Kent Village of the Year

Matfield seizes the title of Kent Village of the Year and Wady & Brett of Charing is Community Retailer of the Year 2010

Kent Village of the Year

There has been much talk in recent months of something called ‘the Big Society.’ We can deduce that this ‘Big Society’ is made up of people who take action in their communities to make things better. Of course, rural life has been like this for generations, so it is always good to give such people recognition for this. Kent’s annual Village of the Year competition is just one such example.

However, Village of the Year 2010 almost failed to take place when our major sponsor decided it wanted to invest money in projects addressing fuel poverty in rural areas instead. This left local competition organiser Action with Communities in Rural Kent something of a quandary: should or could the competition be run?

In the end, thankfully, the answer to both questions was ‘yes’ and it led to a slightly different approach being taken to the running of the competition.

Firstly, Kent County Council agreed to co-sponsor the competition provided that Action with Communities in Rural Kent could bring other sponsors to the table. This was achieved within a few weeks during early 2010, with Kent County Agricultural Society, Shepherd Neame, Kent Men of Trees and the organisers themselves investing in the competition.

Secondly, the lack of a national sponsor, and rules, meant that a new approach could be taken to the running of the competition. So, instead of villages entering a competition to be judged as a whole, each village could nominate community-run projects that made a real difference to local life. This led to a rapid increase in applications, with more than 60 submissions being made by the early summer deadline.

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Village of the Year: Category winners

Environmental: East Farleigh

East Farleigh won this award for the creation of a new traffic-free path enabling children to get from where they lived to a pick-up point for the local walking bus. The path was created partly by a local landowner granting access over land, and has helped reduce the need to walk along a lane which is used by cars every seven seconds during peak hours.

Transport: Lenham

Lenham’s win was in response to work by people in the village to obtain a replacement for the loss of its post-bus service. The establishment of the ‘LenBus’ came through local volunteers working to set-up a charitable body and then, through work with a County Councillor, obtaining a second-hand minibus. The bus is available for hire, and operated by a pool of 12 trained drivers.

Economy: Matfield

This category was won by Matfield, where the creation of a new village shop had come about through widespread community action. Initially the idea was to establish a community shop, with a portacabin next to the Village Hall. However, the landlords at the Star Inn, one of four pubs in the village, approached the committee of local volunteers and offered some buildings on pub land that had been in use as holiday accommodation. With support from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, the Rural Retail Consultant at Action with Communities in Rural Kent and some grant aid through the Kent & Medway Rural Access to Services Partnership (involving Kent County Council, Medway Council, the Dioceses of Rochester & Canterbury and other local bodies) to add to investment made by the Star Inn itself. The shop opened, as a private business stimulated by the community, in spring 2010.

Social and community: Kilndown

Kilndown is a village that had lost a huge range of services (shops, pub, garage, etc.) and had a village hall in a state of disrepair. The judges were especially impressed at how a community which had lost so much was able to come together to raise income to develop a brand new village hall.

The Judges’ Prize: Coldred

A special award was made by the judges to a project which showed some real innovation – and this year that went to the very small village of Coldred for a ‘living hedge.’ The idea here is that food can be grown in all manner of locations, so not only had this hedge been created as wind-break for a public space, but contain a range of edible plants free to be used, taken, eaten by villagers throughout the year. When food security is a real concern, this project showed that what we eat can be produced in the most public of spaces.

Community retailer of the year: Wady & Brett of Charing

Run alongside Village of the Year, and co-sponsored by Kent County Council, the Community Retailer of the Year competition recognises the contribution made to local life by independently owned village shops. Judging criteria includes appearance and stocking of shop, amount of local produce sold and involvement in community activities.

The six Community Retailer of the Year finalists this year featured two shops in Upchurch, and one each from Brabourne, Charing, Chilham and Matfield. The winners were Wady & Brett of Charing, run by Vin Patel.

Kent Village of the Year 2010: Matfield

For a range of reasons, including two community transport projects, its new village shop and ‘Love Matfield’ campaign, the title - not surprisingly - went to Matfield. Prizes for winning included a �500 voucher towards a new community project, donation of a tree, and installation of two new road signs proclaiming Matfield as ‘Kent Village of the Year 2010.’

So, in all, a celebration of real contributions to local life in villages across Kent. As Councillor Andrew Wickham, of Kent County Council, put it: “This competition is public acknowledgement and appreciation of the work villagers do in ‘going that extra mile’ for their community.” Congratulations to all the winners, and numerous runners up. Big contributions, big impact, big society!


Action with Communities in Rural Kent intends to run a Kent Village of the Year competition in 2011. For further information on entering, or providing sponsorship, please contact Miranda Hayes, Director of Finance & Resources, Action with Communities in Rural Kent tel: 01303-813790 or email: