Published: 00:00, 20 September 2002
CELEBRATING the best of rural Kent life on Tuesday night were representatives of 25 villages at the fifth Kent Village of the Year award.
Some 200 people gathered at the new village hall in St Margaret's at Cliffe, near Dover, to find out if their village had won an award.
Competition chairman Virginia Routh said: "There have been some very impressive entries this year, many of whom are newcomers to the competition."
Dominic King, BBC Radio Kent drive time presenter, hosted the ceremony, which was broadcast live on radio. The overall winners Otford, near Sevenoaks, with a population of 3,500, also won two categories in the large villages section.
Judges in the community life and older people categories were impressed with the community spirit in the village.
Jan Talbot, lead judge for community life, said: "It is a village which does not stand still. It inspires interest in the past and is always striving to improve the quality of life of its residents."
The village will go through to represent Kent in the Calor Gas Village of the Year in England in Wales.
Mrs Routh, presenting the award, said: "We are very hopeful they will do well in the national competition as well. It is strong in all five categories."
Kent's best villages have been recognised every year with awards or commendations at the national level.
In the large village category, St Margaret's at Cliffe took the top prize young people for their work with every age group from infants to twenties.
Bredhurst took the prize in the small village category.
Wye took the environmental action award for its outstanding contribution towards sustainability. From creating bio-diesel for vans to recycling, the village was a clear winner.
The commitment to the community prize was presented also to Richard Boden from Wye Cycle by BBC Radio Kent managing director Robert Wallace.
Mr Boden received £100 for a charity of his choice for his contribution to his community with the environmental project that has now become a model for others around the country.
Kilndown took the environmental action prize in the small village category with their Quarry Centre, which sells fair trade and local produce, being praised.
The business category went to Rolvenden for balancing the business demands of being both within a fast developing borough and in an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Despite being in a scattered area with no obvious centre, Bekesbourne and Patrixbourne scooped the community life award for small villages.
Each winner was presented with three prizes.
A tree to be planted in the village was provided by Kent Men of Trees and presented by Professor Alan Griffiths,
John Cheele of Kent Reliance Building Society, competition sponsors, and Bob Scruton of Kent Rural Community Council, who organise the awards, presented plaques to be displayed in the villages.
At the end of the ceremony, Bob Scruton from Kent Rural Community Council said: "This year we have a special category for organising village of the year competitions for five years."
The embarrassed competition chairman Mrs Routh returned to the stage to receive an award and a bouquet of flowers to a rapturous applause form the judges and village representatives.
One of the lead Judges, Jan Talbot, encouraged other villages to get involved in the awards.
She said: "Nearly all villages have problems, but don't let the problems prevent you from entering. It is how you tackle them that counts."
Overall winner - Otford.
Young people - St Margaret's at Cliffe (first), Otford (second), Wye (highly commended), Chartham, Leigh (commended).
Environmental action - Wye (first), St Margaret's at Cliffe (second), Ditton, Pluckley (highly commended), Bearsted, Hawkhurst, Smarden (commended).
Older People - Otford (first), Brenchely (second), Ditton, Horsmonden, St Margaret's at Cliffe, Wye (highly commended), Bearsted, Hamstreet and Orlestone, Leigh (commended).
Community life - Otford (first), St Margaret's at Cliffe (second), Ditton, Leigh, Smarden, Wye (highly commended), Knockholt, Rolvenden, St Marys Bay, Wilmington (commended).
Business - Rolvenden (first), Wye (second), Hamstreet and Orlestone, Horsmonden (highly commended), Bearsted, Ditton, Knockholt, Otford (commended).
Young people - Bredhurst (first).
Environmental action - Kilndown (first), Tyler Hill (second), Alkham, Selling (highly commended).
Older People - Selling (highly commended).
Community life - Bekesbourne and Patrixbourne (first), Selling (second), Bidborough, Kilndown (highly commended).
Business - Selling (highly commended).