by Countryside Alliance

_2013_NW_SillfieldYesterday saw rural businesses from as far afield as the Orkneys, County Antrim and Anglesey descend on London for one of the biggest rural events in the Parliamentary calendar - the Rural Oscars UK reception. Despite the tube strike the event brought over 250 people together on the sun-soaked terrace at the House of Lords to celebrate rural Britain at the heart of Westminster. 

 Secretary of State for the Environment, Owen Paterson MP, told a packed reception that UK food and drink is produced to the very highest standards and enjoys true global standing. He recounted being at a trade show in Shanghai to represent UK produce and bumping into previous Rural Oscars Champions Gower Brewery from South Wales, emphasising the importance of these awards in providing a platform and network for many businesses.

The UK titles were awarded to Our Cow MollyWeatherhead ButchersSpuds & Berries Farm Shop and Chalke Valley Stores, with several commendations also awarded as well as a Rural Hero dedication to long-serving shop keeper and community stalwart May Stocks, honoured for her exceptional contribution high up on the Pennine Way. Media coverage about the Awards has already been impressive and we hope our key sponsors, the Daily Telegraph, will feature Chalke Valley Stores in their Weekend section on Saturday.

While the day was a true celebration it was bittersweet as we launched the Clarissa Dickson Wright Award in memory of our great friend and long-standing judge. Clarissa's friend, Countryside Alliance President Baroness Mallalieu, read a moving tribute to Clarissa, recounting that while born and bred in London, Clarissa discovered the countryside and never looked back, enjoying the fellowship of rural life, pursuits and people. Clarissa had been consulted on this Award and had set the criteria, picked the winner and even chosen the colour the plaque should be ("claret and gold please - not Fortnum & Mason blue, they wouldn't have me".) The delighted Peter and Christine Gott of Sillfield Farm in Cumbria took the honour and Peter brought the house down when he raised his certificate and shouted "To Clarissa!"

As Baroness Mallalieu said there is true fellowship to be found in the countryside and it is our great honour to recognise and reward some of the best businesses to be found there. Congratulations to all of our winners - you can read all about them here.

Later this year we will be launching our tenth anniversary Champion of Champions initiative, bringing Awards alumni back together to celebrate a decade of the Rural Oscars and their feelgood effect. Watch this space.

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