ABBOTTS Ann shop and Post Office was national runner up in its category in the finals of the Best Rural Retailer competition, beating off strong competition from hundreds of outlets.

The team who run the shop travelled up to the House of Lords for the final round having won first place in the regional final at the end of last year.

The competition was sponsored by the Countryside Alliance and the Daily Telegraph.

Shop manager Geraldine Heather, who received the award from DEFRA Minister Lord Rooker, paid tribute to her band of volunteers who work in the shop alongside her, assistant manager Carol Murphy and post mistress Linda Reading.

"The shop wouldn't be what it is without our volunteers," she said.

With them was Andover MP Sir George Young, who said: "This year there were 4,000 entries, and they divided these up into four categories.

"Abbotts Ann was in the village shop/Post Office category, which had 2,000 entries and they were the national runner-up.

"This was a superb result for the village, which entered the competition at a relatively late stage. I was really proud to be invited up with them to receive their award."

In April 1999 the residents of Abbotts Ann formed The Abbotts Ann Village Shop Association Ltd to provide and retain a village shop and Post Office for the benefit of the villages and surrounding area, as a community venture.

From its grand opening in 2002 Abbotts Ann shop has grown into a thriving community hub which supports the village and surrounding communities.

In its commendation when it won the regional competition the store was described as being welcoming and well stocked. It delivers to the housebound and boasts its own car park.

The commendation continues: "It also hosts special events, promotes local producers and according to locals is so good it is rarely necessary to shop outside of Abbotts Ann. It is an absolute credit to the village."