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Sussex Countryside heroes celebrated at CPRE awards

Monday, 23 October 2017 13:49

2017 Rural Enterprise Winner: Egret's Way Project 2017 Rural Enterprise Winner: Egret's Way Project

Inspiring, ingenious and innovative projects have been celebrated at the Sussex Countryside Awards 2017. Organised by the Sussex branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the awards were held at Petworth House on Wednesday, October 11.
They saw countryside heroes from across the county celebrated with everything from chocolatiers and brewers to farmers and developers winning on the night.

“This year’s awards were a fantastic celebration of the hugely diverse and exciting projects happening right here in Sussex to protect, conserve and improve our stunning countryside,” said CPRE Sussex director Kia Trainor.

There were four categories on the night – Rural Enterprise, Environmental Education, Making Places Design and New Sussex Landscapes.

The judges

The special Peter Brandon Award, in memory of the branch’s former chairman, was presented to The Bluebell Walk, Arlington.

Since 1972, the project has worked with 50 charities to raise almost £1m.

“So far, we have raised £966,000 for the charities we work with and we should reach £1m next year which we are very excited about,” said founder John McCutchen.

“In the last couple of years we have noticed a lot of families coming down through the generations so there are parents who used to come as children bringing their own families,” said Philippa Vine from the project. “It is really nice for the youngsters to get back to nature without any modern technology. I think that is why our visitor numbers seem to be increasing each year.”

The pair were presented with a hand-crafted sculptural award created by Ed Chason, an undergraduate 3D design and craft student at the University of Brighton.

Full award winners in the Rural Enterprise category were: Twineham Timber; Egrets Way, Southease; and The Bluebell Walk, Arlington.

Lady Egremont with Neville Harrison and Susan Thomson, Egret's Way

“It is an absolute thrill to win an award,” said chairman of the Egrets Way project Neville Harrison. “It is a real boost to the project.”

Egrets Way is part of the wider Ouse Valley Cycle Network and is aiming to create an accessible path from Newhaven to Lewes, creating a ‘gateway to the national park from Europe’.

Winners in the New Sussex Landscapes category were the recreation of the salt marsh in Rye Harbour and the Breaky Bottom restoration project, Northease.

Lady Egremont with Christine Hall, Breaky Bottom Vineyard

“We are really thrilled to get an award, our restoration has really been a lifeline to the building,” said Christine Hall from Breaky Bottom. “It was just great to be recognised as it is only a very small business, only a six-acre vineyard, although we have supplied the Queen for her birthday.”

The Big Parks Project, Peacehaven; Ostlers Field, Brede; Littlehampton Rain Garden; and the Bridge Cottage, Uckfield were winners in the Making Places Design category while The Oak Community Project, Durrington, won the Environmental Education category.

Terry Ellis, from the Littlehampton Civic Society, said it was fantastic the Rain Garden was getting recognition because it was a true community project. “So many different people worked on it from children up to adults, from the residents to the councils, everybody,” he said. “Even to the extent that when we first opened it was in July and we then had very hot weather and the firemen from the fire station opposite were watering it down daily.

“The people of the town have recognised it as being important. People respect it and it is proved to work.”

Mick Harker, from Bridge Cottage, said: “It is quite an honour really. It is a little project and we are so pleased it is being recognised as something worthwhile.”

He said the restoration of the 600-year-old house showed you could stay true to historic features while also introducing eco-friendly measures and creating a community resource. “It is a heritage centre and that’s the point, it is a community facility,” he said. “We have had everything from educational events to weddings and craft fairs.”

Chris Hughes from The Oak Community Project said: “It is just nice to be recognised. I just saw the awards on Facebook and thought we are definitely qualified for all of that. I applied on behalf of the guys and now here we are.”

Service user Daniel Shields said: “It has been really good, it is fantastic.”

John McCutchen and Philippa Vine Peter Brandon Award winners, Bluebell Walk

Highly commended on the night were Courtlea Housing Development, Petworth; Foresters Cottage, East Dean; Weald Smokery, Flimwell; South Downs Yarn, Rustington; Saddlescombe Farm; and So Sussex Schools Without Walls.
Commended were Noble and Stace Chocolatiers, Easebourne; Franklins Brewey, Ringmer; and Hendall Manor Barn.

CPRE Sussex president Lord Egremont was full of praise for all the winners and the event itself. “It is exactly the sort of thing we want to support,” he said. “I have been involved in the CPRE for a long time now and it is a cause very dear to my heart.”

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