A village in the heart of Essex is celebrating after capturing the top prize in the annual Essex Village of the Year and Best Kept Village Competition. The competition is organised by Rural Community Council of Essex (RCCE), sponsored by Essex & Suffolk Water and Worldbridge Ltd. and supported by Essex Life.


Felsted, in Uttlesford District, beat off strong competition from runner-up Great Waltham, and joint-third prize winners Little Hallingbury and Wickham Bishops, to clinch the prestigious Essex Village of the Year award for 2015. The top two villages receive prizes of £500 and £150 respectively. Felsted also received a new winners’ shield. The joint third prize winners share £100 between them. All prizes are provided by sponsors Essex & Suffolk Water.


The awards were presented at the Annual General Meeting of RCCE held at Writtle College on Wednesday 8th July.


Felsted is a thriving community with over a quarter of the people employed in local businesses living in the village. It has a Village Events Committee which has run special fundraising events for 17 years and recent community projects include the redevelopment of the playing field and provision of a multi-games area, the reconfiguration of the village war memorial and the provision of allotments. A Neighbourhood Plan is currently being produced which will set out a 15 to 20 year vision for the future of Felsted.


The competition, organised annually by Rural Community Council of Essex (RCCE) also includes the popular Best Kept Village in Essex awards, sponsored by Worldbridge Ltd., consultant electrical and mechanical engineers. This year’s 5 individual class winners, who each receive £150, were Brightlingsea, Feering, Wickham Bishops, Rivenhall and Little Braxted.


RCCE Executive Director, Nick Shuttleworth, paid tribute to Felsted, which has a population of 3,000 inhabitants:


“Our competition is all about rewarding vibrant, enterprising and caring villages, a description that sums up Felsted very well. Our judges met with people of all ages who showed real pride in the community and a clear vision for its future.”


He went on: “This was a close contest. Runner-up, Great Waltham, which won the competition back in 2010, impressed again. It has over 300 volunteers involved in running community organisations and its annual music festival and drama productions attract in excess of 1,000 people. It has provided 2 affordable housing schemes for local people and has plans for a third.”


The other two Village of the Year prize winners were Little Hallingbury and Wickham Bishops; jointly placed third. Little Hallingbury has its own community shop and post office run by more than 30 volunteers and Wickham Bishops has an award winning village hall and sports association which provides a focal point for the community.


Nick Shuttleworth paid tribute to all this year’s winning villages:


“This competition showcases so much that is good about rural life in Essex today. Our judges were enormously impressed by the enterprise, commitment and sheer hard work of the dedicated volunteers who do so much for our rural communities. It was great to hear new ideas and plans for the future at each of the finalists”


Sarah Pinkerton, Partnerships Manager for Essex & Suffolk Water, sponsors of the Essex Village of the Year awards 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.”