COMMUNITY groups working to improve Hampshire’s countryside have been recognised at an annual awards ceremony.

Among the winners at the CPRE Hampshire Countryside Awards, held in Littleton, was Winchester City Council.

Judges rewarded the authority for its Hillier’s Haven project, which saw a £100,000 invested in creating a new green space in Abbotts Barton.

As previously reported, Hillier’s Haven opened in March and includes paths through the woodland, a meadow area with stone fire pits, bird and bat boxes, and a sculpture trail.

The project won the ‘Making Places’ title. Speaking at the launch project launch earlier this year, Susan Croker, head of landscape and open spaces at the council, said: “We hope visitors to Hillier’s Haven will enjoy the new range of facilities and be encouraged to visit again and explore the great open spaces in the city and district.”

Other winners included the Oasis Down to Earth Farm in Southampton, a non-profit charity based in an urban farm; and Beechcroft Farm in Sarum Road, Winchester.

Sparsholt Village Shop also received a ‘Special Recognition’.

New for this year was the Hampshire’s Choice Award. This gave the public the chance to vote for their favourite project out of the finalists, with the winner taking home £500.

The prize was secured by Winchester Youth Counselling’s Nature Therapy project, which supports young people’s emotional health and well-being using the natural environment.

Winchester Youth Counselling’s Jill Guppy said: “We are delighted to have won this award. It means so much to us and the young people we work with. It gave them a real boost of confidence to attend the ceremony.

“We will be talking to our young people to see what they think this money should be spent on as part of the Nature Therapy service, be that different equipment or more sessions.”

CPRE Hampshire chief executive Charlee Bennett added: “We were amazed with the response that saw over 2,000 votes being cast. We are delighted to announce that Winchester Youth Counselling were the well-deserved winners.”

Special guests on the night included the Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire, Nigel Atkinson, and Winchester and Test Valley mayors Cllr Frank Pearson and Cllr Ian Carr.