Judging is to recommence in a contest dubbed the 'rural Oscars' in which a Dorset farm shop is a regional finalist.

Steeptonbill Farm Shop at Milton Abbas is a finalist in the best local food/ drink category of the Countryside Alliance Awards.

The awards, which recognise outstanding businesses in the countryside, have relaunched to comply with restrictions on domestic travel.

Due to Covid-19 and subsequent lockdown restrictions, the judging for the 2020 Awards was sadly postponed. But judging will now recommence virtually.

Steeptonbill Farm Shop is situated on the edge of Milton Abbas and sells local meats, dairy and vegetables.

In 2017 Steeptonbill was voted by the Daily Telegraph one of the top 20 farm shops in Britain and more recently won the category for Best Customer Care at the Dorset Food, Drink & Farming awards.

Sarah Lee, Director of the Countryside Alliance Awards said: “ We were incredibly sad to have to postpone judging last year, but it was necessary. There were so many excellent rural businesses nominated by tens of thousands of people from across the countryside. We are pleased to say that those businesses shortlisted for awards last year, will have the opportunity to win this year.”

The Countryside Alliance Awards, dubbed the ‘Rural Oscars’, which was founded in 2006, have crowned thousands of rural businesses across the country. Entrants, which are categorised, are submitted by members of their local community and judged by a panel. Previous judges have included William Sitwill, food critic and author, Clarissa Dickson Wright, cook; and Michael Gove MP.

Another finalist from Dorset competing in the best local food/ drink category is Gullivers Farm Shop and Kitchen in Ferndown.

As well as the usual categories, which include best butcher, best pub and best post office, the Alliance are also seeking the public’s help in finding nominations for ‘Rural Heroes’.

This new category, the Alliance say, is in honour of all those people or community groups in the countryside who have gone the extra mile to help those most in need during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Rural Hero campaign will celebrate those small and big things that have made our lives just that little bit more bearable over the last year.

Heroes can be nominated at the website www.countryside-alliance.org