On the 19th of July, guests arrived at Willey Farm, owned by our host Jim Mawle for a farm walk in celebration of their Devon Bronze Otter Trophy win in 2022. Guests were greeted by the sounds of grasshoppers chirping and 100’s of bumble bees. Upon arrival, guests enjoyed teas, coffees and homemade cakes which were lovingly provided by Jim’s family.



After refreshments the farm walk began. Guests were shown around some of the crops grown on Willey Farm. Jim is especially proud of his low input beans. The walk continued and Jim showed off one of his beautiful meadows. The meadow had been sown in June and contained various grasses along with wheat, oats and barley, which would naturally ripen for the autumn and provide the amazing bird life with food for the Winter. Jim explained that he had a large variety of birds on Willey farm including Barn Owls, Tawny Owls, Goshawks, Swifts, Swallows and House Martins. As the walk continued through the meadow, a Field Mouse darted between the undergrowth in front of us; a prime example of the amazing and diverse habitats that have been created on Willey farm. 



Further along, Jim explained about his wheat crops and how he’d expanded the field boundaries to 20m under his countryside stewardship scheme. The farm works closely with Rothamstead Research locally, to further research and expand on their own knowledge. Jim then took guests over to the Oilseed Rape fields where harvest was in full swing on the beautiful summer’s evening. At the bottom of this same field sits the river Taw, which runs through the farm. Sam Baycock, Senior Fisheries Scientist at Westcountry Rivers Trust and friend of the Mawle family, explained that there are many fish species such as brown trout and salmon in the river and that the stretch of river through the farm is incredibly healthy, with plenty of light and shade – ideal conditions for a whole host of life. Otters have been sighted in the area around the river on the farm - an ideal habitat for them with an abundant food supply. 



Guests were shown around one of Jim’s ponds where we watched swifts and swallows dive and dip into the water, hunting for the pond skaters sat on top of them. Jim also showed guests an oak and ash tree which have intertwined over hundreds of years. A rare and incredible spectacle and on such a peaceful spot on the farm. 



Post walk, guests were refreshed with local pasties and even more tea and cake. But just before guests feasted, Adam Lockyear, FWAG SouthWest Head of Advisory Services, talked on the importance of getting together in this way and sharing knowledge and ideas. These evenings always encourage a whole host of important and uplifting conversation. Adam also mentioned a very important person, long-standing supporter of FWAG SW and Devon Otter Judge John Whetman. John, and Audrey Compton, both play an integral part in the FWAG SW tapestry, their unwavering support and dedication throughout the decades couldn’t go unnoticed. John is currently unwell, and we all took a moment, grounded by the beauty of Willey Farm, to think of them both at this time. Ashley Taylor, Assistant Land Steward at Duchy of Cornwall and Devon Otter Judge, said a few words about the farm alongside presenting Jim with the Devon Otter trophy and certificate, to much applause from the guests. A great end to an even greater evening. 

Many thanks again to Jim and family for hosting such a spectacular evening, and ensuring the weather was absolutely perfect for us! 

If you would like more information about the Devon Bronze Otter Award, click here...