Success for Norham butcher in 'Rural Oscars'

NORHAM butchers R.G. Foreman and Son has won the regional final of the Countryside Alliance Awards, nicknamed the 'Rural Oscars'.

It took top honours in the Daily Telegraph Best Traditional Business Award and will now represent the north east at the national finals in London next month.

Proprietor David Foreman, who also has a shop in Eyemouth, said: "It's fantastic news and we're delighted - it's a brilliant advert for what we're trying to do here.

"To win the north east award, which covers such a huge area from the Scottish border down to Yorkshire, is a real achievement in itself but hopefully we can go a step further in the national final."

The Countryside Alliance Awards, now in their fifth year, aim to celebrate the characters, skills, traditions and enterprise of the countryside.

David said: "I know in our category the judges were looking at the way rural businesses have diversified so to be recognised in this way is very pleasing.

"We still have the butchery as the main part of our business which guarantees complete traceability on the meats we sell but we also have 200 wines in stock and a delicatessen with over 60 cheeses.

"We also have fly fishing and air rifle businesses so in a way we've created a small country sporting store in Norham.

"I also think what we're doing here fitted in quite well with what the judges were looking for," he added. "One of the criteria they were interested in was our staffing, how they are trained and how we manage apprenticeships.

"A lot of our staff have worked for us for many years, including George Slight who has now clocked up 37 years at the Norham shop, so they know what they're doing."

Foremans was nominated for the award early last year by three of his customers, the late Alan Herriot, his son James and Ronald Barber.

"I didn't hear anything more and, to be honest, I'd forgotten about it until five months later the Countryside Alliance got in touch to say I'd been shortlisted for the north east award," said David.

Head judge Steve Clark said: "They have been in business since 1840, which represents four generations of the Foreman family.

"They are therefore well established and have over the years expanded to included a game dealership, a deli, cheese and pudding counter, a wine merchants, take out food such as sandwiches and hot meals, fresh meat products including pies, ready made meals and barbecue dishes all produced on the premises.

"Ninety-nine per cent of their shop produce comes from a 30 mile radius with the beef being bought and taken through to fattening by the Foremans themselves. Whilst they have expanded the business they continue with traditional cuts of meat, the traditional values of high animal welfare, traditional training for all their staff and traditional good customer service. It would be harder to find a more traditional business than this!"

The national final takes place at the House of Lords on February 3 when the judging panel includes television cook and countrywoman Clarissa Dickson Wright.