CPRE Hampshire Countryside Awards go from strength to strength

CPRE Hampshire Countryside Awards go from strength to strength

Youngsters from Hampshire are among the winners in this year's CPRE Hampshire Countryside Awards announced on Friday evening. Supported by nature-friendly farmers, Steve's Leaves from north Hampshire, this annual event is becoming a showcase for inspiring, positive projects around the county.

The Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire, Dame Mary Fagan DCVO JP, kindly presented the awards on behalf of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (Hampshire), at Itchen Abbas Village Hall. Dame Mary praised all of the finalists and encouraged those present to support the charity.

The annual awards, which are run by CPRE Hampshire in conjunction with Hampshire Fare and Hampshire Ambassadors, have been celebrating the county's diverse, living countryside since 2007. The principal supporters of the scheme are Steve's Leaves, a bunch of pioneering farmers who grow tasty, nutritious baby leaves. They do something called nature friendly farming, where 10% of the land is dedicated to nature and the creation of habitats to encourage wildlife.

The winners were:

Andover Trees United, in the Youth Category;

Jodrell Close Wildlife Garden, Horndean, for the Voluntary and Community Category, supported by The Southern Co-operative (TSC);

and Upham Brewery Expansion Project, near Winchester, in the Rural Enterprise category, supported by SmithsGore land agents.

Mike Rushworth, managing director of Steve's Leaves commented: 'These awards bring together people around the county who are doing wonderful things for the countryside. There is a genuine partnership and shared interest between Steve's Leaves and CPRE Hampshire that has developed over the three years that we have supported the event. We believe that the more people come together and talk about these important issues and share their enthusiasm for projects that are going on in different areas, the more we can start to make a difference to people and wildlife across the whole county.'

Last year, two of the winning entries were from the north of the county. Councillor Dan Putty, Mayor of Basingstoke and Deane attended the event this year. He added: 'What a vibrant community we have in Hampshire, for people to excel in what they do and bring us so much satisfaction; helping us to really value, respect and look after what we have.'

The CPRE Hampshire Countryside Awards 2014 are now open for entries in three categories: Youth, Rural Enterprise and Community and Voluntary. Projects must have been completed during the three years prior to the award (i.e. 2012-2014). For more information please email info@cprehampshire.org.uk or telephone 01962 779185.

The Youth Category

Andover Trees United was a worthy winner of the 'Youth Category'. The brainchild of Wendy Davis, the project involves 25 local schools, youth groups, volunteers and businesses working in partnership with specialist environmental organisations. The aim is to involve every young person in the community in planting 10,000 trees in and around Andover over ten years.?

Wendy Davis explained: 'I have worked with children who understand the outdoors only through going to a shopping centre, or playing on a built play area or a managed sports-field. The Andover Trees United planting scheme is a way of showing them another element to the outside, and truly connecting them with more natural and wild spaces.'

Dr Steve Rothwell of Steve's Leaves, said: 'We were particularly impressed with the scale and widespread enthusiasm for the project. This project highlighted how an idea can have a lasting effect on a whole community. We hope that it will not only foster a life-long interest in the countryside, but will mean this generation will go on to inspire their children and leave a lasting legacy for the town of Andover.'

Steve added: 'Both of the finalist projects were special in their own way. We have never received such a warm welcome as we did at Herne Junior School in Petersfield. We were so impressed with the students' enthusiasm and passion for their school, learning and the wildlife projects. The Narnia Reading Garden is a great way to encourage children to get out into their environment and to develop their reading skills - we applaud the initiative and look forward to hearing more about their activities.'

The Rural Enterprise category, supported by SmithsGore

In the Rural Enterprise category, the winner was the Upham Brewery Expansion Project. The other shortlisted project was the Chestnut Horse public house at Easton.

Simon Blandford, Partner at SmithsGore, Winchester office, said: 'Once again we are delighted to be associated with the prestigious CPRE Hampshire Awards.

'The finalists in the SmithsGore sponsored 'Rural Enterprise' category showcase the strength and diversity of rural businesses in the Winchester area. Both candidates have demonstrated confidence in their ability to influence the local rural economy by creating employment opportunities and support for other producers in the area; confidence is critical for businesses and is often an early indicator of profitability. We are delighted that the businesses in our region are driving investment and production and the rural economy and local people are benefiting as a result.'

The Community and Voluntary Category, supported by The Southern Co-operative (TSC)

Gemma Lacey, Head of Sustainability at The Southern Co-operative paid tribute to all the shortlisted projects in the Community and Voluntary category.

Gemma said: 'Active and genuine involvement in our local communities is integral to The Southern Co-operative's way of working, so we were delighted to sponsor this award. We were very impressed with all the projects and the choice of winner recognises how a simple idea with a strong local focus can really transform the environment and local community - a great initiative that we hope will inspire others.'

The winner, Jodrell Close Wildlife Garden, Horndean was initiated by the then nine-year old Marshall Riddell and has transformed itself into a small but remarkable community project which has mobilised local residents and others, like Radian, the local housing association and local Police Community Support Officers to create a community wildlife garden. The garden is now a living centre-piece for the community, being respected and enjoyed by local residents and the wildlife.

Inspirational Volunteers 2013 award

A fourth, surprise award was given because the judges were so impressed by the volunteers' enthusiasm and hard work in creating the Gypsy's Wildlife Pond, at the Hawk Conservancy Trust. The project team received an 'Inspirational Volunteers 2013' award recognising the level of commitment and involvement from local volunteers.

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