LIZ Wilkin, a clothes maker from Penzance, is one of 16 UK citizens that have been awarded a prestigious Churchill Fellowship.

The fellowships offer recipients a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel the world and research new ideas for strengthening countryside communities. These 16 Churchill Fellowships have been awarded in a partnership between the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and The Prince’s Countryside Fund. Churchill Fellowships were set up on the death of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965 as a national tribute and living legacy for his leadership. Since then over 5,600 have been awarded. Fellows are funded to travel the world for four to eight weeks, researching innovative ideas and best practice in a practical subject of their own choosing. The average grant is £6,000.

They will use their findings from overseas to inspire positive change in the UK upon their return.

Liz's award is in the ‘Rural living: strengthening countryside communities’ category, She will be travelling to Denmark, the Netherlands and Greece. She will use her findings to establish mechanisms for increasing opportunities for social interaction between people from different rural villages.

Liz said: "For my Cornishwear business, I am self-employed, working from home – like so many small businesses in Cornwall. It struck me that this causes a lot of rural isolation, which might go unrecognised.

"I am excited about the Fellowship because it will allow me to gather fresh ideas and innovations from other countries about how they are future proofing their small rural and coastal communities that are facing rapid change. I will be looking at solutions to combat rural loneliness and isolation, as well as how communities work to bring people together.

"I would hope to be able to use what I have learnt and seen to encourage authorities and individual communities to change policies and instigate activities and services to enrich the lives of those living in rural areas".

Liz says she heard about the Fellowship at university over 30 years ago. "It has always struck me that it is a very broad minded organisation that encourages travel and learning in a very wide range of areas. I have become more and more aware of rural isolation and this seemed a good time to apply, before communities move past a tipping point", she said.

"I have always lived in rural West Cornwall and I am aware that communities are rapidly changing, with second homes, cuts in services and rising house prices having a very real effect on people's lives. Before the changes are irreversible, I would very much like to see what other countries are doing to combat these effects".