The Countryside Alliance Awards, Wales’ premier rural business awards, were handed out by Gareth Wyn Jones at a reception at the Norwegian Church, Cardiff Bay, on Wednesday 1st May 2019.
The Awards, nicknamed the ‘Rural Oscars’, are now in their 14th year. They were set up to celebrate rural communities, produce, skill, heritage and enterprising spirit and they run across five categories which enable the Countryside Alliance to give a platform and a voice to diverse rural businesses.
The Countryside Alliance was delighted to have Gareth Wyn Jones present the awards this year. Gareth has lived all his life at Tyn Llwyfan in Llanfairfechan with his family who have farmed the land for over 350 years producing lamb and beef. In all his work he has sought to educate the public about food, farming, it’s heritage, and time-honored traditions. As well as being a best-selling author he is very active on social media and is known as the ‘tweeting farmer’.
Countryside Alliance Director for Wales, Rachel Evans, announced the Welsh Champions, who were chosen from almost eighteen thousand public nominations. The Welsh nominations doubled this year which demonstrates just how much the public value these Awards.
Rachel Evans, Countryside Alliance Director for Wales, said: “The Countryside Alliance is proud to honour those people who are passionate about their countryside and enjoy providing quality goods, services and employment to rural communities and beyond. Everyone who was nominated should be incredibly proud of their achievements. Tonight’s winners truly are the best of the best and we are delighted to be able to applaud them.”
The Champions for Wales now advance to the British finals, to be held at the House of Lords on Wednesday 19th June. The winners were announced as:
Local Food: Drovers Rest, Peter James
Rachel said: “The winner of this category has been a local food champion for decades and during this time his passion has not wavered in fact it has become stronger and stronger as the pressure on food producers has increased in recent years which has driven Peter James to do even more. The Drovers Rest in Llanwrtyd Wells prides itself on producing fabulous flavour in dishes that are based on local produce complimented by Welsh produce from across Wales. Traceability and fresh food underpin the ever-changing menu using up surplus vegetables from local growers and supporting local farmers. Cooking courses held at the Drovers focus on local seasonal food and people return from across the UK year on year to cook and create with local Welsh produce. Peter James has developed Food Festivals for his home town and has created “Local Food Workshops” set up to educate other food businesses such as B&B’s, hotels and guest houses on sourcing and promoting local produce bringing food producers and operators together and encouraging businesses to use local fresh produce.”
Butcher: Cig Lodor, Carla Thomas and Gwilym Thomas
Rachel said: “The winner of this category is a butcher who provides her customers with a seven day a week service. Starting out as a lambing assistant on the farm at the age of just 14, Carla Thomas fell in love with farming which instilled in her a passion to produce food from the gate to the plate. This followed a butchery apprenticeship on that same farm in the shop. I’m not quite sure how to put this – but it wasn’t only the farm that Carla fell for, subsequently marrying Gwilym and becoming a mother to three children, an adored daughter in law and as described by both Gwilym and his father Mr Bennie Thomas – Carla is the king pin of the business.
All the beef and lamb is reared on the farm, produced on grass, and returned to the shop for butchering. Carla cures her own bacon and has recently developed a nitrate free curing process which has gone down very well with customers. Poultry pork and vegetables are also from local farms and she believes passionately in low food miles and traceability. The pride in producing their own farm reared meat oozes from behind the counter. Congratulations to Carla and her family on becoming the category winners who will head to the House of Lords in June to represent Wales!”
Rural Enterprise: South Denbighshire Partnership, Sally Lloyd Davies
Rachel said: “The winner of this category is what could only be described as a phenomenal social enterprise which has enriched the lives of so many vulnerable and isolated members of rural communities in the surrounding villages near Corwen. Canolfan Ni plays host to a number of activities which encourage the participation from some of society’s most vulnerable people. The lunch club is exceptionally popular and transport is arranged to bring people to the centre. Day trips are also a huge part of what Canolfan Ni offers as well as educational activities, meals on wheels, and social activities on a daily basis. The Canolfan also houses the Citizens Advice Bureau which has seen a significant number of residents being able to resolve legal and financial difficulties. From October to December in 2018, 55 local residents were advised resulting in £47,000 of debt negotiated and with £8,200 pounds worth of priority debt handled for residents. The organisation exists to benefit the residents of the community and is financed by income generation and some grant funding. But let me say this, it would not function as it does without the huge dedication and commitment that the staff and volunteers provide and my fellow judges and I warmly congratulate the South Denbighshire Community Partnership on winning this award.”
Rachel said: “This award goes to an extremely hard-working couple who have relished in providing a community service since the day they received the keys of the shop over 22 years ago. Set in the remote village of LLanguring, Colin and Mary Davies have made it a lifelong commitment to keeping the doors open of this lovely village shop which is bursting with essentials and local crafts. The service provided by Colin and Mary is hard to put down on paper. So many seek their advice, they are indeed the first port of call for residents, holiday makers and general passers-by. It’s not just the village of Llangurig they serve but they also provide an outreach service to the villages of Llandinam and work in a post office partnership advising on the running of the post office at Berriew stores where they expertise has been invaluable. For their dedication to the people and surrounding villages of Llangurig and for withstanding ruthless post office cuts we champion Colin and Mary Davies of Llanguring Village Shop and are pleased to award them as the winners of this category.”
Pub: Iorwerth Arms, Neville Evans, Hefin Edwards
Rachel said: “The winning pub is a community led enterprise which evolved from a failed bid by developers to purchase the last businesses in the village. The Iorwerth Arms in Bryngwran on Anglesy was all set to be sold but fortunately a community led project and successful bid to purchase the property resulted in what is now a real social hub for the village of Bryngwran. Mae’r tafarn eisioes wedi eu ail agor ac yn gwneud elw sydd yn sicrhau dyfodol I’r tafarn ar gymuned. The pub has re-opened and is proving to be sustainable ensuring a future for the pub and indeed the community. The pub also houses a music room for lessons and a meeting room. A recently modernised well equipped kitchen has put them in good stead to continue with their plans to offer local food. The annual music festival “Phil Phest” was created by one of fantastic volunteers who raises money for the local dialysis unit and PHILFEST goes from strength to strength with over 22 bands performing for free at last year’s event. Future development plans for the pub include the renovation of a barn to house a village shop, hair dressers and a butchers, completely rejuvenating the village.”
The Rural Hero Award is not given out annually but is only given when judges feel that amongst the nominations received a particular person has been recognised endlessly for their contribution to their community. This year the Countryside Alliance is delighted to award Mr Meirion Morgan of Morgan’s Pori Gwych the Rural Hero Award for over 65 years’ service to his community as a much appreciated butcher.
For more information contact Rachel Evans, Director for Wales on 01550 777997 or 07825 337978,
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Images: Peter Anderson, Anderson Photography