It was a Devon double as Archant newspaper the North Devon Gazette and Devon Life columnist Mary Quicke took top honours at the South West Media Awards held at Somerset County Cricket club in Taunton.

Ms Quicke from was named Columnist of the Year and the North Devon Gazette was named Weekly Free Newspaper of the Year with sister Archant titles the North Somerset Times and the Honiton-based Midweek Herald hailed as runners-up.

The North Devon Gazette, was highly commended in 2013 and 2014, but this time round took the top prize.

Judges said: “The Gazette delivers a healthy mix of hard and soft news and features, with reporters jumping in lifeboats and out on late night police poaching patrols to deliver great content. There’s good off-diary reporting and some stand out scoops, from tip offs and clever FOI requests.”

Gazette editor Andy Keeble said: “We’re incredibly proud of the Gazette and it means a lot to see our efforts recognised by independent industry peers. We’ve worked hard to change the perception of free newspapers and it’s testament to the Gazette that some 1,500 people put their hands in their pockets to buy a copy each week.

“I’m fortunate to work with a great team of reporters who love what they do and get a kick out of breaking great stories and producing super newspapers.

“We redesigned the paper last summer but content remains king. It’s all about keeping things relevant, informative, interesting – and fun.

“The paper is well liked and well respected and the relationship with our readers and advertisers has also been crucial to our success.”

Mary Quicke has written her column – Quicke Off The Mark – for Devon Life for two years and was a runner-up at the same awards last year.

Judges said: “Mary Quicke’s column is like opening a window on life in the countryside. Her writing is spare but affecting, heartfelt and often quite beautiful. The entry included a particularly moving tribute to her late father and an evocative and gentle piece about the reality of farming.”

Devon Life editor, Andy Cooper, said: “It was fabulous to see Mary pick up her award and hear the judges’ comments sum up exactly why we took her on as a columnist. It’s always a delight to receive her copy every month and I know the Devon Life readers look out for her in every issue.”

Pictured top, the North Devon Gazette editorial team (from left) Andy Keeble, Elliot Anderton, Sarah Howells and Tony Gussin are presented with the EDF Energy Free Weekly Newspaper of the Year Award by Paralympic fencing hopeful Dimitri Coutya and Elizabeth Smith, head of EDF Energy’s Campus Network.