The Parliamentary reception was attended by Regional Champions from across the UK and Ireland and the national winners were announced live by Countryside Alliance Chairman Kate Hoey MP.  A special Clarissa Dickson Wright Award was also presented in memory of the TV cook and champion of the countryside. The recipient of the award, created to recognise strong animal husbandry, support slow and artisan food and protect farming heritage, was chosen by Clarissa before her death. It was won by Peter and Christine Gott, who run Sillfield Farm in Gatebeck in the Lake District, and sell meat from wild boar, rare breed pigs, Herdwick sheep and rare breed poultry. www.sillfield.co.uk The 2013 Countryside Alliance Awards Champions for the UK & Ireland, across our four categories, are announced as follows: Butcher Winner: H Weatherhead & Sons Butchers, Yorkshire – www.weatherheadbutchers.co.uk Judge’s comments: “Last year’s Yorkshire Champions return bigger and better than ever. Now with Q Guild status (the hallmark of the quality butcher) Weatherhead’s is soon to open a new shop nearby, giving more people the opportunity to try their phenomenal produce. The Weatherheads have been Pateley Bridge butchers for generations and have adapted and survived while remaining relevant and busy on the modern high street. A visit to their farm shows the commitment to animal welfare, traceability and taste – all things consumers should insist upon. The personal charisma of Andrew Weatherhead and his young daughter’s enthusiasm for farming mean the Weatherheads of Pateley Bridge are a brand to be reckoned with.” m/f Highly Commended: Blagdon Farm Shop, Tyne & Wear – www.theblagdonfarmshop.co.uk Judge’s comments: “Blagdon always has wonderful produce and the butchery counter is a must-visit, offering a wide range of the finest meat Northumbria can offer. Simon and his team work hard with other farmers so that the taste and quality cannot be beaten, and the bestselling Blagdon banger needs to be tasted to be believed! There is a wide range of delicious prepared foods which are a must for busy people. The Blagdon seal is a real mark of local produce, representing both taste and quality, and the seasonal treats range from venison to lamb and summer BBQ provisions. Simon has his eye on the future of the butchery and is training up new apprentices who, like him, strive for excellence.” Highly Commended: Dounby Butcher, Orkney -www.facebook.com/TheDounbyButcher Judge’s comments: “The winning Scottish butcher is a business that really did go that extra mile. Not only do they source produce from the local farming and crofting community, and make all manner of pies, pickles and puddings, they took steps to protect the providence of their local herd status and, aided by supporting business, took over the operation of the local abattoir ensuring that stock didn’t have to leave the island to be slaughtered. Orkney beef is derived from cattle born and reared in the Orkney Isles and which are slaughtered and dressed in Orkney.” Local Food Winner: Our Cow Molly, Dungworth, South Yorkshire – www.ourcowmolly.co.uk Judge’s comments: “Just visiting this bustling dairy farm puts a smile on your face, and that’s before you’ve even tasted the ice-cream. With the dairy industry in freefall the Andrew family redoubled its efforts to go the distance for the next generation – a gutsy move that has paid off. Eddie Andrew’s energy and commitment is richly deserving of this award.” Highly Commended: Broughgammon Farm, Co Antrim – www.broughgammon.com Judge’s comments: “Broughgammon Farm is a family-run business specialising in goat meat (cabrito). Charlie Cole researched and identified unwanted billy kids as a niche market to explore and has grown his herd from 30 goats to 300, selling on their meat. The Billy Burger is now a favourite at markets! The Cole brothers have demonstrated vigour and foresight while at the same time delivering a valuable asset to the local community. I particularly draw attention to their education programme for young visitors, which enables them to learn about the importance of provenance and traceability of all their products from “farm to fork”. They are a credit to the province and an example of what can be achieved with dedication and hard work.” Village Shop / Post Office Winner: Chalke Valley Stores, Wiltshire – www.chalkevalleystores.co.uk/ Judge’s comments: “One of the nominations for Chalke Valley described it as “indispensable” and my fellow judge described her visit as “an absolute pleasure”. This is such a great story with so many facets that you hardly know where to start, it is simply incredible. This community has really turned its fortunes around with this shop and everyone involved deserves national recognition.” m/f Highly Commended: Ye Olde Steppes, Herefordshire – www.yeoldesteppes.co.uk Judge’s comments: This is a happy example of in-comers injecting new ideas, energy and vigour to a village shop that had been lost. The community spirit, friendship and willingness to go the extra mile for each other is extremely engaging. The purpose of a village shop is to provide a heart and soul to a community and Ye Olde Steppes does this with a smile and a slice of home-made cake.” Start-up Winner: Spuds and Berries, Yorkshire – www.spudsandberries.co.uk Judge’s comments: “Laura Wass is still only 23, and having started up a pick-your-own on part of her parents’ farm, two years on she presides over a busy farm shop and extensive restaurant serving the best of Yorkshire produce. Laura is a no-nonsense businesswoman who acknowledges that being young and female in the farming industry often brings its own problems, but she has stayed focused on her mission of providing great produce and a meeting place for local people. The restaurant has only been open since November 2013 and already has wedding bookings for the year, which is a tribute to Laura’s marketing and business skills. With plans to extend the PYO and plant an orchard it is clear that Laura is a farming force for the future.” Highly Commended: nomnom, Carmarthenshire – www.facebook.com/nomnomchocolate Judge’s Comments: “Twenty-year-old Liam left school with no qualifications – in fact he was expelled and, as he says himself, should have ended up in prison, but instead he set up his own business at 18 with a small grant from the Prince’s Trust and has not looked back since. The success of nomnom is testament to Liam’s determination, drive and passion for chocolate and his ability to challenge the rules. They only make chocolate bars, so the challenge for Liam is to make the best damn chocolate bars he can. It gets very messy at nomnom.” A special Rural Hero award was also presented to May Stocks who runs the Highgate Farm Shop on the Pennine Way at Heptonstall, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. Her shop, known as the Aladdin’s Cave, stocks everything for the weary walker and local alike and her support for her local community, delivering papers and provisions and helping the sick and elderly, is what makes her a rural hero in our judges’ eyes. Ends… Notes to editors: • Find out more about the Awards at www.countrysideallianceawards.org.uk • High resolution photographs of winners are available from [email protected] For more information contact the Countryside Alliance press office on 0207 840 9220