First conceived in 2005, the competition was established by the Countryside Alliance to support and promote rural communities and the efforts of thousands in keeping those communities alive. It is run in conjunction with the Daily Telegraph and Farmers Weekly.
Awards are divided into four categories and the UK into 12 regions. Categories are Best Local Food, Best Village Shop/Post Office, Best Diversification and the Daily Telegraph Best Traditional Business.
Ascott Shop won Best Village Shop for the South region, which covers Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire.
Opened in November 2003 by Radio Oxford’s Bill Heine, the shop recently starred in BBC’s Countryfile and ITV’s Heart of the Country programme on the nationwide revival in sourcing and buying locally; in 2005, it was runner-up in the Oxfordshire Village Shop of the Year Competition.
Sara Rutherford, Regional Director for the South and leader of the local judging panel said: ‘The loss of the village shop some years ago on the owners’ retirement was keenly felt by the whole community. Grasping the opportunity to have a brand-new one as part of a property development, a volunteer group worked miracles, raising funds from the residents, completely fitting out the bare shell and stocking the shelves. The result is stunning and has become pivotal to the community. The group of over 40 volunteers who run the enterprise are passionate about serving and uniting the local community and devote countless hours both on and off stage to that end. In July, the village was overwhelmed by floods for the first time in 150 years, forcing many from their homes. Barely escaping the waters, the shop was manned by a rota of volunteers, donating emergency packs to the needy and serving a never-ending stream of customers with staples, ready meals and some wine to ease the pain. Not only that, the store became a nerve-centre for help and information. Everyone involved was pleased and proud to have acted as a lifeline in the crisis.’
Along with the other regional winners, Ascott Shop will be invited to a reception at the House of Lords on 6 February 2008 to celebrate their win and learn who the Alliance’s national judging panel has chosen as the UK Best Rural Retailers of 2007.
Alan Chubb, Chairman of the shop’s management committee said: “This is a wonderful Christmas present, an accolade to the shop, to the enormous team effort that has brought the shop where it is today and to the great community of Ascott under Wychwood village.”