The 2015 Countryside Alliance Awards or “Rural Oscars” are now open for public nominations.

The awards, which were set up to recognise and honour enterprising rural businesses, start regionally and end in a national championship held in Parliament in April 2016.

And equestrians are urged to nominate their favourite hard-working businesses.

Manchester-based tailor Alexander James of Pendlebury is a former national winner. Founded by Alan Little 35 years ago, the company makes bespoke hunt coats, side saddle habits and riding jackets in both the UK and US.

Dorset-based Mendit Rug and Tack, Acorn Saddlery in Devon (pictured) and feed merchants Dodson & Horrell are all former regional winners.

In 2012 hunting photographers Sarah Farnsworth and Kay Thompson were honoured as rural heroes for being outstanding rural businesswomen.

“We started the ‘Rural Oscars’ 11 years ago in order to give a voice and a platform to rural business. They are of course about our produce and communities, but more than that, they are about the people whose contribution to rural life and the rural economy can never be overstated,” said awards director Jill Grieve.

“These awards are a true celebration of rural life and businesses, so I urge everyone to get behind their businesses and help us shine a spotlight on their efforts,” she added.

There are four categories this year: local food & drink, The Daily Telegraph village shop/post office awards, butcher and tourism enterprise.

The country is divided into six regions for the awards: north, Midlands, east, south, south west and Wales.

Regional finalists will be declared in early 2016 with the winners going forward to the grand final judged by a national panel.

The Welsh winners will be announced at a reception in Cardiff Bay on 9 February, to which all regional finalists will be invited.

Scottish businesses are not eligible as the Scottish Countryside Alliance runs the devolved Scottish Rural Awards, which is an independent scheme.

Nominations can be made until 2 November at www.countryside-alliance.org