We were really delighted when we were contacted by Nigel Blackmore, our first ever employee at Otter.

Nigel visited our Ottery garden centre and met up with Marilyn and Malcolm, who he worked for all those years ago.

Nigel, who will be 76 in August, grew up around Combelake and Fenny Bridges near Ottery St Mary, attending Ottery Primary, Ottery Boys and then Honiton Secondary School (now the Community College). Once he’d finished his education, he began working full-time at Otter, at the very start of the business when there was very little at the Gosford Road nursery except Malcolm and Marilyn’s second hand caravan. He worked full time for around six years.

The site had previously been a chicken farm, so one of Nigel’s first jobs was removing chicken wire using a tractor. He did a variety of jobs at Otter, including helping start off the market garden so seasonal vegetables and fruit such as lettuce, cabbages, leek and raspberries could be grown. Nigel helped prepare the ground and plant the seeds and young plants, and the resulting produce was sold to local markets.

As the Gosford Road site developed, he helped to build the large wooden greenhouses so even more plants could be grown. He says that even when staff numbers began to increase, working at Otter always felt like being part of a little family; there was great camaraderie, everyone worked happily together to get things done.

Eventually Nigel moved into a career in the prison service where he stayed until his retirement. But, he says, of all the jobs he did, working at Otter was the only one when he was happy every day to go to work. He loved working outside in all weathers.

Now living in Chawleigh, Nigel’s own garden is home to camellias, palms, an olive tree and eucalyptus. But with two dogs that like digging, he says he only grows his colourful plants in containers.

Before his visit to Ottery, Nigel mentioned that he’d always been impressed with Malcolm and Marilyn’s hard work and energy. After meeting them again he said: “They haven’t changed, they could never stop when they were in their twenties and it seems the same is true now!”