VICTORIOUS villagers spoke of their pride as Dorset’s rural communities were celebrated.

And it was Purbeck’s night at the 2012 Dorset Best Village Competition with Winfrith Newburgh and Church Knowle winning top prizes.

A ceremony at Corfe Mullen village hall saw awards presented to recognise the best villages and community projects.

The Echo-backed awards include the Best Kept Village which has been organised by Dorset Community Action since 1987.

While it recognises rural communities which are clean and tidy, it has also proved to be a catalyst for the improvement of facilities and village life as it encourages people to take pride and raise standards.

Best large village was won by Winfrith Newburgh which delighted parish councillor Ruth Evans and clerk Mandy Stephens.

Ruth Evans said: “It’s the third time we have entered. The first year we won, the second year we came second and this year we won it back again.

“We knew we were getting a special award from Purbeck District Council this year and thought we were just going back with that so we’re exceptionally pleased.

“We think we will put the plaque outside the village shop because we get a lot of tourists there.”

Mandy Stephens attributed much of the work to village maintenance man ‘Kiwi’ Mays who keeps the area looking tidy. She added: “It’s a lovely village with a great community spirit.”

Chairman of Church Knowle Parish Council Hazel Parker was ‘absolutely thrilled’ after picking up best small village award. She said: “We’re really chuffed because as well as getting this award, East Creech, which is part of our parish, picked up the award for the new entrant with the highest percentage marks. We’re a small place but a strong community.”

Melcombe Horsey, which provides a ‘book swap’ facility in an old telephone kiosk, won the best hamlet.

Shipton Gorge won the People’s Project Award for its community pub project at the New Inn as well as a special environment award from West Dorset District Council and the Dorset Echo award for a previous winner in the small village category.

Simon Cleveland from Shipton Gorge Village Society paid tribute to new pub manager Marilyn Hewett.

Askerswell won the Environmental Champions Award for its village recycling scheme.

Magna Housing Association became the major sponsor for the Dorset Best Village competition three years ago and will be sponsoring it for the next three years.

Additional support comes from Dorset County Council, the four district councils and businesses including the Dorset Echo.

Prize winners

Large Village Award: Winfrith Newburgh 

Small Village Award: Church Knowle 

Hamlets Award: Melcombe Horsey 

New Entrant – Highest % Marks: East Creech

Peoples Project Award: Shipton Gorge

Environmental Champions: Askerswell  

Previous Winners Small Village: Shipton Gorge 

Previous Winners Large Village: Winner Pimperne