The Countryside Alliance Awards, Wales’ premier rural business awards, were handed out by Welsh Government Minister for Environment Hannah Blythyn, Labour Assembly Member for Delyn at a reception at the National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff Bay, on Wednesday 7th March.

The Awards, nicknamed the ‘Rural Oscars’, are now in their 13th year. They were set up to celebrate rural communities, produce, skill, heritage and enterprising spirit and they run across five categories which enable the Countryside Alliance to give a platform and a voice to diverse rural businesses.

The reception was kindly sponsored by Assembly Members Paul Davies, Jane Hutt, Neil Hamilton, Simon Thomas, Kirsty Williams and Countryside Alliance Director for Wales, Rachel Evans, announced the winners, who were chosen from over eleven thousand public nominations.

Environment Minister Hannah Blythyn said: “It was a privilege to be part of the awards and celebrate the fantastic rural businesses we have across Wales. It is crucial to recognise the vital role played by rural businesses in Wales and champion the ongoing growth of our rural economy. Following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union it is more important than ever that the rural economy remains resilient and we maximise and manage the opportunities to ensure long term success. The Welsh Government is fully behind rural businesses in Wales and I would urge all businesses to take advantage of the support available.”

Rachel Evans, Countryside Alliance Director for Wales, said: “It is wonderful to be able to promote and celebrate all that is great about Welsh produce, skills and rural life. The Countryside Alliance is proud to be honouring a group of people who are passionate about their countryside and enjoy providing quality goods, services and employment to rural communities and beyond. Tonight’s winners truly are the best of the best and everyone who was nominated should be incredible proud of their achievements. You are all rural heroes and we applaud you for being just you.”

The Champions for Wales now advance to the British finals, to be held at the House of Lords on 25th April. The winners were announced as:

Local Food: Hanes Llandoch, St Dogmaels Local Producers Market, Pembrokeshire

Rachel said: “The winners of this award are a group of passionate, energetic, hard-working and jovial food producers. Nestled away in the quiet corner of Cardigan, St Dogmael’s Food Market is brimming with local produce to include breads, cheese, preserves, meat, seafood, cooked food and much more. Even on a cold snowy morning, shoppers flock to St Dogmaels to buy their produce, smiling faces all around and an inspiring enthusiasm for their produce and the market itself.  Summer months bring live music and entertainment whilst you shop I am sure the stall holders are looking forward to that this year!  Described by those who nominated them “as quite possibly the finest local producers market in the Country” and is said to have a profound and beneficial effect on the local community I am delighted to award Hanes Llandoch St Dogmaels Local Producers Market as category winners.”
Runner up: Izabella and Lawrence Hembrow from Mead Farm and Hufenfa’r Castell, Harlech
Highly commended: Richard Howells of the Olive Tree Deli in Mold  

Butcher: Swans Farm Shop, Treuddyn, Mold

Rachel said: “The winner of this category goes to a family enterprise with an extensive range of meats from their own and neighbouring farms. Rearing their own cattle and pigs, purchasing lamb from the farm next door, poultry and game from within the county, this really is a perfect example of low food miles. A butcher’s block is in full view and the counter is fabulously presented with a variety of presentation techniques. A one-mile circular walk from the butchery around the farm has given the general public the opportunity to see exactly where their meat has come from. As one customer stated in their nominations “We had recently reached a point of rarely eating meat because we had developed a lack of trust. Having visited with my five-year-old son I was delighted to be able to walk the farm and show him exactly where our meat comes from, to be assured of the quality of life the animals receive before they come to our family table. I am delighted to award Clive and Gail Swan and family of Swans Farm shop with the best butcher award.”
Runner up: Ken Davies Ai Fab Crymych
Highly commended: Chris Hayman Butchers and I G Nicholas

Rural Enterprise: Blaenavon Cheddar Company

Rachel said: “The winner of this category is a rural enterprise that was born from a determination to succeed coupled with a passion for producing cheese that told a story. Whilst the company has grown to a recognisable brand, the original values can sometimes get lost in production, but that is far from the case here under the direction of founder Susan Fiander-Woodhouse. The cheese is produced in the mining town of Blaenavon, in the heart of the main street behind their shop counter. The Mild Cheddar is matured deep underground in the Big Pit (a former working pit that is now a well-known tourist attraction here in Wales) and is exported all over the world. Demonstrating sustainability with a passion to further evolve, The Blaenavon Cheddar Company attracts visitors from all over the world not forgetting schools, colleges, groups and organisations that are keen to know the story behind the enterprise and of course, to try some cheese! I am delighted to award Susan and her family with the Rural Enterprise Award for The Blaenavon Cheddar Company.”
Runner up: Anna Taylor and her family from Chilly Cow Ice Cream
Highly commended: Eddie and Cara of E&C Falconry Experience and Debbie and Philip Handley of Mostyn Kitchen

Village Shop & Post Office: Newbridge On Wye

Rachel said: “The winning village shop and post office who will represent Wales at the House of Lords goes to a family who purposely set out to find and create a family business. Deciding on the Mid Wales village of Newbridge on Wye Adele and Jeff Jones and family set about transforming both financially and cosmetically the village shop and post office in to the thriving business it is today. They had to fight hard to keep their post office services, refusing to give in to the pressure bestowed upon them by the post office and are by now depended upon to run no less than 5 outreach post offices in neighbouring villages running a counter top from any premises that can house them, as well as opening their post office counter to customers for a 7-day week service! As one of their nominations stated “they keep our little village alight with a glow of optimism”. Congratulations to the winners of the Best Local Shop and Post office to the Jones family of Newbridge on Wye, I am very pleased indeed to be able to crown them as our Champions.”
Runner up: Kay Murphy and Caroline Mainwaring from Siop Uwchaled Cerrigydrudion
Highly commended: Siop Y Pentre Cilgerran and The Llandegla Community Shop

Pub: The Cottage Inn Llandelo, Carmarthenshire

Rachel said: “The Champion award in this category goes to a pub that has a far-reaching community. Not only does this establishment support good causes within the square mile but it also reaches out to neighbouring communities offering both good will and local home cooked food. The landlord of this pub Bryan Jones has immersed himself in community life; his generosity, straight talking advice (sometimes welcomed sometimes not!) and passion for the farming community is spread far and wide and he will support any cause that he is asked to become involved with. Ainsley and Bryan Jones have created not only a local pub but a business which is home to so many local clubs and associations and is the heart of a widespread community. I know that they will want me to express their gratitude to their hard-working staff. The award goes to the pub whereby the only rule is that there are no rules. This award goes to Ainsley & Bryan Jones of the Cottage Inn, Carmarthenshire.”
Runner up: Dave and Esther Hubert from the Dolaucothi Arms in Pumpsaint
Highly commended: Sarah and Tom of the Hare and Hounds, Aberthin and Dave Blenkin of the Wheelwright Arms, Erwood

The Rural Hero Award is not given out annually but is only given when judges feel that amongst the nominations received a particular person has been recognised endlessly for their contribution to their community. This year, for the first time in 5/6 years, we are delighted to award Sarah Eynon of Siop Sarah, Maenclochog the Rural Hero Award for over 30 years’ service to her community. 

Photographs should be credited to Peter Anderson, Anderson Photography

View all the photos here.