The Rural Oscars Champions for the East of England in the 2016 Countryside Alliance Awards (aka the Rural Oscars) have been announced. Businesses from Norfolk, Suffolk, Hertfordshire and Lincolnshire have taken top honours and earned the right to go forward to the British finals, to be held at Parliament in March.

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 have been whittled down and judged and mean that these Champions are truly the cream of rural business. The Awards are public-nomination led across five categories.

The Champions for the 2016 Rural Oscars in the East of England are:

East of England Champion in the Local food/ drink category: Foxholes Farm Shop, London Road, Hertford

Judge Jill Grieve said: “Catherine has food and farming running right through her, and that is evident at this wonderful farm shop, butchery and café. In her efforts to keep her family farm going Catherine has diversified and turned Foxholes into a great destination with produce at the heart of the operation. Customers can eat exactly what is produced on-farm in the café, they can have confidence that the meat is high welfare and fully traceable. What is also appealing is that by shopping and eating at Foxholes you are buying into the proud heritage of a small family farm that uses its history as part of the story – from the photos and rosettes on the café walls to the top notch farming knowledge, a visit to Foxholes is a lot more than just lunch and a famous cow-paccino.”

Highly Commended: Maisebrook Farm Shop, Beccles, Suffolk

Highly Commended: Ben’s Restaurant, Churchgate Street, Bury St Edmunds


East of England Champion in the Village shop / Post Office category: Leadenham Teahouse, 10 Main Road, Leadenham, Lincolnshire 

Judge Charlotte Cooper commented: “I knew this would be a special outfit as we had so many heartfelt nominations from customers and members of the community, which is what these awards are all about. Leadenham is family run, by a mother and two daughters, making it a family affair. The ethos is that it is a traditional English tea-house, but it is much more than that. There is a dynamic attitude here and it is a very forward thinking business, constantly fizzing with new ideas, including tie-ins with other local businesses such as the florist, vineyard and polo ground. As well as being the heart of its community the shop is also drawing new people to the area. We hear all the time that a “must have” when moving to a new area is a vibrant village shop, so Leadenham is worth its weight in social value as well as contributing to the local economy.  As well as being a community hub, Leadenham prides itself on using local producers where it can, and it also sells locally made gifts and cards, adding another strand to this impressive little shop.” (pic, Newark Advertiser.)


East of England Champion in the Tourism Enterprise category: Dairy Barns, Lound Farm, Hickling, Norfolk

Judge Sarah Lee commented: “This is an ingenious way to keep a farm going – diversify part of the business into high-end Bed & Breakfast accommodation, partner up with local pubs and tourist attractions and you have an award-winning business. Hannah and Ian (pictured) have a warm, welcoming attitude and clearly absolutely love what they do. Ian keeps the farm side going while Hannah, who is a force of nature, and the B&B team are as welcoming as can be and really make this enterprise soar. Situated on the Norfolk Broads they are extremely busy, but not just with overseas guests and British staycationers – local people have also got married at Dairy Barns, showing that it is a business that is about people. I am delighted to reward Ian and Hannah with this award and am sure they will view it as a “win” for everyone in their beautiful corner of Norfolk.”

Highly Commended: Abbey Farm, Flitcham, King’s Lynn, Norfolk


East of England Champion in the Farm Enterprise category: Green Pastures, Bergh Apton, Norwich, Norfolk 

Judge Jill Grieve commented: “Bringing two farming families together, as James and Michelle did, means a wealth of knowledge, a farm and a large amount of entrepreneurial spirit. Green Pastures is an excellent farm enterprise as it brings together local produce in the farm shop and café, plants and accessories in the garden centre and, unusually, a Post Office counter, saved when the local office closed down. This is so much more than the sum of its parts though, and speaking to the staff at the business shows how much it means to them and how proud they are of the recent expansion. Cafe restaurants are becoming increasingly the norm at farm shops as they make a virtue of being “a day out” for young families and older people alike, and the Gardeners’ Kitchen at Green Pastures is a fabulous place which already has a strong following. The Countryside Alliance is very proud to award the East of England title to James, Michelle and their hard working team.”


East of England Champion in the Butcher category: Lavenham Butchers, Sudbury, Suffolk 

Judge Tom Hunt commented: “This was the best butchers I’ve ever been to. The range of local produce was something special as was their welcoming spirit. They are the heart and soul of their local community and have done a huge amount to support a number of small local enterprises who are not big enough to have their own premises. Lavenham is a truly stunning village and this local butchers opposite the majestic Swan Hotel is a credit to it. From its Suffolk sheepskin rugs to its Suffolk blue cheese and delicious apple juice pressed just up the road, Lavenham Butchers truly represents the best of Suffolk. It also represents the best of rural Britain and everything the Rural Oscars are about. I would like to wish them the very best of luck with the next round.”

Highly Commended: RJ Hirst Butchers, Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire


Notes to editors:

  • Our regions are: South West, South East, East, Midlands, North, Wales. Regional Champions from each region in each category will now be considered by the national judging panel which includes The Daily Telegraph, Farmers Guardian and Sillfield Farm.
  • Photos are enclosed.
  • The Parliamentary reception will be held at the House of Lords in London on Wednesday 22nd March 2017.
  • Follow the Awards on Twitter @CAAwards and use the hashtag #RuralOscars