A Celebration of Essex Villages

Essex Villages have been celebrated in the annual Essex Village of the Year competition organised by Rural Community Council of Essex (RCCE). The competition is sponsored by Essex & Suffolk Water and Inkpen Downie Architecture & Design Ltd and supported by Essex Life.

The winners were announced at RCCE’s AGM on Wednesday 5th July at Chelmsford City Racecourse. As usual, we had a fantastic response, with 37 villages putting themselves forward to be judged. The calibre of applicants was particularly high, with most having a variety of events and facilities for their residents and communities. The eventual overall winner was declared as Terling which is in the Braintree District. In second place is Earls Colne (Braintree District) followed by Wickham St Pauls (Braintree District) and Berden (Uttlesford District).
The winner receives £500 and the Essex and Suffolk Water Shield with other winners receiving £200, £100 and £50 respectively. The focus of the competition is on the work of communities and the efforts of local people to strengthen and sustain community life.

The villages were asked to explain “What makes your village special?”
Terling, which has a population of 750, has a plethora of facilities and events, including a small outdoor swimming pool which is funded by residents and run by volunteers. There are more than 20 clubs and activities – many in the village hall or on Lord Rayleigh’s estate. One activity of particular note is the annual International Trifle Festival which attracts entries from around the world and is in its 15th year. The village store and Post Office keeps residents up to date with what’s on and sells tickets for local events and a housing association has built bungalows for elderly residents wishing to downsize but stay in the village. There are more than 50 local businesses and the village pub successfully reopened last year. The judges were particularly impressed by the range of community events and facilities in the village and the inclusive nature of the village. RCCE Director, Nick Shuttleworth, said of the winners: “Terling is a vibrant community, proud of its past but very much looking to the future. It provides an impressive range of activities, services and employment opportunities for local people.”

With a population of 3,600, Earls Colne was one of the larger villages to enter this year’s competition.
The Parish Council is particularly pro-active and works closely with local churches, schools and businesses to provide events and facilities such as the joint carol service and shopping evening. The business park itself employs 400 local people, supports local charities and has implemented several environmental initiatives.  The Parish Council maintains three conservation areas, including the millennium green, with the help of volunteers.

Wickham St Pauls is a great example of one of Essex’s smaller villages, with a population of 300. An annual Trafalgar Night is held in the Victory public house where the ‘Wickham Chapter’ of the Belchamp Morris Men perform. In addition, there are regular community events held in village locations such as ‘Crafty Women’ and a local quiz. The village prepares a ‘welcome pack’ which each new resident receives to welcome them to the area and to introduce them to the village facilities.

The village of Berden (population 600) boasts an amazing annual village fete which started in the 1940’s and is run by over 100 volunteers. It is attended by over 1000 people and consistently raises around £10,000 for local facilities and organisations. There is also a ‘Bus stop shop’ which sets up twice a year in a bus shelter, selling local produce with profits going to village organisations. It also has a very successful Social Club which is the main organiser of village events and, since the pub closed, provides a bar on Friday evenings which is manned by volunteers.

Sarah Pinkerton, Head of External Communications for Essex & Suffolk Water, said:
“We are very proud to once again be supporting the Essex Village of Year competition. Serving our local communities is at the heart of what we do so it’s wonderful to be able to recognise and celebrate the fantastic work of local people that are going the extra mile to make a positive difference for their village.”

Click here to view the full list of winners of the Essex Village of the Year and Best Kept Churchyard competitions.

RCCE has run a countywide competition for Essex villages annually since 1955.
For more information on the Essex Village of the Year Competition contact either:
Sarah Sapsford – sarah.sapsford@essexrcc.org.uk 
NickShuttleworth – nick.shuttleworth@essexrcc.org.uk