TWO businesses from south Wiltshire have won top awards in their fields and a third has reached the regional final of a national competition.

Salisbury Oil and gas exploration company Rockhopper Exploration received a special commendation at the South West Financial & Corporate Communications Awards 2007, and walking holidays business Foot Trails, of Mere, has been presented with a STARS award for best leisure company.

And Steelhenge Consulting, of Churchfields Industrial Estate in Salisbury, is one of just 20 companies to have reached the West, Wales and Northern Ireland finals of the 2007 HSBC Start-Up Stars Awards.

Rockhopper, which is based at Hilltop Park, off Devizes Road, was awarded its commendation in the up to £50m market cap in the Best Use of Electronic Communications category.

Its website was designed by Farley web agency Enotions, run by Rob Richardson.

The awards, now in their fourth year, recognise the region's quoted companies who have demonstrated best practice communications with their stakeholders, including shareholders, the financial press, analysts and employees.

Alison and David Howell set up Foot Trails five years ago to encourage people to explore the south west in a way that supported local communities and protected the countryside.

They were presented with their award, which recognises outstanding customer service, by Bryn Jones, manager of Salisbury and Stonehenge tourism partnership.

The award is the latest the business has won: previous accolades include a gold in the South West England Excellence Awards Best Tourism Experience of the Year, and a silver from the Green Tourism Business Scheme.

Mrs Howell said: "We are all very honoured to have been given this award.

"It demonstrates clearly that it is possible to grow a successful business based on principles of sustainable tourism."

Steelhenge Consulting was founded two years ago by Dominic Cockram, who had a career in the army before working in a strategic security company.

He then set up his crisis management consultancy, having found that many organisations were ill prepared to face a growing range of threats - from terrorism to international crises, reputation disasters to serious continuity incidents.

He now offers audits, strategies, planning, procedures, communications and leadership, and has won contracts with the Department for Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Defence.

Steelhenge will now compete for the top prize of £25,000 and the title HSBC Start-Up Star 2007, which will be announced on October 24.