The Rural Oscars Champions for the North of England in the 2016 Countryside Alliance Awards (aka the Rural Oscars) have been announced. Businesses will now head to Parliament in March for the British finals and a shot at national glory.

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 North of England are:

Local Food Category Champion in the North: Lawns Farm Shop & Morthen Milk, York Lane, Morthen, Rotherham, South Yorkshire 

Judge Paul Dunn commented: “This is a 3rd generation family farm between the M1 and M18 – both motorways are visible from the farm! Four brothers are now running the business, and the milk crisis has brought about many changes, including the farm shop where their own produce of beef, pork and locally produced chickens are on sale. Butchering is done on-site, slaughtering is done at a local abattoir either at Sheffield or Chesterfield and the shoot on the farm ensures pheasant and duck are available in season. Of the many nominations the shop received, the praise for the family’s determination to continue selling their own milk direct was really appreciated by customers. Also, 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.” Happy customers indeed.”

Highly Commended: Snoutwood Trotters, Laburnum Farm, Great Sankey, Warrington, Cheshire

Highly Commended: Northumberland Honey & Sovereign Nectar Meadery, Haltwhistle, Northumberland

Northern Champion in the Village shop / Post Office category: Spellows Village Shop & Post Office, Marton cum Grafton, North Yorkshire

Judge Charlotte Cooper commented: “This is a true heart of this North Yorkshire community which is the only local shop and, crucially, Post Office, and Helen has built up to the point that people now come out of their way to visit her.  Owner Helen ensures she stocks lots of local produce, from the pork pie to eggs to all the dried fruits and baking ingredients, and that is also used in external catering work she offers. She also employs local people and is growing her business and expanding. Spellow’s has two functions – a top up and deli for some and the place to buy all groceries for the less mobile. Helen goes out of her way for the community – for the less mobile and very elderly she delivers to those who need it, checks up on people if she’s not seen them for a while, and is really supported by the community. Helen also has great links to the local school, which she supports, and is certainly a well known figure locally for all she does. A worthy winner.”

*Rural Hero: Dave Hull at Blanchland Post Office, Blanchland, Co Durham

*Rural Hero: Daphne Eddington at Braithwaite General Store, Braithwaite, Cumbria

Northern Champion in the Tourism Enterprise category: Beverley Food Festival, Beverley Town Council, Beverley, East Yorkshire

Judge Charlotte Cooper said: “The energy behind Beverley Food Festival is inspiring. The main festival attracts 30,000 people to Beverley town centre, boosting tourism and the economy. The festival is underpinned by a total commitment to local produce and producers, and this has really put Beverley on the map as a “foodie” hub. The festival ties in with allotments and farmers markets, as well as a weekly market in the town and there are strong links with supportive local businesses. There is also a smaller festival in the run up to Christmas which draws in 10,000. There was nothing like this before the team created the festival and it is an excellent example of local people coming together to promote their local area and produce, and creating something that is much more than the sum of its parts.”

Highly Commended: Littletown Guest House and Tearoom, Littletown Farm, Keswick, Cumbria

 

Northern Champion in the Farm Enterprise category: Incredible Farm, Walsden, Todmorden, West Yorkshire 

Judge Charlotte Cooper commented: “What is great about Incredible Farm is how involved in the team is with the local community. Here is a stand-alone project which teaches small scale commercial food growing and marketing skills to young people. The project is sustained through selling what is grown, from training and farm tours and from corporate team building, so it is all done without major funding, making it all the more impressive. The local community is key as four children’s groups use the facilities, plus the Junior Farmers group and there are volunteers from all over the world. Educational work is vital here and there is an ambition to set up a college of sustainable farming in the town, as well as a nano dairy in order to produce milk “the way it used to be produced” and help to promote a sustainable food future. The ethics on display are laudable.”

Northern Champion in the Butcher category: Low Howgill Butchers & Deli, 21 Boroughgate, Appleby, Cumbria 

Judge Charlotte Cooper commented: “This is a very locally minded business – the meat comes from the family farm and other local farms, ingredients are all from local firms where possible. There is an appealing farm to fork ethos and a virtue is made of regional recipes and specialities, including Westmorland sausage. In addition, employees are all local people who care about the area, and they are all heavily involved in the business, creating new products etc. The team are constantly looking at ways to increase their business and their role in this Cumbrian community. As well as butchers, Low Howgill offers hot food to take away and outdoor catering and the team also attend farmers markets and events. Butchers these days take education very seriously and this is also the case here – Young Farmers Clubs, schools and groups are welcome to visit both the farm and the shop to learn more about the business and the local produce ethos. 

·         * Rural Hero status is in the gift of the judges and is not a formal category. We declare Rural Heroes when we feel that the characters have given of themselves far above the call of duty for the good of their community. Rural Heroes are rarely declared so to have two in the North of England in 2016 is exceptional.

·         Our regions are: South West, South East, East, Midlands, North, Wales.

·         The Parliamentary reception will be held at the House of Lords in London on Wednesday 22nd March 2017