Rural businesses are best in region

Two businesses from Northamptonshire have both been named among the best in the region in the prestigious Countryside Alliance awards for the second year running.

The Shop@Stanwick is officially the best village shop and post office in the East Midlands and Muddy Matches, which is an online dating service based in Podington, has won the region's rural enterprise award.

They will now both go forward to the national finals which will be held in London at the beginning of February.

Countyside Alliance Awards Midlands head judge Tracy Casstles praised both businesses.

She said: "What was staggering about the Shop@Stanwick was how incredibly busy they were and that every single customer was greeted by name. The three partners took over the shop only two years ago and have turned it into the heart of this community.

"Muddy Matches shows loving the countryside and wanting it to thrive needn't be purely a land-based thing. Rural businesses are increasingly embracing social networking and online marketing to spread their message beyond their immediate community, and Muddy Matches is a great example of using the internet to benefit all those who love the countryside."

Lucy Reeves, 30, co-founded Muddy Matches with her sister Emma in March 2007 and it now has 35,000 members across the UK and Ireland.

She said: "We're really delighted to be regional winners again. We're happy to have got so far and would love to win the national award."

Post office master at Shop@Stanwick, Vernon Frost, said: "It's brilliant news. Everyone coming into the shop has been on a high because they feel this is their shop. We really want to go to London and bring back the national award for our customers."