Toppesfield and Gainsford End wins Essex Village of the Year competition with West Bergholt coming close second
PUBLISHED: 12:07 07 July 2016 | UPDATED: 16:47 07 July 2016
A quiet village in the heart of Essex is celebrating after scooping top prize in the county’s annual Village of the Year competition.
Toppesfield and Gainsford End, a village in the Braintree district with a population of 500, became the overall winner out of 38 entrants after judges found it to be a “vibrant” and “remarkably enterprising” community.
West Bergholt, a village on the outskirts of Colchester, was awarded second prize, followed by Steeple Bumpstead, near Haverhill, which claimed third at an awards ceremony last night.
Bradwell juxta Coggeshall, in the Braintree district, received fourth prize.
This year, judges from the Rural Community Council of Essex (RCCE) ranked winners according to what made each village special.
Toppesfield and Gainsford End has a community run village shop, with profits going to village projects.
The Green Man, a pub in the village, was saved from closure by volunteers and is now run as a community enterprise.
The judges were “really impressed” by the “huge amount” of community facilities and locally-managed events in such a small village.
They said the general feeling in Toppesfield was one of “inclusiveness and altruism”.
RCCE director Nick Shuttleworth said: “Toppesfield is a vibrant and remarkably enterprising community with a real flair for finding solutions to local issues. There must be very few villages in the whole country where both the shop and pub are successfully run by the community.”
Judges also found West Bergholt, which has a population of just over 3,000 to be “very impressive”.
It has a youth group run by volunteers, village events supported by businesses and ancient woodland managed by volunteers for the benefit of the community.
Steeple Bumpstead, which has a population of 1,400, has a volunteer-run village library, a successful business park and village magazine, while Bradwell juxta Coggeshall, which has just 512 residents, has a recently extended and modernised village hall, with an outdoor gym planned for the playing field.
They also have allotments and a community orchard.
External affairs manager for awards sponsors Essex and Suffolk Water, Sarah Pinkerton, said: “We are committed to supporting the local community, so it is a privilege to sponsor these awards to recognise the fantastic achievement of the residents of the winning villages.”
The overall winner received £500, along with Essex and Suffolk Water Shield, while the other winners were awarded £200, £100 and £50 respectively.