The 10th annual Countryside Alliance Awards, aka The Rural Oscars, were held at Parliament on Wednesday 4th February, with Champion of Champions plaques being presented by the Environment Secretary Liz Truss MP to businesses in Suffolk, Shropshire, Dorset, Co Kildare and Berwickshire. 

The Countryside Alliance Awards (aka the Rural Oscars) have celebrated their tenth anniversary at Parliament with the Environment Secretary, the Rt Hon Liz Truss MP, presenting four Champion of Champions prizes to former UK & Ireland title holders. The winners were voted for in a public vote with all previous UK and Ireland Champions competing. Over 35,000 votes were polled.

The Environment Secretary, the Rt Hon Liz Truss MP, commented: “This event is a brilliant opportunity to showcase our rural heroes who promote the best our countryside has to offer, helping to build a stronger economy.

“This year’s awards are in their tenth year and the high quality of entries shows just how much we have to celebrate. Our countryside businesses, from village shops to family run farms, are crucial to the future of our economy and make it the exciting, vibrant powerhouse it is today.

“I’m especially passionate about increasing the opportunity at every level to choose healthy, seasonal, local produce. That’s why we back the Local Food award and this year’s winner, Oliver Paul from Suffolk Food Hall, is doing fantastic work encouraging more people to eat locally and support our farmers.

“We’re also unlocking the huge potential for growth in the countryside through supporting rural businesses, better transport links and speedier broadband, so that more entrepreneurs can make the most of every opportunity available to them.”

The Awards are the Countryside Alliance’s annual celebration of rural produce, skills, enterprise and heritage through our small hard-working businesses. They have in their ten years of operation become the definitive rural business award to win. Thousands of businesses have been nominated during the 10 years of the Awards, with over 35,000 public nominations recommending them for honours.

The 10th anniversary Awards Champion of Champions have been crowned in each of four categories. Countryside Alliance Executive Chairman Barney White-Spunner introduced the winners at a packed Parliamentary reception in the House of Lords:

Local Food Champion of Champions – Suffolk Food Hall, nr Ipswich

Oliver Paul, Suffolk Food Hall, Wherstead, Ipswich, Suffolk 01473 Email: [email protected] – Twitter: @suffolkfoodhall

Barney White-Spunner told the reception: “I am delighted to Award the special Local Food Champion of Champions plaque to the team from Suffolk Food Hall. 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 where produce from the owners’ farm is sold alongside that of a huge range of local producers. Suffolk Food Hall also houses a restaurant, butcher, bakery, wine merchant, café, fishmongers, deli and garden centre.”

Village Shop/ Post Office Champion of Champions – Ludwell Stores, Wiltshire

Ludwell-250wPhil and Jo James, Ludwell Stores and Post Office, Ludwell, Shaftesbury, Wiltshire, 01747 828227 Twitter: @LudwellStores

Barney White-Spunner told the reception: “I am thrilled to declare that the winners of the Village Shop/ Post Office Champion of Champions plaque are Phil and Jo James, who run Ludwell Village Stores in Wiltshire. Phil and Jo run far more than just a village shop – it is an outlet for local artists, runs an oil buying group and a Post Office counter and it also boasts 4,000 lines of stock, including far more local produce than any supermarket.”

Enterprise Champion of Champions – Park Hill Farm, Shropshire

Park-Hill-250wPat and John Pimlott, Park Hill Farm, Hales, Market Drayton, Shropshire 01630 652178 Twitter: @ppimlott

Barney White-Spunner said: “I am pleased to announce that the Enterprise Champion of Champions are Park Hill Farm, the family run farm, farm shop and outdoor classroom. Not only do Pat and John raise British breeds of beef and pork which they sell direct from their shop and at farmers markets, the farm has been developed over the last four years alongside a local Children’s University and the Sensory Trust to provide a safe visitor experience for all age groups and abilities. The Pimlotts encourage schools, clubs, societies and interest groups to use the farm as an educational resource.”

Traditional Business Champion of Champions – Nolan’s of Kilcullen, Co Kildare

Nolans-250wJames and Emma Nolan, Nolan’s of Kilcullen, Kilcullen, Co. Kildare 045 481229 @EmmaNolan2012

Barney White-Spunner told the reception: “The postbag for this category was the biggest of the lot so it is very clear how loved and valued these businesses are. However, there is one clear winner and I am delighted to be able to tell you that our Traditional Business Champion of Champions is Nolan’s of Kilcullen, the family business that began trading in 1886 and goes from strength to strength. With an on-site abattoir which also benefits local farmers, the traceability, quality and taste of the produce on offer at Nolan’s is breath-taking.”

We were honoured to be joined at the reception by Mary McCarthy, Agricultural Attache to the Irish Embassy (on the left of the photo), as well as Countryside Alliance Ireland Board Member Barry O’Connell.

Clarissa Dickson Wright Award:  Peelham Farm, Berwickshire

Peelham Farm, the family-run mixed farm based at Foulden in Berwickshire, has been honoured with the second annual Clarissa Dickson Wright Award for contribution to food, farming and education. The Award, set up to carry on the legacy of the late cook, author and “Two Fat Ladies” broadcaster Clarissa Dickson Wright, was presented at the Houses of Parliament on 4th February.

Clarissa’s great friend, Baroness Mallalieu, who is President of the Countryside Alliance, presented the Award to Denise and Chris Walton from Peelham at a Parliamentary reception for the Countryside Alliance awards this week. Baroness Mallalieu helped to select Peelham as the winners, based on criteria Clarissa herself had set.

Baroness Mallalieu told the Parliamentary reception: “We have been mindful of what mattered most to Clarissa, namely a focus on strong animal husbandry, support for slow and artisan food and a platform for the efforts being made to foster our farming heritage through measures such as protecting rare breeds.

With this in mind, our winner’s philosophy fits the bill. They practice ‘sustainable self-reliance’ and their motto is ‘Love the land, love the animal, love their meat’. Peelham Farm is located in Berwickshire, Southern Scotland. A family-run organic mixed farm, it is perched on the water-shed between the lower reaches of Whiteadder Water and the Eye Water, with panoramic views of the Tweed Valley and the North Sea.

“As an integrated organic farm butcher business they have skilled-up staff to handle the rigorous quality assurance, animal welfare and transparency expectations of the organic system to produce quality products with trusted provenance. Peelham Farm’s own “Meat Manifesto” is an initiative of which Clarissa would have approved enormously. A guarantee of quality the manifesto states that Peelham Farm produce “is good, clean and fair”. It goes on to explain what “good, clean and fair” means in husbandry, environmental and slow-reared taste terms, highlighting the fact that Peelham animals are able to express their natural foraging and grazing characteristics.

“Education is a key part of the ethos and Peelham hosts several schools visits each year, working closely with the Royal Highland Education Trust and encouraging people to learn where their food comes from via butchery courses.

“A proudly ethical approach also means veal is no longer off the menu: field-raised calves live free-range with their mothers for around nine months, producing a ruby veal that is both delicious and compassionate

“Peelham also regularly have veterinary, agricultural and culinary skills students on work-placements with them, where they learn about all of aspects of farming and food production.

Pictured l-r Lord Walton of Detchant, Chris Walton, Environment Secretary Liz Truss MP, Denise Daly-Walton, Angus Walton, Peter Gott (the inaugural winner of this Award and part of the “Clarissa committee” to take our friend’s legacy forward.)

“The 2015 Clarissa Dickson Wright Award winners have combined farming heritage, rare breeds and organic production into an enterprise that not only produces high quality food, but is environmentally sustainable and recognises that the key to the future of farming is educating consumers, not preaching at them.”

Denise Walton said: “We are delighted to win this Countryside Alliance Champion of Champions award. Our ethos is to provide quality, unadulterated food and to build resilience into our farm so that that it’s there for the next generation of our family and customers.”