Winners of the rural oscars announced

The North East’s Champions in the 2013 Countryside Alliance Awards, dubbed the Rural Oscars, wereannounced at a reception at Blagdon Hall last night.

The Awards are the Countryside Alliance’s annual celebration of rural produce, skills, enterprise and heritage through our small hard-working businesses. They are now in their ninth year and have become the definitive rural business award to win.

And the winners will go on to represent the North East at the UK & Northern Ireland finals at Parliament in Westminster on April 30.

Sunnyhills Farm Shop in Belford, took local food award.

Conservative parliamentary candidate, Anne-Marie Trevelyan judged the regional awards. She said: “This is a great shop, developed by a farming family since 1973 into the farm shop, butchery, deli, family friendly café and play area and gift shop there today, all the while remaining a working farm. The family have evolved the business in this way, as they say themselves, “to allow us to showcase the best of local produce and to create a retail environment for both visitors to Northumberland and our local community”. There is no nobler aim and Sunnyhills is an exceptional ambassador for farming, other producers and the enjoyment of local produce.”

Bardon Mill Village Store and Tea Room scooped the village shop/Post Office accolade, with Etal Post Office and Lavender Tea Rooms highly commended.

Anne-Marie said: “The previous shop closed in 2010 and Michael & Dawn Smith have worked hard to re-develop a great new set up for the good of the entire community. Their family is totally involved in the village and the wider community and they are always keen to hear feedback from customers about what they can do next. There is already an excellent range of services and it is growing, and the tea-shop is a welcome addition. The role of the village shop is to be the heart of the community and Bardon Mill manages this beautifully.”

The butcher champion award went to Blagdon Farm Shop, with North Acomb Farm Shop highly commended.

Anne-Marie said: “Blagdon always has wonderful produce and the butchery counter is a must-visit, offering a wide range of the finest meat Northumbria can offer. Simon and his team work hard with other farmers so that the taste and quality cannot be beaten, and the bestselling Blagdon banger needs to be tasted to be believed! There is a wide range of delicious prepared foods which are a must for busy people. The Blagdon seal is a real mark of local produce, representing both taste and quality, and the seasonal treats range from venison to lamb and summer BBQ provisions. Simon has his eye on the future of the butchery and is training up new apprentices who, like him, strive for excellence.”

And the Kichen Garden at Meldon Park took the start-up award with Zen Bakery at Bellingham highly commended.

Anne-Marie said: “Emily has made a great success story from difficult beginnings. The walled garden itself is a beautiful spot and the café and gift shop enhance it in a very sympathetic way, supporting local producers and suppliers and providing a really attractive destination with a lovely menu. Emily is involved in local charities, showing the total support her business gives to the surrounding area. This is an impressive start-up that I am very proud to put before the national judging panel.”