AN EDEN businesswoman has won a special award for her long service to Cumbria.

Sarah Dunning OBE, Chief Executive of the Westmorland Group, was honoured at the 25th annual Cumbria Woman of the Year awards.

Organisers praised her 'extraordinary insight, determination and vision' as well as her leadership and commitment to the county.

The top prize went to Doreen Beattie of Kirkoswald for her foster and caring work but organisers dedicated a 25th anniversary award to Mrs Dunning. The mum-of-two oversees the family business portfolio including Rheged, Westmorland Services and the three star Westmorland Hotel. Westmorland Services has been described by the likes of consumer magazine Which Holiday magazine as the 'closest the motorway network comes to Harrods Food Hall'.

Announcing the award at the Storrs Hall Hotel, Windermere, chairwoman Tess Hart told the audience: "This award focuses on the achievement of a woman whose roots are firmly embedded in the Cumbrian fells and who has community at the heart of what she does.

"From the very start in 1972 when her parents John and Barbara Dunning - local farmers - set up Tebay Services in partnership with the local bakers, when the M6 went through their farm in the Lune gorge it was the first family run motorway services station on the UK road network - serving home cooked, locally sourced food.

"Forty years on, and with their chief executive receiving an OBE in the New Year's honours list 2014 for services to the food, drink, and hospitality sectors, they are still there - family-owned with no franchises.

"Farming and producing beef and lamb on the family farm, which is butchered at their own butchery unit and sold at the two farmshops that were successfully created, ensuring that their use of local produce was as sustainable and accountable as possible whilst also relishing the opportunity to bring these local products and many artisan producers to a wider national audience, helping to also grow their businesses."

"This award is a salute to a woman who has combined extraordinary insight with determination and a visionary approach. Her business has bucked the trend in its industry by staying close to its farming roots and we are delighted she has stayed close to them in Cumbria."

Mrs Dunning said: "It is a great honour to win this award. Cumbria Women of the Year is a wonderful event which celebrates the diverse causes to which many women in Cumbria dedicate their time. It’s very inspiring’.