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Victory for rural businesses! Countryside Alliance Awards Champions announced

Now in their sixteenth year, the Rural Oscars are one of the Countryside Alliance’s most popular initiatives and a highlight of the parliamentary calendar. They are covetable because they are far more than just rural business awards – they are primarily about the people of the countryside. The Awards were set up to honour rural communities and the efforts of those committed to their future, and it is a privilege to celebrate so many ambassadors for our countryside.

The British champions have been selected from a pool of talented businesses who have already been crowned champions in Scotland, Wales and across the regions of England.  
Our judges had some tough decisions to make, but their expertise has brought the very best in Britain to the fore.

Now we get to the exciting part, the choices have now been made and our coveted green and gold champions’ plaques have gone to new homes.

Butcher Award

This award celebrates Butchers who are providing that key link between local people and the farms and fields that surround them. It commends those who have high regard for animal welfare and put their community on the map through the quality local produce they sell.

The winner of this category, Roast Mutton, Kendal is the realisation of the owners’ ambition to create something truly special and bring his vision of farm-to-table eating to the town, selling only locally reared heritage and rare breed grass-fed beef, lamb and mutton, as well as pork, poultry and carefully selected locally sourced game. Choosing to open his first shop in Cumbria because of its unique combination of passionate farmers, family-owned abattoirs and fine grazing means that the produce in this business is mainly sourced within Cumbria. It is a measure of Robert’s success that in several months, he has built up a phenomenal fanbase. You will certainly see folks queuing regularly outside his Kendal shop. They are enthused by Rob's passion as much as his fabulous produce. His pride in local sourcing is second to none, as is his nose-to-tail approach to butchery.

Our highly commended butcher, Hunters of Kinross, makes one simple promise that ‘All of our meat, without exception, is born, bred and reared in Scotland from quality assured farms’. What more can you ask for, but with a craft butcher at the helm you get more. With expertise in cutting and dressing, it is no surprise that one of their specialities is venison, sourced wild from the Perthshire hills. Iain is also keen to share his skills and knowledge by giving demonstrations at shows and fairs. He also took his skills all the way to Australia where he produced Scottish black pudding and haggis for the residents of Melbourne. Iain and the team thoroughly deserve this award with their commitment to animal welfare, and dedication to butchery while always keeping a smile on their face.

Local Food Award

This award celebrates those who are playing an integral role in supporting the rural economy. It commends those that champion local produce and help to enhance their local community.

Our champion, Gazegill Organics, is a business where a passion for farming and education shines through and coupled with their commitment to putting more in than they take out they are not only a trailblazer of environmentally friendly farming but they are also the heart of this community. When they took over the farm, the land and nature were in excellent condition but everything else was in need of investment. They have taken a mixed livestock farm that was selling everything wholesale to a diversified retail operation, an education centre, and a farm business that has embraced renewables which means they are less reliant on fossil fuels to supply the farm with energy. This couple never stands still and are brimming with ideas and plans on how they can develop the farm next while still remaining true to their core beliefs.

Our high commendation goes Loch Leven’s Larder where the field-to-fork concept remains central to everything they do. The idea behind this business stemmed from their love of local and wanting their vegetables to be enjoyed locally too. And so the seeds were sown and the more they got to know other local producers, the more important it was to them to champion and celebrate the fantastic produce they are lucky enough to have on their doorstep. And from this Loch Leven Larder was born and they have not looked back, giving people the chance to taste their vegetables, brought straight from the field, into the kitchen and served in the café and restaurant. This is a business that has not stood still and the Larder has grown in ways which they could never have imagined – they are just doing it bigger and better than ever.

The Daily Telegraph Award for Village Shops

This award celebrates the important role village shops play in rural communities. It commends those who go above and beyond the call of duty and are the hub of the community.  

Bayview Stores, Pembrokeshire who were crowned champion is a family run village shop has relished in providing a community service since the day they received the keys to the shop over 20 years ago. They have made it a life-long commitment to keeping the doors open of this lovely village shop which is bursting with essentials. During Covid they created “Cwtch boxes” which were boxes of food, treats and pick-me-ups for those who needed them. They delivered over 300 “Cwtch boxes” to those who were tirelessly helping others during the pandemic. This has now developed into a “Cwtch Drop-In”, a separate part of the shop where people can call in to donate food or to pick up what they need, free of charge, no questions asked.  

The service provided by Gwyn, his mother Jean (who still puts a shift in at a graceful age) and the family is hard to put down on paper. So many seek their advice, they are indeed the first port of call for residents, holidaymakers and general passers-by. There is so much that this busy shop provides the community, they are the beating heart of Solva.

The high commendation goes to West Meon Community Shop whose services go way beyond that of simply a retail outlet. This village shop was on the brink of closure before the community stepped in and saved it. The primary purpose is to be there for the community. It came into its own during the pandemic, delivering provisions and doctor's prescriptions to all the elderly and vulnerable in the community and the surrounding areas. The range and quality of goods on offer are all you need and more. The staff and volunteers are always smiling and helpful after and West Meon is very lucky it has survived in the form it has and the shop is the focal point of the village, providing all the essentials, and lots of welcoming chat.

Pub Award

This award celebrates pubs that are motivated by a sense of community and maintain that ‘classic’ pub feel. It commends those who are at the heart of the community and help to put the local area on the map by reflecting its specific county or region.

Our champion, the White Lion is a community-led enterprise which from the outset had a passion and vision to act as a vital 'hub' providing a place for people to meet, eat/drink and stay connected. This pub has been at the heart of the community for over 250 years and in 2017, with the retirement of long-standing owners, the pub was in danger of being permanently closed so the community came together to 'save' the White Lion. This has enabled the Lion to keep roaring and go from strength to strength. The loss of a pub such as the White Lion in a rural community like Ash would be catastrophic for many residents impacting local employment, social networks and even house prices. However, it is the impact on individuals that matters to this pub with it being the heart of the community.

The highly commended award goes to Exmoor Forest Inn which is a catalyst in combining great local produce, promoting Exmoor and its attractions to visitors, while ensuring the local community is still the beating heart of the pub. Their commitment to the countryside and the rural way of life is to be applauded at times when hospitality businesses can be the target of malicious reviews. Its new ownership has done so much for the local economy, in the way of jobs and sourcing local produce. They still have more to do but their ambition is to educate and champion livestock produced on the hill farms that make up the Exmoor Forest and develop a customer base and market for the meat. It’s bought back a heart to the village which it has sadly lacked for the last few years.

Rural Enterprise Award

This award celebrates the imagination and ingenuity of individuals in the countryside supporting the rural economy. It commends those who have made a real contribution to the community through jobs and services and helped to enhance the local area.  

Our champion, Hoggs of Fife, is a well-established local business that has designed, produced and showcased functional clothing since 1888. Based in Fife, Scotland, they have produced high quality clothing for those who have shaped the Scottish countryside, such as farmers and gamekeepers. Hoggs has taken pride in its family-run business, have employed locally and kept true to their roots in the Kingdom of Fife. They are continually seeking ways in to innovate and improve their reach. Protecting their traditional values whilst ensuring that their ideas and designs are contemporary and practical. Hoggs is very well known and respected throughout Fife and throughout Scotland, and thoroughly deserves this recognition.

Our highly commended business, Dyfed Shire Horse Farm,  can only be described as a special enterprise which has not only saved a farm but saved a bloodline and sustained a breed. Shire horses have been used for working the land and indeed were still the preferred horse power for the family even when tractors were readily available but they soon realised that if they wanted to continue to breed and keep shires then they had to pay their way and so in 1992 they diversified the farm into a visitor attraction which has traded ever since. This is a conservation story as the overall number of breeding shires has dramatically declined, this family have increased the number of breeding shires they keep in order to try and sustain the breed. They are the only Shire Horse Society approved shire horse attraction outside England but their reach is international. With Royal connections, their shire horses have reached the top of their game with military honours serving in the Household Cavalry. Apollo was the drum horse at Her Majesty’s state funeral and was used in the King’s Coronation, and Ed is currently in Drum Horse training.

Clarissa Dickson Wright Award

The Clarissa Dickson Wright Award was instituted in 2013 with Clarissa’s full knowledge and support. Her Award centres on her belief in campaigning, educating and prioritising slow food, taste, quality and support for our farmers and producers.

The winner, South Brockwells Farm  is family-run farm that has been extremely creative in maximising its productivity around the animals and countryside they love. Until very recently, three generations worked together to develop new income streams while involving many young people and the local community in their farm. They’re passionate about first-class animal husbandry, rural education and a fun country lifestyle, demonstrated by their ever-growing following both ‘in the flesh’ and online. It’s not a huge farm but it has a very big heart.

The Countryside Alliance Awards are sponsored by Howden Insurance.

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