TWO enterprising businesses near Winchester have been recognised for their importance to the rural economy.

Twyford Village Store and Post Office and Cresson Creative near Alresford have both made the southern finals of the Countryside Alliance Awards. The competition celebrates the characters, skills, traditions and enterprise that makes the countryside tick.

Organisers described the store in Twyford as a 'thriving hub of the community'. Around 50 of the village's residents are involved in running the shop, which is open seven days a week, from 6am - 8.30pm. It also provides a post office, delicatessen and restaurant.

Cresson Creative, based in Bishop's Sutton, champions Alresford's most famous product: Watercress. The company sells almost all of its produce through local farmers' markets and stores.

The southern winners will be announced early in 2009 and the overall victor at a House of Lords reception on March 18.