By Alan Titchmarsh - 6th December 2005 10:48am
The Cheshire village of Audlem has won the regional title for North England, as well as an overall award for Building Community Life (sponsored by Defra) in the 2005 Calor Village of the Year® for England competition. The results of the competition were revealed at an awards luncheon held on Tuesday 6th December in London. Audlem was competing against a total of 40 other villages throughout England which were nominated to represent their respective counties in this prestigious event.
The Calor Village of the Year® for England competition is organised and funded by Calor with additional funding from Defra specifically to support the Building Community Life category. The competition assesses communities on six aspects of village life in total — one of which is Building Community Life. The other five categories cover Business, Young People, Older People, the Environment and, judged separately, Information Communications Technology (ICT).
Audlem initially carried off a regional category prize for Defra Building Community Life before being announced as the 2005 Calor Village of the Year® for North England, beating off competition from villages representing Cheshire, Cumbria, Humber & Wolds, Lancashire, North Lincolnshire, Northumberland, Redcar & Cleveland, Tees Valley and Yorkshire to gain the regional title. As the regional category winner for Defra Building Community Life, Audlem was up against four other regional winners for the overall Defra Building Community Life Award. Audlem triumphed over Grasby, Lincolnshire; Dullingham, Cambridgeshire; Cradley, Herefordshire; and Eastry, Kent to win the overall Defra Building Community Life Award and the £2,000 prize money.
Finally, in an exciting finale, the village narrowly missed out on the overall title of 2005 Calor Village of the Year® for England and £6,000 top prize, which instead went to Derbyshire village, Ashover.
The Defra Building Community Life category of the competition was launched by Calor this year, with the support of Defra, in order to enhance the community life element of the competition. By supporting the competition, Defra wants communities to recognise the most fundamental quality which determines whether a village operates successfully as a community — that is how it ensures the inclusion of all groups or individuals, particularly the most vulnerable, in a cohesive and mutually supporting community.
Representatives of Audlem, which was nominated to take part in the competition by Cheshire Community Council, were presented with their Defra Building Community Life Award by special guest Jim Knight MP. Minister for Rural Affairs, Jim Knight congratulated this years winners of the Building Community Life Award and praised the efforts of all those involved saying: "For me the Defra Building Community Life category of the competition is about maintaining and supporting vibrant and self-sustaining rural communities in villages and market towns, particularly focusing on inclusionof people outside the mainstream. Rural communities have the same essential needs as urban communities but geography dictates that we may require imaginative and innovative delivery solutions."
He went on to say:"The judges of the Building Community Life Award looked for well-balanced, pro-active, caring communities which, irrespective of size, have made the best of local opportunities to maintain and enhance the quality of life for all residents."
In a county considered as prosperous as Cheshire, a village as well serviced as Audlem might be in danger of being complacent about the services and facilities it has. However Audlem clearly demonstrated that it is anything but complacent. The village is a large one with a population of 2000, churches, village pubs, shops and a well equipped Public Hall and, although it is 7 miles from the nearest town, it makes up for this by being a very self sufficient village. It has a strong desire to achieve community cohesion and an understanding of the special needs of those who might, in other communities, feel left out.
There is always a lot happening but with a very outward focus. The community of Audlem is very supportive of all of its residents and all those who work in, or simply visit, the village. This can be seen in the scale, variety and success of village activities and events such as the Transport Festival, Proms on the Park and the Music and Arts Festival.
The judges commented that in winning the overall Defra Building Community Life Award, Audlem has demonstrated how it reaches out to its potentially excluded residents, to people in the surrounding area and to visitors. The parish council and community groups are well supported, have built upon their experiences, pooled their skills and are reaping the benefits of their efforts.
However, rather than resting on its laurels, the community continues to make huge efforts in order to improve things even further. Audlem is a dynamic community, which is always looking to the future to make things better.
Celebrity author and broadcaster, Alan Titchmarsh, was the guest of honour at the awards luncheon. He was joined by Calor's managing director, Howard Kerr, to present representatives of Audlem with their additional awards, which included £2,250 prize money, for winning the Building Community Life category in the North England region and the overall Calor Village of the Year® regional title.
Alan commented: "Rural communities are an essential part of the fabric of our country — they are the backbone of British life. It is for this reason that the Calor Village of the Year® for England competition, which aims to support and promote village life, is such a positive event and something which I am happy to support. The competition highlights the very best of village life, encouraging villagers to work together to the benefit of all residents. More importantly, it provides a forum for communities to share best practice and encourages them to address any problems or opportunities that become apparent following their involvement in the competition."
Calor's managing director, Howard Kerr, commented: "Feedback from villages over the years confirms how those entering the Calor Village of the Year® competition are amazed at the richness of community life that is revealed as they go forward. The 2005 competition has once again highlighted some extraordinary communities across England as well as some great examples of how villages are working to achieve a better quality of life for residents. I would like to take this opportunity to thank every village that has taken part this year and congratulate them on their achievements, whether they have won a prize or not."
"The Calor Village of the Year® competition has been supporting rural communities for nine years and many villages have benefited from taking part — either at county or national level. As the competition reaches its 10th anniversary, we are confident that villages will continue to benefit in the future. Thanks must also go to Alan for his continued support, which is sure to raise the profile of the competition and spread the message to even more communities."
If you would like to contact Jim Knight, Minister for Rural Affairs, Alan Titchmarsh and Calor Gas about this article, send a message to the webteam and we will gladly pass it on.
Saturday 7th Dec
Friday 6th Dec
St James' Church
Scout & Guide Hall