The best village in Essex revealed

SOME of the most picturesque and forward-thinking villages in Essex have claimed the top prizes in this year's Village of the Year competition.

Elliot Furniss

SOME of the most picturesque and forward-thinking villages in Essex have claimed the top prizes in this year's Village of the Year competition.

Langham, near Colchester, beat off strong competition - notably from Great Bardfield and West Bergholt - to clinch the prestigious title and will now represent the county in next year's Calor Village of the Year for England contest.

The competition was held by the Rural Community Council of Essex (RCCE), a charity promoting community projects, and sponsored by Calor.

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Judges felt that in addition to an impressive community shop, Langham also boasted a well-used community centre, a recreation ground with a range of sports facilities and a “quiet garden”.

They also praised villagers for being fiercely proud of their heritage and earlier this year an eye-catching new memorial to the USAAF Second World War airfield was unveiled.

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David Winter, Langham Parish Council clerk, said: “We are absolutely amazed. We only got a merit for the Best Kept Village so we thought 'oh dear, never mind, we did our best'. We didn't cotton on to the fact there were two separate awards. We were literally astonished. It was amazing.”

Mr Winter said he thought the secret to the village's success had been its community spirit and the amount of work it had undertaken for young people.

“We're just proud of our community and its heritage,” he said.

“We have people from local parishes who think Langham is wonderful and wish they lived there.”

During an awards ceremony held at the Channels Golf Club in Little Waltham, near Chelmsford last night, Great Bardfield was named runner-up and West Bergholt received the third prize.

Speaking after the event, RCCE director Nick Shuttleworth paid tribute to Langham, which has a population of just over 1,000.

He said: “Our competition is all about rewarding vibrant, enterprising and caring villages, a description that sums up Langham perfectly.

“The way that the community centre, recreation ground and community shop have been brought together on a single site to create a real focal point for the community is especially impressive.

“Our judges were also delighted to see residents of all ages taking part in the presentation on finals day.”

He said Great Bardfield, near Braintree, and West Bergholt, near Colchester - which was also named Best Kept Village with a population of between 2,000 and 5,000 - also deserved special praise as both were working “especially hard” to address the needs of young people.

He added: “Great Bardfield has also completed the renovation of its cottage museum and now has ambitious plans for a new sports pavilion.

“This competition demonstrates all that is good about rural life in Essex. Our judges were enormously impressed by the enterprise, commitment and sheer hard work of the dedicated volunteers who do so much for our rural communities.”

In a new award this year, Great Bentley was named the first Best Green Village in Essex, after demonstrating its eco credentials to the judging panel.

The extra award was intended to encourage communities to look at what they were doing to create a “sustainable future” and conserve energy and resources.

Last night district councillor Lynda McWilliams said: “We feel great because it's the first time this has ever been done. It's great that Great Bentley has pulled it off.

“A lot of hard work has been put in and hopefully we're setting the example to other villages locally. We have done our best and the judges agreed with us.”

Ms McWillams said the village took green issues extremely seriously to the extent that they are considering installing a wind turbine on the village hall to drive down the cost of fuel.

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