TWO popular venues in the Vale have scooped gold awards at this years VisitEngland awards.

The Fleece Inn, at Bretforton, took top honours in the Tourism Pub award, a brand new category, while Eckington Manor, at Eckington, swept competition away to win gold in the Taste of England award.

The awards, held for the first time during English Tourism Week, took place at the Winter Gardens, in Blackpool, at its 27th annual ceremony.

The competition celebrates excellence across the tourism industry.

This year’s awards featured 80 finalists: 16 gold winners, 17 silver winners, 16 bronze winners and 31 highly commended which were selected from over 400 entries. Winners were selected by a panel of tourism industry experts chaired by VisitEngland board member and chief executive of Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, John Hoy.

Sally Balcombe, CEO of VisitBritain and VisitEngland said, “The VisitEngland Awards for Excellence celebrate English tourism champions. These awards are the highest accolade in the industry, recognising the world class tourism experiences that can be found throughout England.”

Speaking after picking up his award, Nigel Smith, of The Fleece Inn, said: “We work really hard to give visitors to the pub a welcoming, historic and all round enjoyable experience. The Fleece has a wonderful and rich history, and a stunning location in beautiful rural Worcestershire. I owe it to the pub and all the landlords that have gone before me to keep this quintessentially English atmosphere and offering going strong. Thanks must go to the entire team at The Fleece. They do an amazing job every day, and this and our other two recent awards are testament to this. I am proud to be celebrating the unique tradition that is the great British pub and very much appreciate Visit England's recognition of the category as an engine for tourism growth."

Mark Stinchcombe, chef at Eckington Manor, said the team was thrilled to have won the taste award.

"It is a major achievement to have got the Taste of England award. It represents everything we do here and the hard work we do to produce excellent food from our own farm, orchard and vegetable garden."

Cllr Richard Morris, executive board member for economic growth and housing, said: "We are thrilled to hear of the outstanding achievements of both Eckington Manor and The Fleece at the Visit Englands’ National awards. We have known how great these two places are locally for some time but now proud we have to share them with a wider audience. Both have played active roles in our community supporting our tourism offer."