LAST weekend Ludlow hosted over 20,000 visitors from near and far, who came to enjoy the celebrated annual Ludlow Food Festival.

Widely acknowledged as one of the best rural festivals of British food and drink culture, Ludlow Food Festival has gone from strength to strength since its founding in 1995, and provides a real boost, both to local tourism, and local food and drink producers.

I visited on Friday, and found visitors, exhibitors and Ludlovian volunteer organisers in good spirits, enjoying the best our area has to offer.

So it was timely last week, that the Countryside Alliance opened nominations for their 2017 Awards – nicknamed the ‘Rural Oscars’. These awards, now in their 13th year, celebrate the skills and produce, tradition, enterprise and people who go the extra mile for rural communities.

There are five categories of awards this year, all focused around rural life: local food/drink, village shop/post office, rural enterprise, butcher, and new for 2017 a best pub category, enabling people to nominate their favourite rural local.

As the weekend’s Food Festival proves, South Shropshire has some outstanding candidates in all categories.

The Ludlow area has form in the Rural Oscars, with Ludlow Food Centre taking the Midlands joint champion prize in best food/drink category last year, and the Smithy Shop in Wistanstow, also a previous regional finalist. So I am sure with the excellent food and drink producers, businesses, shops, butchers, and outstanding pubs in South Shropshire, we can see similar success this year – or perhaps go even further!

So I am calling on local residents to nominate their favourite local business in each category before the deadline of November 13, to give their South Shropshire nominees the chance for national recognition. This can be done easily online at

After the nomination stage, regional champions will be announced in March 2018, who then advance to the national final held in April 2018 in the House of Commons – so I hope to welcome local finalists representing the best Ludlow has to offer to Westminster next Spring.