Sad news this week that the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire has passed away aged 94. Our thoughts are with the Duke and his family, as well as the many people working on or connected with the Chatsworth Estate.
The Countryside Alliance was proud to honour the Chatsworth Estate with the first (and, to date, only) Lifetime Achievement Rural Oscar in 2010. It was awarded in large measure because of the Dowager Duchess' decades of hard work and her vision of marrying up local produce and support for local farmers with the farm shop model, selling produce direct and joining up local food with tourism. As Clarissa Dickson Wright said at the time: "Everything really started with Debo." She was a true pioneer who was always vocal in her passion for the countryside.
l-r Richard Benyon MP, Chatsworth Estate Manager Nick Wood, the Dowager Duchess, Chatsworth Farm Shop Manager Andre Birkett, Lord Gardiner of Kimble, the Duke of DevonshireAs the Awards citation said at the time: "The Chatsworth Estate is an unlikely location for the start of a revolution, but the food and tourism revolution began there in the 70s. Britain has not looked back. The hundreds of people involved in the Chatsworth Estate deserve this proper recognition. Without the inspiration of the Devonshires and their team leading the way, we would not have such a thriving local food and rural tourism environment in the UK. The culture of direct sales from producers through the farm shop really began at Chatsworth. Heritage, education and produce, all to the highest possible standards are on show at Chatsworth.”
You can enjoy a short film about the Award here, made in 2011, in which the Duke of Devonshire and Chatsworth Estate Manager Nick Wood talk about the Estate, the ethos and, of course, the Dowager Duchess.