Calling all rural heroes!

The Countryside Alliance's Best Rural Retailer competition is getting personal in 2008, with the addition of a new Rural Hero category.

The competition, now called the Countryside Alliance Awards, opens to nominations on Monday September 1.

The Best Rural Retailer competition ran for three years, received thousands of nominations and honoured hundreds of worthy winners.

The addition of a Rural Hero category prompted a name change because the Hero does not need to be a retailer.

Anyone is eligible for hero status including teachers, gamekeepers, policemen, rural journalists, hunt masters, vets, or even grandmothers or youngsters who are making a contribution to rural life.

The awards will accept nominations between September 1 and October 27, across five categories: Local Food Award, Village Shop/ Post Office Award, Rural Enterprise Award, Daily Telegraph Best Traditional Business Award and Rural Hero of 2008.

Winners would follow in the footsteps of Sedlescombe Village Stores and Post Office, which was the regional winner for the south east in the Best Village Shop or Post Office category in 2006.

In another first, the awards will also be inviting nominations for politicians who have shown a commitment to rural issues in the following categories: The Grassroots Award for community campaigning (open to councillors, devolved bodies and the members of the UK and Irish Parliaments), The Westminster Award for bringing the countryside to Parliament and The Rural Vision Award, for the politician with the countryside's future at heart (open to councillors, devolved bodies and members of the UK and Irish Parliaments).

Michelle Nudds, Countryside Alliance regional director for the South East, said: "We are very proud of the Countryside Alliance Awards and look forward to honouring many deserving nominees this year.

"The political element is extremely exciting and I hope it generates some healthy rivalries amongst politicians of all ends of the political spectrum.

"We are rewarding vision, enterprise and guile, but we are also rewarding old fashioned community values and the sort of spirit that many of the countryside's detractors have written off.

"We want to show them that the countryside is one of our greatest assets, and its enterprising and passionate people are the reason why."

To nominate and to read about previous winners, go to www.countrysideallianceawards.co.uk