T he Best Kept Villages and Small Towns Competition was introduced to Lincolnshire, in its present form, by Lincolnshire Branch CPRE and Community Lincs in 1962. The aim of the competition was to encourage residents in villages and small towns throughout the county to appreciate their surroundings and take pride in the communities in which they lived. In many areas the competition has helped to inspire a real sense of community spirit and has been the starting point for community action aimed at making improvements to the local environment and improving community cohesion.
Each year Parish Councils and other local organisations decide if there is enough support to enter the competition. Once committed it falls to all residents to come together to improve and maintain their local environment, keep all areas well-presented and encourage collective community spirit. Some communities have groups dedicated to look after different aspects of the village or town such as Green Spaces or Community Buildings. The most successful communities are those that achieve the greatest involvement from the greatest number of people and whose residents show most community spirit.
The volunteer judges usually begin their judging by July and continue throughout the summer over three rounds, looking at a wide range of criteria in assessing the towns and villages. This culminates with an announcement of the winning villages and town in September followed by a well-attended presentation event in November. There is never a shortage of people wanting to attend when their village has been awarded the title of Best Kept Village of the Year!
While gathering the oral histories from local residents and surveying the views of parish councils we have found there is broad agreement that the competition has helped stimulate improvements in the appearance of local communities and increased the sense of community involvement in those participating villages and towns. The net result across the county has been the creation of more appealing living environments with a stronger sense of civic pride.