The Cornwall Otter Award showcases the long-term commitment to wildlife conservation and sustainable farming shown by many farmers across the county each year.  

This year, our judges James Lyall and Ross Collins visited our two finalists in early December to see for themselves how each farm has been working to support wildlife conservation within their farming business.  

After much consideration, the Cornwall Otter Award winner for 2023 has been awarded to Bridget and Martin Whell at Leyonne, Fowey. 


Bridget and Martin Whell, Leyonne, Fowey 

This family business farm 450 dairy cows on a grass-based system alongside 400 beef cattle, 9 weaners and 44 hens, all contributing to the small farm shop. 

Connection with the wider community is important to the Whell family, the farm shop gives local people a direct link to the farm and Bridget is LEAF Farmer Time and NFU Farmers for Schools trained as well as completing the CEVAS course.  Alongside hosting and visiting schools they welcome local community groups to the farm.  

As suppliers of milk to Trewithen they are one of two monitor farms being supported to trial regenerative practices by the Cornish dairy. Min till and direct drilling mixed species has worked well alongside regular soil testing to collect data on carbon and minerals to help inform future decision making.  

Over the last 4 years they have reduced their fertiliser use by 50%, utilising calcium AN and humates where appropriate and even utilising the pigs to produce a compost! They still feel that there is a place for a plough on the farm in some cases to reduce the need for spraying but direct drilling has proved its value in allowing earlier access to graze.  

A 50KW solar array and investment in energy efficient dairy equipment has reduced costs and reliance on imported electricity. They are looking into the possibility of collecting and using methane from the slurry pit and although many of these projects are in the early stages of trialling and testing they hope to create a sustainable and enticing business for their two daughters.  

What the judges said: 

‘They have utilised FIPL funding for creating wood pasture, new hedging and Silvio pasture, and as members of FWAG Farmers plus they have demonstrated a good knowledge of mid tier CS and SFI schemes to ecologically benefit their farm’. The judges were also impressed with their engagement within the community, speaking at schools and local groups about work on the farm. 

Bridget and Martin were delighted to be acknowledged for their work whilst admitting there is still lots they feel they could be doing. ‘We have put a lot of effort into finding ways to continue commercial farming yet working also for the benefit of nature’ added Bridget, ‘unfortunately my brain is 2 steps ahead so planning and cashflow bring me back to the reality of what can be achieved in the short term but every small step is worth taking’. Martin has been really pleased with the results so far ‘the support from FWAG has helped us to find a positive way to manage the hills instead of just putting them into trees, so we maintain some production and encourage biodiversity, our farming is changing with, for example the diverse leys and direct drilling and it’s interesting to see the effect, especially to sequester carbon and increase soil fertility’. 


Rose Barnecut, Bodinnick Farm

This traditional family beef and sheep farm has been organic since 1998, operating on a largely self sustaining basis. Manure is utilised on the 8ha of combinable crops providing home grown feed and clover boosts fertility on the grazed land.  

The judges were impressed by the true organic system employed on the farm and were able to witness the emerging benefits of new Mid Tier Countryside Stewardship options that have been implemented including wild flower and bird food crops. It’s hoped that leaving wild margins in the temporary grass fields will boost Lark numbers again on the farm.  

Many of the farms hedges are over 1000 years old, maintained by a slow rotation of trimming to allow species to flower. Working with Forest of Cornwall they have planted 1800 trees over the last two years and are helping them refine their scheme for farms to widen hedgerows for habitat benefits. 

A year round survey was undertaken by the Orthinological Society, this winter the farm had lapwings, golden plover for a short period, and redwing, mistle thrush, starlings, fieldfare, linnets and yellow hammers. The judges commented on the impressive number of bird species as a good example of the biodiversity present on the farm.  

The judges were further impressed by an exceptional range of traditional granite and Delabole slate farm buildings and the continuing efforts to preserve and maintain these for their intended uses. 



The exceptional quality of both finalists impressed the judges making it a very difficult decision. We look forward to welcoming you to a farm walk and presentation at Leyonne in spring 2024. Bookings will open on our website nearer the time so keep an eye out, we hope you will be able to join us there!