Back in May 2016 an application was made to the 2016 Essex Village of Year competition run by the Rural Community Council of Essex (RCCE). The application included sufficient information for the RCCE to place us in the judging for the final.
Tony Dunn (Parish Council Chairman), Christine Marshall (Parish Clerk), Glenn Lockey (Vice-Chairman and representing the Village Hall Management Committee) and Gareth Pritchard (Footpaths Officer) met with judges, presented our case for being considered and were questioned thoroughly. Soon afterwards we received the news that the organisers and sponsors wanted to meet with us again. This time it was the final judging. The panel of judges were visiting all finalists and spending just one hour with each, regardless of size, to finalise the results. We managed to give a good presentation, but time was short (they were asking lots of questions, asking for information and listening to our answers), so although a route was planned to show them various aspects of Bradwell, we only managed the playing field and orchard, but as they drove away afterwards they were headed to Holy Trinity Church.
On 6th July Tony, Christine and Glenn attended the RCCE Annual General Meeting, at which event the results of the Village of the Year award were to be announced. The event was held at Chelmsford City Racecourse and the guests and attendees included such luminaries as the Lord Lieutenant of Essex and a few of the Deputy Lieutenants, the new Police & Crime Commissioner, a couple of Mayors, a number of local authority Chairmen and the Chairman of ECC. This was in addition to the various sponsors and many representatives of villages around Essex, the most important of course being from Bradwell with Pattiswick PC!
The RCCE has 180 (yes, I’ve counted them!) member parish councils, from the smallest to the largest, so it was a packed audience.
Just to build the tension in the audience, the RCCE first announced the results for Best Kept Churchyard:
- St Ethelberts & All Saints, Belchamp Otten
- St Andrews, Wormingford
- Third place – St Andrews, Sandon
- Second place – St Nicholas, Berden
- First place– St Nicholas, Kelveden Hatch
The Village of the Year – class winners:
- Class 1 – Theydon Bois (more than 4,000 residents)
- Class 2 – West Bergholt (between 2,000 and 4,000 residents)
- Class 3 – Steeple Bumpstead (between 800 and 2,000 residents)
- Class 4 – Toppesfield & Gainsford End (between 400 and 800 residents)
- Class 5 – Gt Maplestead (less than 400 residents)
At this point we accepted that we had done our best and with this being the first time the competition had been entered, just to have been judged along with these winners was reason enough to congratulate ourselves. HOWEVER, next came the awards for the Top 4 villages in Essex. We had relaxed, thinking we were out of the running, so we were surprised, but unbelievably happy when the results were announced.
- Fourth place – Bradwell juxta Coggeshall
- Third place – Steeple Bumpstead
- Second place – West Bergholt
- First place – Toppesfield
This was an amazing result and it should be remembered that in the classes we were judged against villages that have a track record in these competitions – we can, and will, learn a lot from them. For example, Toppesfield not only bought out their own local shop to prevent it closing, but also the pub and then created a brewery!
For the Top 4 awards, we were judged against all entrants – large and small! Points that were particularly highlighted in our favour were the Manifesto and our transparency in saying what has been done, is being done and will be done. The Village Hall improvements and also the village orchard were also mentioned. Judges viewed the playing field and orchard
If you would like to see some of the evidence and examples given in support of our application, have a look at the following: