A village stores and café in Blackboys has won a prestigious business accolade from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).
The Grove which opened just two years ago, received its highly commended award in the Sussex Rural Enterprise category of the CPRE Countryside Awards at an awards ceremony held at Firle Place, courtesy of Lord and Lady Gage.
The Sussex Rural Enterprise category set out to showcase innovative projects which bring opportunities to rural areas through employments and/or education, and particularly projects that develop the crafts and are environmentally cutting edge.
The Grove is a village stores and café with a difference. It combines a focus on locally sourced, fairtrade products with a desire to give back to the local community.
At a time when traditional village life is dying out, according to figures which reveal rural communities are being blighted by the closure of key services, The Grove has become a community hub providing a vital service locally.
It has become host to a number of community groups and events including a thriving Scrabble club and “Tea Time Thursday” for school children. The Grove’s opening hours changed recently to allow the space to be opened up for community use between 3.30pm and 6pm.
The awards were judged by a panel including Nick Gant, University of Brighton lead on sustainable design and assistant head of School for Research, Economic and Social Engagement; Sir Charles Burrell of Knepp Castle, and Miss Margaret Moore, Vice President of CPRE Sussex. The panel was chaired by Lady Caroline Egremont of Petworth House.
Claire Lloyd, CPRE Sussex Countryside Awards Project Manager, said: “My eyes have been opened to all the hard work being done across Sussex to restore countryside icons, buildings and nature, to teach others about the beauty of nature and conservation, and to promote the fantastic produce being grown and consumed locally.”
Andrew Doherty, manager at the Grove, said contributing to the sustainability of Sussex and being part of community life were key objectives: “It’s important to us to support local producers and to make a difference in our community. We were delighted to be nominated for this award and then to be announced as a finalist. To win something was the icing on the cake.”
The Grove also hosts themed evening dining and is gearing up for the festive season with a set Christmas lunch and dinner available on Wednesdays and Saturdays in December. It will also be selling its hugely successful Christmas hampers crammed full of local and fairtrade goodies.
The CPRE Countryside Awards are a celebration of the Sussex countryside and the projects that create opportunity, enhance cherished landscapes through innovation and tackle pressing environmental issues across the county.
The awards are open to businesses and organisations across both East and West Sussex, including twelve local planning authorities, 251 parish and town councils.