by Tim Bonner

It is my favourite time of the year when, through the Countryside Alliance Awards, I get to meet the inspirational individuals and businesses that make the countryside tick. In the 14 years the Rural Oscars have been running we have honoured hundreds of businesses and communities. What makes these Awards so special is that they are totally down to the public and give customers the chance to tell us why their favourite businesses are worthy of national acclaim. The Rural Oscars represent the gold standard in rural business awards, and winning is a testament to a business’s commitment to hard work for their community and the countryside.

2019 has been a record year for the Awards, with over 18,000 nominations, demonstrating the growing popularity amongst consumers for supporting ‘local’ produce, and the importance of rural businesses to their communities. The Awards are run across five categories: Village Shop, Local Food, Pub, Butcher and Rural Enterprise; as well as the Clarissa Dickson Wright Award and Game Champion.

This year’s regional champions are all truly exceptional, and that is not surprising considering the number of nominations received. The secret to the Rural Oscar’s popularity is that they honour the people involved and not just their produce or services. They exist to sing the praises of those who work hard to keep our rural communities and economy working but don’t seek the limelight.

With such an amazing response from the public to the Awards came the incredibly difficult task of selecting our regional finalists and then our regional champions. Our judges travelled the length and the breadth of Britain and had the privilege of meeting and selecting the regional winners. This was far from easy and something all the judges take very seriously. We looked for businesses that were not only the hub of the community and celebrated local produce, but had something extra making them truly exceptional.

We have now reached crunch time where our national judges, who include food writer and MasterChef critic William Sitwell and Philip Johnston of the Daily Telegraph, will select our national winners who we will crown champions at the Winners’ reception next month in the House of Lords.

I have great pleasure in introducing our regional champions to you and I can whole heartedly suggest that if you have one close by that you pop in this weekend and sample their delights. I know I will be seeking out mine.

Follow me at @CA_TimB

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