by Sarah Lee

The Countryside Alliance Awards, now in their 15th year, are one of the Countryside Alliance’s most popular initiatives and a highlight of the year for rural businesses across the country. They are covetable to win because they are far more than just rural business awards – they are primarily about the people of the countryside. 

This year, despite Covid, has been no different. We have heard how hard businesses have worked to keep serving their communities with a smile and a kind word during the last 18 months, and it is a tribute to their hard work, ingenuity, and doggedness that when the supermarket shelves were bare, these businesses were still able to provide for their communities.

Like everything this year we have had to do things a little differently and many of you will have joined us on Wednesday night when we announced our champions via a video on our Facebook page, but if you missed it, let me introduce you to them.

The champion of the pub category is The Cotley Inn in Somerset which has been transformed by a dynamic duo into the heart and soul of the local community with a focus on championing local food from a 25 mile radius. Meanwhile, our village shop champion, Dale Stores in Birstwith, fought hard to keep the Post Office open which meant they were able to support lots of local businesses and keep the local economy strong.

Our rural enterprise winner, Barn Farm Drinks, and local food winners, Cross Lanes Organic Farm Shop, both had a focus on producing top quality local food and drink but were also looking after the environment. 

Our butcher champion, Lavenham Butchers, stay true to their ‘field to fork’ ethos, and their total commitment to providing locally sourced, sustainable meat and produce shines through every inch of the shop. 

The Clarissa Dickson Wright Award has gone to a business that teaches children how their food is produced, and the work farmers and growers do to put food on all our plates. Education of the next generation was a passion for Clarissa and Barleylands excels at connecting children to the food they eat and how it is produced. 

Finally, our Game Champion, Hunter Gather Cook, is a business that is all about adventures with wild food. They are a foraging and cookery school that specialises in game butchery and outdoor cookery. Everything from butchery to brewing is conducted in the woods to ensure you view the surrounding landscape as your very own larder. 

These businesses have all set the gold standard and the judges had to make some tough decisions this year, but all our regional winners deserve your support and you can find your local ones here. If you find yourself at a loose end this bank holiday weekend then I suggest you visit one of your regional winners to show your support for our fantastic rural businesses.

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