THREE local businesses are vying for national glory after being named finalists in the regional ‘rural Oscars’.

Burton-in-Lonsdale Village Shop, The Wheatsheaf at Brigsteer and Sillfield Farm, Gatebeck, have seen off thousands of competitors to be named some of the best in the North West – and are now hoping to be put through to the national heats of the prestigious Countryside Alliance Awards.

“We’re obviously really pleased and it’s come as a complete surprise,” said Helen Rollinson, manager of the Burton-in-Lonsdale shop and post office, which is a finalist in the ‘village shop/post office’ category.

”We’re a community-run shop and cafe with a lot of volunteers. It would be amazing to win the regional award and make it to the national final. The people who work hard here really deserve that.”

And Peter Gott of Sillfield Farm, which is a finalist in the ‘local food’ category, said: “We are very pleased that we have been selected.”

The Countryside Alliance describes its awards as a celebration of rural ‘produce, skills, enterprise and heritage’ in ‘small, hard-working businesses’.

The awards, now in their ninth year, recognise winners in four categories: local food; village shop/post office; butcher and ‘start-up’, which is any business opened within the last 24 months.

Thousands of business in the North West were nominated for an award but only four or five have been chosen in each category.

“I think for us it’s that a lot of village pubs are closing,” explained Nicki Higgs, who manages The Wheatsheaf with partner Tom Roberts.

"But we were willing to take a risk by opening a pub. We offer good food, a warm smile and good service – and it’s obviously working!”

Other finalists include Ravenbridge Stores, in Penrith, which is competing in the same category as Burton-in-Lonsdale Village Store, and B4RN (Broadband for the Rural North) based at Lancaster Auction Mart, which is nominated in the ‘start-up’ category and will go head-to-head with The Wheatsheaf.