Winners of 2023 New Forest rural awards announced

Despite the rain, CLA and New Forest National Park Authority celebrate rural champions at inspiring show reception
Winners in the ring at the New Forest and Hampshire County Show 2023.JPG
Winners in the ring at the New Forest and Hampshire County Show 2023.

The CLA and New Forest National Park Authority have crowned the winners of the 2023 New Forest rural awards.

Now in their 10th year, the awards celebrate young environmental champions, diversified rural businesses, farming and nature champions, local produce champions, young farmers and commoners, and sustainability champions who support the New Forest’s landscape and economy.

The winners were recognised at a special ceremony at the New Forest and Hampshire County Show, with individual trophies presented by show patron Lady Mary Fagan.

Following the presentation winners, guests and CLA members enjoyed a drinks reception in the members' enclosure, kindly supported by Moore Barlow.

The winners were:

  • Young Farmer/Commoner: Ben Mansbridge from Longdown
  • Best Supporter of Local Produce: Daisy Meadow Dairy, Botley
  • Rural Diversification: Popell Barns Mobile Farm, Botley
  • Sustainability Champion: Hockey’s Farm Shop, South Gorley
  • Young Environmental Champion: Jamie Ward from Lymington
  • Farming and Nature Champion: Richard Stiles from Titchfield.

Tim Bamford, Regional Director of CLA South East, said: ‘It’s fitting that in our 10th year of these awards we have seen so many high-quality nominations, and we would like to congratulate all of the deserving winners, who make such a contribution to Forest life, community and the environment.

‘The CLA along with the New Forest National Park Authority is proud to support the awards once again this year, as they highlight the hugely important role played by farmers and other rural businesses in managing the landscape and helping our communities prosper.

‘We would like to thank everyone who took the time to enter, as well as our event partners Moore Barlow for their continued support.’

Alison Barnes, CEO of the New Forest National Park Authority, said: ‘It‘s great to be able to reward people who are helping to safeguard the National Park as a living, working Forest. Every year the standard of entries is extremely impressive, and it’s heartening to know that so many people are working hard to ensure the New Forest is protected and enhanced.

‘Over the last 10 years of the awards we have recognised more than 100 people for their great work. We are receiving many more nominations now than in past years and every nominee should be immensely proud to have been put forward.’

More on the winners

Ben Mansbridge won the Young Farmer/Commoner award for his support of fellow commoners and his dedication to keeping the rare tradition of commoning alive. A full committee member of the Commoners Defence Association, Ben rides on as many drifts as possible to help round up the Forest ponies, makes his own hay and is passionate about the breed lines. Ben’s own stock stems from his grandfather’s bloodlines, and he’s keeping it in the family by introducing his two-year-old son to the commoning tradition with his own brand mark and small herd.

Daisy Meadow Dairy (Popell Farm Shop) won Best Supporter of Local Produce due to the huge amount they've achieved to promote local produce as a small business. Owners Holly and Lester Brooks stock an ever-expanding array of local produce in their farm shop, and offer fruit and veg deliveries. They’ve also introduced a dairy herd for milk, cream and ice cream, which they sell at the farm gate as well as deliver.

Winner of the Rural Diversification category was Popell Barns Mobile Farm, set up to educate children on the importance of high animal welfare standards, farming sustainably, and food provenance. Farmer Holly Brooks takes the mobile farm to visit local schools, pre-schools and fetes. She also welcomes visiting schools and local children with special educational needs to the farm.

Sustainability Champion was awarded to Hockey’s Farm Shop. Long recognised as champions of local produce, Jonathan and Laura Stainton-Burrell have demonstrated their commitment to sustainability through investing in solar panels which generate about half of their energy consumption. They also have a 60,000 litre rainwater harvesting system, a water treatment plant to replace a septic tank, and insulation in their shop and café. These measures, coupled with extensive hedge planting on the farm, make Hockey’s a great example of how a small businesses can contribute to environmental sustainability.

Keen conservationist Jamie Ward from Lymington was crowned Young Environmental Champion. Jamie, 13, has been passionate about wildlife from a young age. He’s a trainee bird ringer and works with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) conducting bird surveys across the Forest. He organises guided walks with Wild New Forest aimed at young wildlife enthusiasts, giving his time freely to help encourage youngsters to get out and enjoy the natural world. He enjoys sharing his passion with his peers in a supportive, selfless way, sharing not only his impressive knowledge but his enthusiasm and equipment – to make sure young people get the most out of his guided walks.

Farming and Nature Champion 2023 was Richard Stiles, whose commitment to conservation and nature recovery shone through. On his farm in Titchfield, he has taken field corners out of production and planted wild bird seed mix to support wildlife during winter, as well as planting wildflower margins and grass seed mixes near water courses to help with water runoff. He’s introduced over a kilometre of hedging on the farm in partnership with CPRE Hampshire and Hampshire County Farms, as well as planting a further kilometre himself. Richard has installed barn owl and kestrel boxes on the land and has hosted students from Sparsholt College for a farm walk and talk.

Quotes from the winners

Winners’ quotes:

Ben Mansbridge said: ‘I’m really pleased to have won. It shows that an average commoner who does a lot of work in the background can step forward and be appreciated.’

Lester Brooks of Daisy Meadow Dairy said: ‘We’re thrilled to have been recognised for this award as we have put in a lot of hard work. It’s great to be able to promote other local producers.’

Holly Brooks of Popell Barns Mobile Farm said: ‘I’m passionate about educating and giving back to young people and it’s amazing to be recognised for something we started as a small family business.’

Jonathan Stainton-Burrell said: ‘This award means a great deal to us as a small business in the New Forest. Sustainability is at the heart of what we do at Hockey's Farm Shop with everyone here buying into that making our achievements a genuine team effort. Thank you.’

Jamie Ward said: ‘It’s an honour to be selected to win this award, it means a lot to me. I am passionate about wildlife and this recognition will motivate me. I am keen to make a career out of wildlife conservation.’

Richard Stiles said: ‘I am delighted to have won Farming and Nature Champion - it's a big achievement in my farming career. I could not have done this without being a Hampshire County Farms tenant. Thank you!’

Highly commended recipients

Due to the strength of the nominations, we also awarded the following highly commended certificates:

Young Farmer/Commoner

Emma Hunt from Romsey who has demonstrated a passion for animal welfare and sustainable farming, as well as getting young people involved in agriculture.

Best Supporter of Local Produce

New Forest Fruit Company Ltd – who are leading the charge in innovation and sustainability.

Pilley Community Shop – which continues to add yet more lines of local food, drink and craft from New Forest producers.

Sustainability Champion

New Forest Collection – for a range of sustainability initiatives across its group of hotels.

Young Environmental Champion

Anna Cooper – who focuses on training local people how to conduct wildlife surveys for the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.

Farming and Nature Champion

Daniel Burden – for his great work creating wildlife corridors, implementing rainwater harvesting systems and installing solar panels on his farm in Fordingbridge.