From a community stalwart to a helpful young farmer, CLA celebrates rural champions at South of England Show awards

Excellence in rural Sussex celebrated at the CLA’s annual awards presented at the South of England Show
Sussex Young Farmer of the Year Brooke Kelly (centre) with Sarah Hendry (left) and Jeff Trunkfield.JPG
Sussex Young Farmer of the Year Brooke Kelly (centre) with Sarah Hendry (left) and Jeff Trunkfield

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 for the first time since the Covid pandemic began.

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.

Alan West picked up the President’s Cup, which is awarded by 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 West, recognising his work and service in supporting village and community halls. For three decades he has been Chairman of Ringmer Village Hall, which has a food bank and library, and over the years he has led its extension project; helped other halls with a range of issues and post-Covid support; and came up with the idea of a village hall ‘buddy scheme’ to provide mentoring for neighbouring halls, and has been a leader among the ‘buddies’.

He is also Chairman of the Action in Rural Sussex Community Buildings Advisory Group, a role which has seen him help organise village hall conferences and workshops, and visit Parliament to campaign on issues such as licensing and VAT with MPs.

Robert Horn, Village Halls Advisor at Action in Rural Sussex, said: “In all of this Alan has not only been generous with his time and never failed to deliver when asked for help, he has also done so with great good humour, kindness and understanding of the difficulties volunteers face.

“Whether with hall trustees, Action in Rural Sussex staff or Government Ministers, nobody could doubt his commitment to supporting our village and community halls.”

On receiving the award, Mr West said: “This has come as a surprise, a very pleasing surprise. It acknowledges the importance of voluntary support in rural communities.

“Having been brought up in a village in West Sussex and spent most of my adult life in East Sussex, I fully appreciate the diversity of our rural communities. I have always been committed to working with others to ensure that facilities like village halls and community centres are at the heart of these communities.

“They are vital to a community maintaining a sense of identity.”

Alan West (right) receiving the President's Cup from Sir Brian Barttelot (centre) and John Moore-Bick.JPG
Alan West (right) receiving the President's Cup from Sir Brian Barttelot (centre) and John Moore-Bick

The Woodpecker trophy was awarded to Mark and Richard Chandler, of Moor Farm near Petworth, as nominated by the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG).

The Chandlers were praised for their dedication to conservation, as well as for their efforts organising farm walks and training sessions.

Mr Chandler said: “We are delighted to have been awarded the Woodpecker Trophy this year in recognition of our ambitions here at Moor Farm to farm in a more sustainable way.

“Seeing how our use of integrated crop management, habitat creation and soil health improvement has brought real benefits in farmland biodiversity has improved our carbon footprint and has changed the way we view our farm.

“The conservation of habitat and biodiversity is, we believe, integral to a successful farming business and we are thrilled to see our efforts recognised.”

Colin Hedley, from FWAG, said: “It has been a pleasure to work with the Chandler’s over many years and see how they have continued to develop their comprehensive farm conservation plan. Environmental management has been delivered to all the fields they farm and the older plots and margins have now become flower and insect rich. Their enthusiasm to explore new techniques and their willingness to host farm walks and training events makes them a worthy winner.”

Woodpecker Trophy winners Mark (centre) and Richard Chandler with Sarah Hendry (left).JPG
Woodpecker Trophy winners Mark (centre) and Richard Chandler with Sarah Hendry (left)

The Sussex Young Farmer of the Year award was given to Brooke Kelly, who was awarded the CLA Rose Bowl on behalf of Sussex Young Farmers’ Club (see photo at top of the page).

Jeff Trunkfield, President of Sussex Young Farmers, said: “Brooke has been a wonderful support to Sussex Young Farmers and has held the fort together and kept us going while we searched for a new county administrator.

“She is always there to offer her help and time to any young farmer, and shows such determination in helping Young Farmers to grow.”

Brooke said: “I'm so grateful to be chosen for this award. Young Farmers is very important to me, I've gained so much from it over the years.

“Being able to help and give something back is the least I could do. When you work with some great people they inspire you to do your best and work hard. We are all in it for the same reason – to have fun.”

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, guest speaker Sarah Hendry, Director General of the CLA, 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.

CLA Director General Sarah Hendry with Andrew Griffith MP.JPG
CLA Director General Sarah Hendry with Andrew Griffith MP
Keynote talk from Andrew Griffith MP - what does 'levelling up' mean for rural?

Earlier in the day senior MP Andrew Griffith was the keynote speaker for a “levelling up”-themed breakfast.

The MP for Arundel and South Downs, who was recently announced as the Director of the Number 10 Policy Unit, shared his thoughts on the Government’s levelling up programme and in particular how it will impact rural communities and businesses across Sussex and beyond.

Mr Griffith said: “Despite global headwinds, the rural economy is making a great contribution and our British food producers and processors have never been more important.

"I am grateful to the Country Land and Business Association for inviting me to speak to their members at the show so that I could share the tangible steps being taken to support our rural economy.”

More than 100 children and families took part in the CLA's Countryside Code games.JPG
More than 100 children and families took part in the CLA's Countryside Code games
Day 2 - Countryside Code games and activities

On the second day of the show, the CLA’s marquee had an education focus, promoting the importance of the Countryside Code through interactive games and workshops with families.

Last year the CLA teamed up with LEAF Education to create resource packs for schools and youth groups to raise awareness of the code, and the pack was brought to life at the show during workshops and activities.

CLA South East Regional Director Tim Bamford said: “It was a real pleasure engaging with families through the games and sessions, and it was clear that youngsters are very passionate about getting outdoors and enjoying our wonderful countryside responsibly.”

For more information about the CLA and its work, visit https://www.cla.org.uk/in-your-area/south-east/ and follow @CLASouthEast on Twitter.

Key contact:

Mike Sims 2.JPG
Mike Sims CLA South East Communications Manager