Brave the Shave Take 2

Brave the Shave for DAAT

For the second year in a row, Richard Vanstone from our Torbay garden centre had his head shaved to raise funds for Devon Air Ambulance.

The shave was part of our Torbay garden centre’s fundraising for chosen charity of the year, the much loved air ambulance service.

Event organiser, Julia Stone said: “Richard braved the shave in 2017 for the same cause. He then decided not to have a haircut for a whole year, giving our Branch Manager Emma Devonald a most satisfying task when she agreed to tackle Richard’s hair.

Emma wielded the clippers and customers looked on with great amusement as Richard’s locks fell to the floor.

The event raised over £250 so a big well done to Richard and the team.

Other fundraising activities this year include an entertaining animated reindeer display, which last year raised in excess of £2,600 for DAAT – so please give generously so we can beat that total.

Thank you!

Brave the Shave

Silver Awards for Otter Preserves

Preserves go Silver!

Blackcurrant jam and marmalade made at Otter Garden Centres scooped silver in the Producers category at the recent Food Drink Devon Awards.

The preserves are made in the kitchens at the garden centre in Ottery St Mary by Liz Lee and her team using traditional methods with a high fruit ratio. Liz has built up quite a following with regular customers, who sometimes call ahead to make sure their favourite flavours are in stock.

Restaurant Manager, Simon Raynor said: “Our homemade range has proved very popular; some of the jams are served with cream teas in the restaurant, and we also have a display of jars for purchase.

“As a garden centre known for growing quality plants, we’re also proud to be producers of quality food.”

This year, for the first time, Victoria plum jam has been added to the selection. The fruit was collected locally by staff after the warm summer led to a glut of plums.

As well as preserves, the kitchen team also produce cranberry sauce and Christmas puddings in three sizes. Some customers place orders each year for Liz’s puds, available with or without peel.

The two silver awards are the latest in a line of awards for our own produce, which includes last year’s gold award winners, strawberry and raspberry jam.

Liz Lee with Simon Raynor

Silver award

Charity Fundraising – Torbay

Charity Fundraising Headshave

Our three Devon garden centres, in Ottery St Mary, Plymouth and Torbay, are all organising charity fundraising events for Devon Air Ambulance Trust this year.

Our Torbay garden centre also supported the charity in 2017, raising almost £4,500 through a series of inventive fundraising events.

One of the most memorable events was a headshave, when Richard had his locks shorn, sponsored by colleagues and customers.

Brave the Shave 2018

Well, Richard is once again ‘braving the shave’ to fundraise.

The event is on Friday 19th October at 11am.

We would love our customers to come and help us cheer Richard along and support our fundraising.

See you then!

Brave the shave poster


Welcoming Groundwork South

Groundwork South visit to Otter Garden Centres

Our Torbay branch was recently pleased to welcome Groundwork South to the growing nurseries for a talk and demonstration by our Head Nurseryman, Nick Raisey.

National charity Groundwork aims to improve the quality of life in communities that had been neglected and to promote their sustainable development. Groundwork South has six teams, including one team for Devon and Cornwall.

Katherine Ross approached our Branch Manager Emma Devonald to discuss how we might get involved with the charity, which is delivering a certificate in practical horticulture to adult learners. The course includes an overview of the horticultural sector and includes practical training.

Emma suggested a day with Nick in the growing nurseries, for an overview of the facilities and some of the horticultural work undertaken in our Torbay branch.

The day

Nick Raisey giving a talkNick and his team started the day with a tour of the greenhouses and the polytunnels to see the hardy plants.

After lunch, the visitors were divided into groups where they learnt about planting up cuttings, spacing pots with a special ruler and how to prune winter flowering jasmine.

Katherine said that the day was really special to the students, as it was a real eye-opener to see behind the scenes at a garden centre with its own growing nurseries. “I want to send the biggest thank you to Nick, his team and you for setting up for a day in the nursery. I have to say the students have found it to be one of the highlights from the course. They said they were telling people about all the weekend after and are still buzzing.”

We would also like to thank Nick and his team for providing a great experience for the visitors from Groundwork South.

The students have also visited a variety of interesting horticultural locations, including Greenway, Torquay Golf Course, Shekina Grow and Torre Abbey.

Free car charging points at four branches

Otter Garden Centres has added to existing green credentials with the installation of car charging points at the company’s Ottery St Mary, Plymouth, Wincanton and Lymington branches.

Customers who drive electric cars will now be able to use the EV (electric vehicle) charging stations free of charge while they shop. Each station is capable of charging two vehicles.

As a company, Otter Garden Centres is committed to an environmentally friendly approach and this is the latest in a series of green initiatives undertaken.

Managing Director, Jacqui Taylor explained: “We already use biomass boilers, solar panels and rainwater harvesting and opt for biological rather than chemical pest controls in our three growing nurseries.

“Through these car charging stations, we can give something back to our customers who go the extra green mile on the road.”

Customers will be able to browse the garden centres at leisure before returning to their fully charged car and their onward journey. The four branches are to be added to a map that displays car charging point locations in the UK.

Otter Garden Centres Operations Manager, James Billington said: “It is a great way for us to reward our customers – not only for their custom but also for their shared environmental values.

“In May, plug in hybrid vehicle sales were up 72.7 per cent, full electric vehicles were up by 18.7 per cent and diesel vehicles were down by 23.6 per cent. It is a sign of the times and we are pleased to be offering this service to our customers.”

The installation was carried out by SOL Electrical. SOL, like Otter Garden Centres, is a family-run business with its headquarters in Devon. Founded in 2007 by Simon Lord, the company is at the forefront of developing EV charge point infrastructure in the South-West.

SOL Electrical Project Manager, Marie Yexley said: “We are delighted that Otter Garden Centres is providing this service for visiting EV drivers who can both use the newly installed charging facilities and enjoy all the garden centres have to offer.”

There are currently over two million electrical vehicles on the road globally, with 130,000 in the UK. This is predicted to rise to 200,000 by the end of 2018.

Marilyn White and James Billington with Marie Yexley

DIY SOS for youth football team in Ottery

DIY SOS Ottery style

The request

Otter Garden Centres was approached by a member of the Ottery St Mary Youth Football Club, asking if we could help them with urgent repairs to their current viewing lean-to shed. This was constructed of wood and sheet metal cladding which was leaking badly and becoming unfit for purpose.

The football club asked if we could carry out repairs to make this lean-to into a nice area for parents and supporters to watch the children playing matches when the weather is poor.

After looking at the building, it became clear that all efforts to repair it would result in a rather bleak, dark, old shed for parents to stand in.

How we helped

The team discussed ideas on ways to help and agreed to donate and build a brand new modern summer house, with a covered lean-to on the front for parents to stand under to cheer the teams on, along with a small covered patio area at the side where a BBQ could be set up to provide food and drink such as bacon sandwiches, hot dogs, teas and coffees for supporters and players after the matches.

We hope this brings extra fun to matches held at Ottery Football Club and perhaps raise some extra money for the club if they wanted to sell refreshments to visiting parents and teams.

The match

To celebrate the handing over of the new summerhouse to the youth football teams, the club organised a friendly football match with a team from Otter Garden Centres playing five-a-side football against the under 13 Ottery team.

Sabine Taylor said: “The under 13 football team was a delight to play football against and they were very kind to their visiting team. We all came away impressed with the level of football they played and their conduct on the pitch; they showed that you can be good at football and also be a credit to the sport and your community.

“We are pleased to have supported the youth teams and we hope we might be able to arrange an annual match so that we can keep in touch with them and help again in the future. It’s so good for young people to get outside and play sport and Ottery Football club gives the youngsters a great opportunity to do this.”

The end result was a marginal win for the Otter Garden Centres team – but we suspect that the under 13s let us win as a thank you for donating the summerhouse and providing bacon sandwiches after the match.

Otter and Ottery teams

Poetry night raises funds for Devon Air Ambulance

Poetry night at Torbay

Our first ever poetry reading night at Torbay wa a huge success, raising just under £200 for the branch’s charity of the year, Devon Air Ambulance Trust.

The event was organised by Torbay branch’s enthusiastic charity champion, Julia Stone.

The performers were published poets Bethany Blue and David Hines, with new poet Dermott Fleming reading a very special poem written for the occasion, entitled ‘Guardians of the Golden Hour’.

35 people attended the event raising just under £200 through an admission fee and raffle.

Julia said: “This was something very different for the garden centre and we were all delighted that the poetry night was such a success.

“A big thank you to our poets, and everyone who came along to listen.”

Otter Garden Centre Torbay is supporting DAAT for the second year in a row and is hoping to top last year’s total of over £4,500.

“That was the highest amount ever raised by the branch – but watch this space!”

Enthralled audience at poetry night

Reading Roald Dahl at Poetry Night

Julia Stone with David Hines

Plymouth Design a Scarecrow – Winner

We have a winner!

Radio Plymouth and Otter Garden Centre in Plymouth have been delighted by the success of this year’s Design a Scarecrow competition – and now we’d like to announce the winner.

We had a brilliant response from primary schools across Plymouth with lots of wonderful entries.

Choosing this year’s top design has been incredibly difficult, but out of the dozens of entries, here are the winner and runners-up!


Hooe Primary Academy with this wonderfully colourful design by Eleanor.


Scarecrow winner


The first runner-up is Plaistow Hill Infant School with a fabulous scarecrow made by the talented Jack.

Scarecrow winner runner-up Jack



The second runner-up is Holy Cross CP School with this super design by Ursule – giving lots of details about her scarecrow.

Scarecrow Winner Runner up Ursule


The winner’s school will receive away two raised beds with compost and plants, so the students can ‘grow their own’ this spring and summer!

The two runners-up have won £50 vouchers for their school to spend at our Plymouth branch.

Well done to you all, and thanks to everyone who entered.

Open Mic Poetry Reading for DAAT – Torbay

Poetry Reading for Devon Air Ambulance

It’s a first for Otter! On 13th April we will be holding a Poetry Night with open mic at our Torbay branch.

  • From 7pm to 10pm
  • Fundraising raffle
  • Bring your own wine
  • We provide nibbles and soft drinks
  • Read your poetry or just come and listen

Enjoy this fun evening and support this very worthy cause, our Torbay branch’s Charity of the Year 2018.

For directions please click here.

Poetry Reading Poster

Fundraising Totals for 2017

How much fundraising did we do?

Each year, Otter Garden Centres pledges to carry out fundraising for charities. Over the years we have supported a wide range of charities to help them continue with their important work.

During 2017, each branch chose to raise funds for very local charities. Fundraising is coordinated by in-branch teams who work hard to raise as much money as they can during the year.

Here are the charities and the totals raised by each branch at the end of the year:

Ottery St Mary

Fundraising through the annual Memory Tree, donations from visitors to Santa’s Grotto, staff events including quizzes and a raffle.


  • Devon Air Ambulance: £4,470.00

Various fundraising events including ‘Guess the Number of Peanuts in the Jar’, an impressive head shave and generous customer donations to a very popular animated reindeer display at Christmas.


Jeremiah’s Journey supports children from Plymouth and the immediate surrounding area who have experienced or are anticipating the death of someone special.

Funds raised through a variety of staff events and customer donations.

WincantonOtter Wincanton fundraising team

Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance: £1026.43

Donations to the animated reindeer display at Christmas, staff fundraising events.


  • Various charities: £400

Charities include Oakhaven Hospice Trust, which provides specialist palliative care and support to those facing life-limiting illness and their loved ones in both a home and hospice setting; Simon Says, which supports Hampshire children and young people up to the age of 18 years who has a significant person in their life who has died or is dying; and Guide Dogs for the Blind:.

Funds raised through sweet sales and collecting tins.


The charities chosen for 2018 are: Ottery St Mary, Alzheimer’s Society; Torbay, Devon Air Ambulance Trust; Plymouth; Dementia Friendly Parishes around Yealm; Wincanton, Yeovil Freewheelers; Lymington will continue fundraising for their local charities.