Marsh Award for a Beautiful and Living Countryside

The Award recognises outstanding action by volunteers for the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) for the protection or enhancement of rural England. The award is separated into two categories: Countryside Champion of the Year and Honorary Award for Outstanding Contribution to CPRE. This award was previously known as The Marsh Award for the Benefit of Rural England.

The 2013 winners are West Oxfordshire District Group and Henry Best

Countryside Champions of the Year - West Oxfordshire District Group

For 25 years, the CPRE West Oxfordshire District Group, consisting of Gill Salway, David Condon, Wyn Devonauld and Colin Fowler, lead a campaign to oppose the building of the Cogges Link Road, an expensive and environmentally damaging road which would have cut across an important area of green space linking town and country, a designated flood plain and a much-loved country park rich in wildlife.

With more than a century of CPRE volunteering between them, the group are a dedicated team whose outstanding campaigning showed at a Public Inquiry that the scheme was undesirable. They linked up with local campaign groups and individuals, and garnered significant public support through gaining extensive, sustained media coverage.
In June 2012, the Secretary of State ruled against compulsory purchase orders necessary for the county council to proceed with building the road which was a triumphant conclusion to the group’s quarter of a century long fight. The demise of the scheme means that the water meadows and the country park, frequented by otters, kingfishers and dippers, will remain unspoiled for the enjoyment of the people of Witney and its wildlife for years to come, as well as providing safety from flooding.

Honorary Award for Outstanding Contribution to CPRE – Henry Best

Henry Best has been a volunteer with CPRE Somerset for over 20 years. In that time he has been a member of CPRE’s National Executive, Vice Chairman of the SW Regional Management Group, President, Vice President and Chairman of the County Branch, and for several years, Chair of the South Somerset District Group.

Henry has worked closely with groups of volunteers to challenge planning applications which threaten the countryside. This was the case when he led a very influential campaign opposing plans for continuous dualling of the A303 in 2001-2. The route would have crossed both the Blackdown Hills and West Wiltshire Downs & Cranborne Chase Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and much high quality countryside between.

The Somerset branch would have ceased to exist completely without Henry’s hard work and determination. His leadership, steadfastness and aspiration, balanced with financial prudence, carried the Branch through its lowest ebb, whilst making sure that they continued to protect the countryside from poor development.

Despite being well into his eighties, Henry continues to commit himself to various causes for the protection of the countryside. He has been an inspiration to many volunteers, members and key players beyond CPRE.

Pictured above: Henry Best and his group, visiting the threatened orchard in Ditcheat, Somerset


Campaign to Protect Rural England
128 Southwark Street