One of the delights of being the local MP for the last couple of decades has been the opportunity it has afforded to get to know all of West Dorset’s villages and most of its hamlets.

We have, of course, some very fine towns – indeed, arguably the finest collection of towns of any constituency in Britain. But we are also blessed with a truly glorious collection of large villages, small villages and tiny hamlets – all of which contribute to the “feel” of this ancient and lovely part of the world.

They take us back in many ways to mediaeval times; but they also take us forward, because they are lovingly kept by those who live in them, and they generate enormous amounts of “social capital” in the form of a thick texture of relationships and local institutions that provide a fabric of support, encouragement and belonging.

So, I was delighted to see the other day, that West Dorset had yet again scooped up half of all the awards given to Dorset villages as a whole this past year.

I have to admit that I took special pleasure in the fact that my own village of Thorncombe (rightly) won the Best Village Shop Award (admittedly, and also rightly, alongside the village shop in another West Dorset village, Abbotsbury).

But it is only fair to congratulate equally Beer Hackett, Portesham, Shipton Gorge and West Bay on their well-deserved awards. I love in particular, that the Shipton Gorge award went to their Hedgehog Group for their contribution to biodiversity and the environment. What a wonderful thing to have a hedgehog group! I wonder how many other hedgehog groups there are. I shall investigate this – and I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that there are in fact large numbers. People are so much more concerned about these things than the national media would give you any reason to suppose.