AN innovative tourism initiative bringing food lovers flocking to the Ribble Valley has won a prestigious award.
Launched last year, the Ribble Valley Food Trail celebrates and promotes all that is best about the area's high class food producers and retailers.
From butchers to brewers and cheesemongers to chocolatiers, the trail leads visitors on a mouthwatering meander around Valley.
The initiative was spearheaded by Ribble Valley Borough Council, working in partnership with various other agencies.
Now it has won the Enterprise Award in the North West regional round of the Countryside Alliance Awards, which means it will go on to vie for a national title against winners from the rest of Britain.
The Countryside Alliance Awards celebrate the skills, produce, traditions and enterprise of the countryside through the characters who work hard to make it tick. They are run across 12 UK regions, with each regional winner going forward to the national finals, which will be held at the House of Lords on March 18th.
Full of praise for the Ribble Valley Food Trail, competition judge Richard Todd described it as: "An absolutely brilliant initiative demonstrating what can be done by forward thinking, and I hope it drives other councils to regenerate regions and showcase the best of their produce.
"This is a very worthy project where the local council has woken up to the fact that local food is now on the tourist map.
"What has happened here is that with a small amount of money the council has gathered up local food producers (with some strict rules) and created a trail taking tourists to where the food is made, sold or served within the district.
"All who have signed up have noticed an increase in sales. The set-up cost was about 5,000 which is peanuts in the scheme of things, and has breathed new life into the area. The enterprise shown by this initiative is inspiring, because it showcases the 'never say die' approach of rural Britain.
"I strongly believe this should win every award going for its sheer optimism, dedication and firm belief in small rural businesses from butchers to restaurants, dairies to bakeries. Tourism and local food are clearly an enterprising match made in heaven."
Copies of the Ribble Valley Food Trail leaflet are available from the Ribble Valley Borough Council offices in Church Walk, Clitheroe, and many other outlets around the Ribble Valley.
You can also find details online at: www.ribblevalleyfoodtrail.com