The green Oscars - Hertfordshire's countryside awards season
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Celebrating great rural and green projects in the county, CPRE Herts is calling for nominations to its annual awards. Do you know a deserving cause asks Liz Hamilton
Since the Campaign to Protect Rural England Hertfordshire Awards were introduced in 2013 we have received more than 160 nominations for projects and people working to enhance Hertfordshire's environment and support rural communities. We took a break in 2021 and have now refreshed our categories to reflect more closely the work we do in the county.
The new-look awards recognise and celebrate inspirational activities in Hertfordshire which connect people with the countryside and their local green spaces, promote rural life and ensure communities thrive, or improve or protect the rural environment.
New for 2022 is a Made in Herts category recognising excellence in sustainable farming or local foods, products using local materials, or craftspeople and artists, in particular working in rural areas or with rural themes.
Nominees might be volunteer-run projects or community groups, events, individuals or small businesses. We also hope to make an award to an outstanding project or activity run by or on behalf of young people (up to the age of 21), in any of the categories above.
One of the very first recipients of an award back in 2013 perfectly illustrates our theme of connecting people with the countryside and their local green spaces. The Ver Valley Society's nine walks based around the river, available online or as leaflets, help people to explore the beautiful rolling countryside of the river valley.
The same year another award recognised the heart of many thriving rural communities, the village hall. Benington Village Hall trustees were recognised for the rebuilding of their annex and updating and enlarging the hall's facilities for numerous local groups to enjoy. More recently village hall restoration projects have been recognised across the county, including at Bramfield, nominated in 2019 for its major restoration and provision of an annex for use by local sports clubs.
An organisation using another renovated and updated village hall, at Redbourn, is the Redbourn Care Group, an award recipient in 2016. Central to its activities are its volunteer drivers, who provide a vital community transport service locally, helping to alleviate loneliness and promote independent living. A highlight of the week is the pop-in event at the village hall, which many residents can access thanks to the group's transport.
Other nominees supporting rural community life have included volunteer-run community libraries, village festivals, playgrounds, an annual fun run and a community choir.
Especially where public transport is poor or non-existent, village shops are a lifeline. Several shops have been nominated for our awards, including Wigginton Village Shop and Café and Tewin Stores and Café, which received awards in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Village shops often focus on stocking locally grown and made products, another way they promote rural life and help communities to thrive.
Volunteer groups working to improve or protect the rural environment always feature strongly each year. They range from 2014 nominee, the Oxhey Woods Conservation Volunteers, to 2020 award winners the Friends of Halsey Field Local Wildlife Site. We have recognised community orchards, projects improving several of the county's chalk streams, litter-picking groups, a nest-box scheme and numerous groups protecting local spaces for communities and wildlife alike.
We hope our new Made in Herts category will attract nominations for a wide variety of individuals and businesses, making the most of the produce from Hertfordshire's countryside, inspired by the rural environment, or maintaining the rich tradition of vernacular buildings in the county. Redbournbury Watermill and Bakery received an award in 2017 - one of the last remaining working water mills in the county, it continues to mill locally-grown grain and produce bread on the premises.
If you know an aspiring project, business, event or individual in Hertfordshire that deserves recognition, please nominate them. We also welcome self-nominations. The closing date for entries is May 31.
For full information about the awards and a nomination form, visit cpreherts.org.uk
CPRE Hertfordshire is grateful for the support we receive for the awards from Hertfordshire Life and Hertfordshire County Council.