A PHOTOGRAPHER from Malpas who suffers with a rare arthritic illness has told of her experiences of reaching the final of Miss England.

Eleanor Farr, 24, took part in the finals of the competition last weekend in Newcastle, where she reached the top 20 shortlist.

Despite not winning the contest, Eleanor is delighted with the outcome, and would love to try again next year.

"So I placed in the top 20 out of 20,000 contestants," said Eleanor. "Just reaching the finals of 54 women in Miss England was my goal, I never expected to place even higher in the top 20 shortlist to be Miss England so I'm really pleased.

"I've got a big tattoo of a fox and pheasant running down my back, a nose ring and a titanium hip. I don't have a flat stomach, I don't wear make-up and most of my friends are boys.

"Nothing about me screams beauty queen but it just goes to show that beauty pageants aren't what they used to be.

"I was judged on what I was able to achieve over the course of the Miss England contest; from my fundraising to my community work and even my ability to design a sustainable eco outfit for a catwalk.

"When most people hear Miss England they think of bikinis and the catwalk, but not only was the bikini round entirely optional but the catwalk was such a tiny part of the whole process.

"Miss England is really hard work and even the sports round left girls falling over from muscle fatigue and even physically being sick.

"The sports round was held at Reebok Crossfit centre in Newcastle and I originally wasn't going to enter because crossfit isn't advised for people with arthritis. But I gave it a shot and placed in the top 20.

"If I'm honest, Miss England wasn't how I expected it to be at all. I applied believing it was a beauty pageant and I needed a pick me up after my relationship broke down.

"I didn't realise that there is so much more substance to it and it's nice to see girls being judged on what they have achieved and not just their fortunate genes.

"Overall it's been an amazing experience. I had my days where I got overemotional, overtired and stressed but I think that's to be expected with anything you pour your heart into."

"I plan on re-applying next year. But this time the goal is to compete in Miss Cheshire as this year, I was put straight through to Miss England.

"So I might not be Miss England but who knows, I might soon be Miss Cheshire."