The garden village of Broughshane has triumphed in this year’s Channel 4 Village of the Year competition, scooping the £10,000 grand prize.
The village’s community-minded volunteers helped sway the judges, including programme presenter Penelope Keith.
The series saw the former Good Life actress tour the UK in search for the best villages in terms of beauty, community spirit, infrastructure and quality of life.
On Saturday’s programme the four regional winners battled it out in the grand final, with Hampstead Norreys in Berkshire, Beer in Devon and Bamburgh in Northumberland coming runner-up to Broughshane.
The £10,000 prize is to spend on a community project – in Broughshane’s case, promoting tourism.
Lexie Scott, chairman of Broughshane’s community association, said the village was delighted by its victory.
He said it was “a very fitting tribute to the effort so many volunteers put into the life of the village”.
Mr Scott, who had been sworn to secrecy about winning the show, said: “Broughshane is no stranger to awards for our floral displays but this was a completely different challenge for us.
“The appearance of the village played a significant role, nonetheless a big element of this programme was the commitment of the people in this village to village life.
“We saw that coming to the fore when we had our celebration of volunteering as part of the show and almost 1,000 people took part in a cavalcade.
“Unfortunately it turned out to be the wettest day of the year, but as one of the judges commented, ‘it certainly wasn’t raining on our parade’. That sums up an awful lot what the folk of Broughshane are like.
“It’s the people who put the ‘extra’ in Broughshane to make the ordinary things extraordinary.”
One feature of the village of Broughshane that caught the eye of the programme’s judges was the Raceview Mill project.
In 2013 Raceview was scheduled for demolition. It was purchased by local artist and photographer Roy McKeown and – with the help of his daughter Dawn – they restored the old mill buildings, converting them into a hub for small local businesses and start ups.
Mr McKeown said: “Coming from an arts background, I felt that preserving the old buildings and using them to give small businesses a home to create jobs was a worthwhile project.
“It has been a labour of love and it’s rewarding to see it now – we have come through against all odds.”
Praising the village’s effort, Mid and East Antrim Mayor, Councillor Paul Reid, congratulated the community for its incredible efforts.
Cllr. Reid also hailed the positive impact on tourism and the economy in Mid and East Antrim as a result of Broughshane’s star television billing.
He said: “This is an incredible achievement by all those in Broughshane.
“This success is the culmination of years of hard work, commitment and inspirational community spirit.
“The showcasing of Broughshane to a national audience, its brilliant residents and volunteers, and its excellent economic and tourism potential is superb news for our borough.
“I have no doubt the Village of the Year success will lead to even greater interest in the area from across the UK and further afield.”
North Antrim UUP MLA Robin Swann praised the Broughshane community as “an outstanding beacon of true community spirit”.
“I thoroughly commend Broughshane on winning this tremendous accolade following the weekend’s final,” Mr Swann said.
He added: “What is even more commendable is that Broughshane was one of the four finalists in a competition entered by 76 village from across the United Kingdom.
“In one way, it should come as no surprise that Broughshane was a worthy winner given previous sterling performances and awards in the Ulster in Blooms competitions.
“Broughshane is certainly a magnificent recipient of this latest prestigious award and is a shining example to all of true community spirit.”
North Antrim TUV MLA, Jim Allister, said: “This is a tremendous achievement to be recognised as the UK’s top village. This required leadership to inspire and organise, and local volunteers to put in hard work that has well and truly paid off.”