THREE local businesses have taken top spots in the regional finals of a national countryside award scheme and are in contention for a British title.

They were all nominated by the public in the 2016 Countryside Alliance Awards – known as the Rural Oscars.

Pete the Meat butchers in Evesham Road, Astwood Bank, Redditch, is joint Midlands champion in the Butcher Category of the annual accolades while Bodenham Arboretum, Wolverley, Kidderminster, is joint Midlands champion in the Tourism and Enterprise category, while Hillers Farm Shop, Dunnington, near Alcester, came joint Midlands champion in the Local Food/Drink category.

The awards are the alliance’s annual celebration of rural produce, skills, enterprise and heritage through small hard-working businesses. More than 7,500 public nominations were submitted for the current awards and these were whittled down and judged to the regional finalists.

Pete the Meat has been a butchers for 25 years and prides itself on quality products and great customer service. All meat products sold are traceable and some come from its own smallholding. The firm also makes many of the pies, burgers and sausages for sale.

Countryside Alliance judge Sarah Lee said: “Anyone feeling a bit down about life should head to Pete the Meat’s Astwood Bank butcher’s shop – they will soon be cheered up by Pete and his excellent team who have a great line in banter and enthusiasm.

“This shop’s role in Astwood Bank is very clear. A butcher should be a central part of any high street and sadly it’s not always the case anymore. Pete and his team, including a young apprentice, are passionate about the community as well as about the exceptional produce they sell.”

Bodenham Arboretum was established by David Binnian and his wife Jennifer in 1973 and is now a second generation family business. It covers 170 acres containing mature woodland, specimen trees and shrubs, pools and a working farm.

Countryside Alliance judge Jill Grieve said: “When the Binnian family first bought what is now the Bodenham Arboretum in the 1970s it was scrubby sheep land - a world away from the living, breathing beauty spot it is now.

“The arboretum now has over 3,000 species of tree and shrub, lakes and ponds, an outdoor classroom so youngsters can get to grips with nature and an impressive visitor centre and café which is packed all year round.

“The heart of the venture is the fact that it is a family affair, and that is still very clear even though Mr Binnian passed away a few years ago. The arboretum has clearly enhanced the area and draws tourists as well as locals to enjoy a walk in this peaceful and beautiful part of Worcestershire.”

Hillers Farm Shop is another popular family-run business which Jill Grieve described as “getting better and better”.

“We have honoured Hillers before in these awards, but since then they have extended their shop, cheese counter and butchery - selling Ragley Estate game too - installed a fish counter and also converted some farm buildings into a café that is so popular booking is essential,” she said.

“The Hillers family is part of the warp and weft of this Warwickshire community on the edge of the Ragley Estate and their commitment to food and farming, as well as their reputation as top local employers, makes the multi-strand farm shop a worthy winner.

“A lot of family-recipes and delicious local meat, game, as well as seasonal fruit and veg, give Hillers an edge. Sisters Emma and Sally are ever-present and fully focused on providing a welcoming family environment where taste and the best in British farming are paramount.”