The 2017 Countryside Alliance Awards, nicknamed the Rural Oscars, have been handed out today (25th April) by the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove MP, to the top rural enterprises in the country. Businesses from across England and Wales, who had already won their regional title, came to Westminster to find out if they were to be crowned national champion.

The Environment Secretary, Michael Gove commented: “The Countryside Alliance does a brilliant job standing up for rural businesses and residents and supporting a working countryside. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed helping to judge their awards which go to rural businesses that exemplify the best in Britain’s entrepreneurial spirit. The winners deserve all our congratulations.”

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 thirteenth year and have become the definitive rural business award to win. This year we received over 11,000 nominations, meaning these finalists truly are the best of the best. The Awards are public-nomination led across five categories:

  • Local Food & Drink
  • Village Shop/ Post Office
  • Butcher
  • Rural Enterprise
  • Pub

The British Champions as presented today at Parliament are:

Champion in the Local food & drink category: Quex Barn, Kent https://www.quexbarn.com/

Countryside Alliance Awards Director Sarah Lee said: “Our Champion is a business that has succeeded against the odds when faced with the double crisis of BSE and FMD that hit the farming industry. What makes our Champion’s achievements all the more special, is that there was nothing like Quex Barn in the area when they first opened, and a lot of people doubted it would work but their passion and commitment to local produce shone through and enthused their customers.

Their agricultural heritage deserves to be commended and their support for local groups has made them an integral part of the community.”

Highly Commended: The Lambing Shed, Cheshire http://www.thelambingshed.com/

 

Champion in the Village shop / Post Office category: Pontrilas Post Office & Store, Herefordshire https://www.facebook.com/Pontrilas-Post-Office-1401233290148885/

Countryside Alliance Awards Director Sarah Lee said: “Since saving their local post office from closure in 2015, our Champions have turned this business into something exceptional that goes beyond being just a Post Office and represents a unique model for others.

The range of community activities and events is inspirational and ensures they are that vital link within the village and surrounding community. Their network of ‘village link’ community services is a clear demonstration of the ethos of this business. This is an ambitious business that has plans to further expand the invaluable services they offer to local residents.”

Highly Commended: Newbridge on Wye Post Office & Shop, Powys https://www.facebook.com/nowpostoffice/

 

Champion in the Rural Enterprise category: Clinks Care Farm, Norfolk http://clinkscarefarm.org.uk/

Countryside Alliance Awards Director Sarah Lee said: “Our Champion has been a trailblazer in their industry and  is delivering a unique rural solution to those suffering mental health issues. They started out as the only business of this type in the UK, which has since worked with over 200 patients and supported local councils in the region to create similar enterprises.

In addition to providing therapeutic activities to those suffering from mental illness, this rural enterprise grows fresh produce which is sold in their own shop, at farmers markets and delivered locally.

The practical education and training they provide to local people is invaluable in supporting them to start employment opportunities that would not have otherwise been possible. Their commitment to help the most disadvantaged members of their community should be commended and it is clear that local people have responded positively through the many ways they support this business.”

Highly Commended: Green and Blue, Cornwall https://greenandblue.co.uk/

 

Champion in the Butcher category: Perrys of Eccleshall, Staffordshire https://perrysofeccleshall.co.uk/

Countryside Alliance Awards Director Sarah Lee said: “This is a butcher that proudly believes in a nose to tail approach and has an ethos that is deeply rooted in provenance. They offer a unique experience to customers by offering meat that is only sourced from a 5-mile radius and slaughter all animals onsite; placing animal welfare and wellbeing high on the agenda.

In addition, to a strong commitment to providing quality meat, this is a business that has enhanced their local community through regular demonstrations and workshops, as well as sponsorship of local organisations. In short, it’s a perfect combination of taste, welfare and community.”

Highly Commended: Glaves & Sons, North Yorkshire http://glavesbutchers.co.uk/

 

Champion in the Pub category: The Swan, Wiltshire http://www.theswanenford.co.uk/

Countryside Alliance Awards Director Sarah Lee said: “Our Champion has helped put the heart back into their local village. When they took over the pub the village felt like it was split into two halves and was lacking community spirit. However, this did not deter them, and they set out with a simple idea to create an environment that was welcoming to all residents and cater to all needs with quality local homemade food.

This husband/wife team have worked tirelessly to make a success of this new business, and that is while one is a Head Teacher at not one, but two rural primary schools. Their commitment to community really shone through, from their annual beer festival, or the weekly ‘Hub in the Pub’ for elderly residents, and their investment in their local staff to support them through their NVQ qualifications and progress within the business.”

Highly Commended: The Sutton Gamekeeper, Cheshire https://www.thesuttongamekeeper.co.uk/

In addition to our main awards we also have two other special categories – The Clarissa Dickson and the Game Champion. The Game Champion Awards was inspired by the growing interest in game meat and as a way to help support a boost in the game meat market. This award honours excellence in promoting and marketing game to the general public. The winner of the Game Champion Award goes to Blagdon Farm Shop in Northumberland. And finally, the Clarissa Dickson Wright legacy award was presented to School of Artisan Food, Nottinghamshire.

 

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Notes to editors:

  • Our regions are: South West, South East, East, Midlands, North, Wales.
  • More information about the awards can be found online here: countryside-alliance.org/caawards
  • The national judging panel which chose the Champions from amongst the pool of regional champions is:Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, Waitrose Food Editor and Masterchef judge, William Sitwell, Philip Johnston, Assistant Editor of the Daily Telegraph, Emma Penny of Farmers Guardian, Peter Gott of Sillfield Farm (and founder of Borough Market), Clarissa Dickson Wright’s friend Sally Merison, Baroness Mallalieu and Tim Bonner, CEO of the Countryside Alliance. Meet the judges here.
  • The Parliamentary reception was held at the House of Lords on Wednesday 25th April 2018.
  • More information on the Game Champion and the Clarissa Dickson Wright Award winner is available.
  • Photographs of winning businesses both at Parliament and in their shops/ farms are available.
  • Follow the Awards on Twitter @CAAwards and use the hashtag #RuralOscars