From a community champion to a conservation-minded farmer, CLA celebrates rural heroes at South of England Show awards

Awards, talk from Lord and Lady Carnarvon and political roundtables among the 2024 show highlights
Lord and Lady Carnarvon giving their breakfast talk.
Lord and Lady Carnarvon giving their breakfast talk.

Excellence in rural Sussex has been celebrated at the CLA’s annual awards presented at the South of England Show.

The CLA, which represents thousands of farmers, landowners and rural businesses, was delighted to return to Ardingly with a marquee on the main ring once again this year.

On the first day of the show, the CLA hosted an awards presentation and drinks reception to recognise the amazing achievements of individuals, communities and businesses in rural Sussex.

Chris Hobbs picked up the President’s Cup, which is awarded in association with Action in Rural Sussex to an individual who has made a significant contribution to rural life in the county.

This year it was presented to Mr Hobbs, chair of Adastra Hall Hassocks Community Association, recognising his work and service in supporting his community.

Angela Milligan, community buildings advisor at Action in Rural Sussex, said: “Chris and the rest of the committee have done a tremendous job in responding to the needs of the growing community of Hassocks.

“The hall is a busy, thriving community space, with a huge range of activities, and mindful of the climate emergency, efforts are also being made to decarbonise the hall’s operations by reducing energy use and generating clean energy.

“Chris is extremely generous in sharing the knowledge and experience he has gained with other halls, and has a lovely sense of humour. He is a deserving recipient of this award.”

Mr Hobbs said: “When I joined the management committee of my local village hall nearly three years ago, little did I realise what an interesting, fun and all-consuming project I was taking on.

“Our hall has had brilliant stewardship over the past 37 years but I have loved bringing fresh ideas and impetus, and working with a great band of volunteers to create our modern-day Adastra Hall. I would like to thank them for their support, and thanks to Action in Rural Sussex for always being there to help, and finally to the CLA for presenting this award, and recognising the work that volunteers do in running facilities like ours."

Chris Hobbs (centre) won the President's Cup, pictured with Major General John Moore-Bick (left) and CLA Sussex President Hamish Monro.
Chris Hobbs (centre) won the President's Cup, pictured with Major General John Moore-Bick (left) and CLA Sussex President Hamish Monro.

The Woodpecker trophy was awarded to Roly Puzey, of Saddlescombe Farm near Brighton, as nominated by the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG), for achieving a high standard of conservation alongside commercial farming.

Colin Hedley, of FWAG, said: “Roly has shown exceptional commitment to caring for this stunning downland farm. Through he and his family’s enthusiasm and hard work, Saddlescombe is a wildlife-rich farm which is also producing high quality meat, regenerating soils and enriching the wellbeing of the farm’s many visitors.”

Mr Puzey said: “My family and I are very privileged to live at Saddlescombe Farm and get to farm in a way where wildlife can flourish. I feel very honoured to win this award.”

Roly Puzey with his Woodpecker Trophy, with Lucy Carnaghan of FWAG.
Roly Puzey with his Woodpecker Trophy, with Lucy Carnaghan of FWAG.

The Sussex Young Farmer of the Year award was given to Lucy Field, who was awarded the CLA Rose Bowl on behalf of Sussex Young Farmers’ Club for her work as events chairman for the club.

Hannah Fielding, from Sussex Young Farmers, said: “It is clear for anyone to see that Lucy has taken the bull by the horns and organised some fantastic events, not only providing great entertainment for our young farmer members, but also raising much needed funds.

“Lucy's attention to detail is invaluable when deciding on the best venues for value and quality, even down to the price difference between over 10 different venues and their price of a gin and tonic. Lucy deserves this award as her passion for young farmers is shown by her deep involvement in all events and committees that we run.”

Lucy said: “I’m really proud to win this award. Young farmers has been my life for the last seven years and I’ve made amazing friends and connections in the agricultural community in that time.

“I really enjoy giving back to a community of such brilliant people, and I will continue to do my best to organise fun and safe events for all our members. Thank you to everyone who has supported me.”

Sussex Young Farmer winner Lucy Field with Gavin Lane (centre) and Leighton Budinger.
Sussex Young Farmer winner Lucy Field with Gavin Lane (centre) and Leighton Budinger.

CLA South East Regional Director Tim Bamford said: “It is incredibly important to celebrate the achievements and the service of champions within Sussex’s rural community.

“The recipients of these awards are all deserving of recognition for their commitment and leadership in furthering Sussex agriculture, conservation and communities. The CLA would like to congratulate them all for their contributions and for making such a real difference.”

Before the presentations, CLA Deputy President Gavin Lane gave a talk on the organisation’s recent projects and successes, and thanked the CLA’s show partners Warners Solicitors and Batcheller Monkhouse for their support.

Earlier in the day Lord and Lady Carnarvon, of Highclere Castle, were the keynote speakers at a fully booked breakfast event. The Carnarvons’ 5,000-acre estate was made globally famous as the filming location for Downton Abbey, and they shared their experiences and stories.

The CLA team also hosted political roundtables with parliamentary candidates from all three major parties standing in seats across Sussex, to discuss rural and farming issues ahead of the general election. We thank everyone for their time and engagement.