Suffolk's village of the year revealed

IT might not be a “chocolate box” village - but its community spirit has proved enough to wow judges of a prestigious award.

Will Clarke

IT might not be a “chocolate box” village - but its community spirit has proved enough to wow judges of a prestigious award.

Residents of Elmswell, near Bury St Edmunds, were celebrating yesterday after it was named Suffolk's Village of the Year 2008.

Judges Mark Murphy and Lesley Dolphin, of BBC Radio Suffolk, said they were bowled over by the spirit of a village not blessed with the dozens of thatched cottages and picturesque squares typical of other rural communities.

They were impressed by the way the people of Elmswell made the best of what they had and helped each other out.

“Elmswell is not a chocolate box village but that is not what the competition is about,” Mr Murphy said. “It is about looking for a vibrant community spirit.

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“When we first went to Elmswell we knew it wasn't pretty but we were struck by how much is going on in Elmswell with numerous clubs, societies and initiatives.

“The village has also gone through some hard times with the closing of a bacon factory but it hasn't got people down and people are really proud to live in Elmswell.

“New eco-homes were very impressive and there were a lot of efforts to provide affordable housing.

“We were also impressed by Elmswild - a group who look after the wild spaces in the village.

“It is certainly a real Suffolk village which is going places.”

During the couple's visit they also met the local emergency services including the neighbourhood police officer, who talked them through some of the challenges Elmswell has overcome.

Sylvia Walton, 80, who has lived in School Road for the past two years, said she immediately felt welcome in the village.

“I think this award is thoroughly deserved by everyone,” said Mrs Walton. “It is such a good village to live in.

“At the end of October 2006 I had to go into hospital for a hip replacement. The day I went in two neighbours came in and sorted out my washing and when I was in hospital I had visitors every day and while I was convalescing.

“When I got back home I decided to hold a party to thank all the people who helped me while I was recovering.

“I have a large garage so I had it in there and 50 people turned up. People really put themselves out for others - not just for me but for anyone. We all rally round.”

Since the party Mrs Walton has become involved with many of the village's clubs and societies as well as the numerous church groups.

The village now goes on to represent the Suffolk in the national Calor Village of the Year competition.