Accolade for village stores

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The owners of Birstwith Village Store are celebrating after being named best village shop in the annual Countryside Alliance awards.

Matthew and Andrea Walwyn have run the store in Birstwith for nearly six years and said they were delighted when they heard the news.

“We’re overwhelmed that our loyal customers, friends and our whole community felt we deserved to be nominated, and to come top in the whole of Yorkshire against very stiff competition is fantastic,” said Matthew.

Nicknamed the Rural Oscars, the awards have been running for seven years to highlight all that is good about rural Great Britain.

Simon Hamlyn, the alliance’s northern regional director, said: “They celebrate the characters, skills, traditions and enterprise of the countryside through the people who work so hard to make it tick. Each finalist has received numerous nominations from customers and supporters.”

Matthew added: “When we moved in to the Dale Stores we wanted it to be a shop window for our area - we live in beautiful Nidderdale, which is abundant with great produce so why would we buy from anywhere else?

“Paxton Farm and Weatherheads butchers in Pateley Bridge supply all our meat, we have cakes baked by a lady in the village and we even have our own range of jams and chutney called AJs so we really do source locally.

“As well as the store we also have the post office which is crucial for residents in the village.”

Research suggests that around 400 village shops will close in England this year, so the Countryside Alliance awards aim to support much needed businesses and give communities the chance to show their support for their local stores.

Matthew and Andrea will attend an awards ceremony at the House of Lords in March.