SHIPSTON butcher's Rightons celebrated being named Countryside Alliance Midlands Rural Retailer of the Year at a glittering ceremony at the House of Lords.

The Gardner family, who took over the business a year ago but kept the Rightons name, was presented with their award certificate by Countryside Alliance chairman Kate Hoey.

The shop in Sheep Street, run by Julia Gardner, nee Cook, and her brother-in-law Brian, produces and sells a large range of cooked products including pies and ready meals as well as chutneys and preserves.

Julia launched her own range of preserves called Hedgerow Heroes, made with fruit from local plentiful harvests, last year. The range sold out rapidly, but not before it had impressed judges in the competition.

The shop missed out on the national title, but the family was thrilled with the regional award.

"The number and calibre of the nominees was very high so we are thrilled," said Julia. "We are a relatively young business so we have done terrifically well to get this far. It was wonderful wandering around the House of Lords and seeing famous faces. It was very exciting.

"When we were judged it was just after we had launched our Hedgerow Heroes range of jams and preserves which I think helped to show we were an all-round business." Julia's range, which she made herself to family recipes, included crab apple jelly, quince jelly, blackberry and apple jelly, port and damson jelly, green tomato chutney, plum and date chutney, and traditional apple chutney.

"It was a prolific year for fruit last year so it seemed the perfect moment to produce the range. I'll be making more this year as fruits come into season."

Julia is married to Nick Gardner who farms with his father at Pillerton Priors and Tysoe. They do beef, sheep, and arable.