Free Will service for Dorset Wildlife Trust members returns for October

A network of leading solicitors across Dorset has partnered with Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) to offer a free Will writing service to over 25,000 members throughout October 2019.

Dorset Wildlife Trust is Dorset’s largest conservation charity, managing over 44 nature reserves across Dorset for the benefit of wildlife, and enjoyment of people.

The free Will service is for those members wishing to make a will or update an existing one, and they are also given the option to leave a gift to the charity.  To enable important conservation work to continue, DWT relies on 25% of its work being funded through gifts in Wills.   

The free Will writing service was developed 7 years ago to raise awareness of how vital this type of fundraising is and what a significant part it plays in conserving Dorset’s precious wildlife.

Solicitors taking part in the scheme in Dorset are Battens, Humphries Kirk, Coles Miller, Kitson & Trotman and Ellis Jones.

Naomi Dyer Head of Private Client from Battens Solicitors, Sherborne, said “Battens are delighted to be taking part in the free Will scheme at DWT, as part of our ongoing support of the charity.  It is fantastic to see people using this opportunity to tackle a job which they shouldn’t, but often do, put off and also to see the benefit to DWT in the process.” 

DWT’s Fundraising Officer, Clare Busby said, ““Dorset Wildlife Trust is delighted to be offering the free Will service to our members for the seventh year running.  Donations through a gift in a Will play an ever-increasing part in how we fund our nature reserves across Dorset.  Those that do decide to use the free Will writing service to leave a gift, however large or small, can take great comfort in knowing their legacy will be helping to conserve and protect Dorset’s wildlife for many years to come.”

The free Will service is only available to Dorset Wildlife Trust members.  To find out more and to request information about the service contact Clare Busby on 01305 264620 or visit our gifts in wills page:

The Ken Thomas Charitable Trust

Are you a young Cornish agriculturalist wishing to travel? Then read on!

For many years the late Ken Thomas, a founder member of The Huers Farming Club, farmed at Coswarth, near Newquay. In the tradition of our great agricultural improvers of the past, the research which he initiated and carried out continuously on his farms resulted in real technical progress.

Throughout his farming life Ken also maintained a special interest in the encouragement and education of young people in agriculture.

In 1980 his friends and colleagues in The Huers established a Trust Fund and the trustees award bursaries to young agriculturalists, aged approximately 20 – 30 years, residing in the County of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly who might not otherwise have the means or the opportunity to broaden their knowledge and experience by travel.

The bursaries normally assist with travel costs and other expenses directly relating to the proposed study project and over the years numerous young people have benefitted and have undertaken study trips to wide ranging areas including New Zealand, Australia, the USA, India, Japan, Hungary, Zambia, Brazil and areas closer to home.

The trust is however sadly not able to fund college or university fees or associated costs.

Many young people have been assisted and recent bursary recipients include Will James, from Feock, who undertook a period of veterinary work experience in Cairns in Australia. In November 2018, Nicola Chegwidden, from Summercourt, benefitted from support from the Trust, in conjunction with the Royal Cornwall Agricultural Association’s membership of the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth, which enabled her to attend the 28th Commonwealth Agriculture Conference in Edmonton, Canada.

In addition to financial support, the Huers can often offer applicants a wealth of contacts and knowledge which can be invaluable in a new country. After all, it’s the people you meet and the friends you make that so often proves to be the best and most beneficial aspect of international travel and study.

Are you, or do you know, someone who wishes to travel to study an agricultural or horticultural subject and to bring that knowledge back to the area? If so, and you fit the criteria, please request an application form by emailing or by calling 01208 815562.

By this means, the Huers Farming Club intends to perpetuate the objectives and ideals of Ken Thomas for the ultimate benefit of Cornish agriculture.

UK Agricultural Finance joins the Alternative Business Funding platform.

The UK’s leading SME lender for the rural and agricultural sector has joined the Alternative Business Funding platform, to offer its expertise in rural finance to farmers and the rural economy across England, Scotland and Wales. 


UK Agricultural Finance (‘UKAF’) offers loans from £100,000 to £10m, over one to seven years, with a maximum LTV of 65%. The organisation joined a select group of alternative finance firms on NatWest’s Capital Connections panel last year, becoming the 10th lender and first industry specialist on the panel, and is now thrilled to be joining Alternative Business Funding to offer its services to the broader SME market.

Colin Pearce of Alternative Business Funding said: “Alternative Business Funding are really excited that UKAF has joined our panel, enabling us to extend our range and offer farmers even more specialist funding options, from a lender that is the established expert in this sector.”


Typical loans where UKAF is well placed to assist include:

  • Diversification, to build new businesses

  • Purchasing land when additional acreage or a unique property opportunity may come available and often at short notice

  • Finance to develop, renovate or repair property for capital appreciation and income generation

  • Renewable energy projects can be a great source of additional income and add real value to under-utilised land on a farm, or even turn waste products into revenue

  • Livestock finance to expand the herd

  • Recovery and restructuring funds are needed when financial pressure is acute, and a facility can provide a window to take control and rationally plan

  • Enabling tenant farmers with a right to buy their land to secure the property

  • Generational transfer that helps farming families looking to transfer their farm to the next generation achieve this

Robert Suss, Co-Founder of UKAF said “Given the uncertainty of Brexit there is a continued drive to diversification in the rural community with an increase in the rural community looking at strategies to buffer the potential change in subsidies.  We are thrilled to be joining the Alternative Business Funding platform as an enthusiastic supporter of farm diversification ABF gives us additional reach to providing farmers access to capital to diversify, sustain, grow and improve their businesses.”


Heathland and mire restoration at Tadnoll & Winfrith nature reserves

This winter Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) will be undertaking heathland and *mire restoration at Tadnoll and Winfrith nature reserves as part of a large-scale restoration project.  The project, supported and funded by Natural England through Defra’s Countryside Stewardship Scheme, aims to restore and enhance over 6 hectares of heathland and 1.2 hectares of mire.

Starting in September 2019 the works will involve clearance of birch, pine and gorse scrub which have gradually encroached onto the nationally and internationally protected heathland sites. Restoration will also include infilling of selected drainage ditches in order to slow waterflow and create wet areas which would have historically provided good quality habitat for wildlife.

The UK hosts 20% of the worlds heathland of which Dorset’s heaths make an important contribution.  The project will improve habitat for some of Dorset’s most iconic bird and reptile species, such as the Dartford warbler and smooth snake.

DWT’s South & East Dorset Reserves Manager, Leo Henley-Lock said, “The Tadnoll and Winfrith nature reserves are spectacular sites for wildlife.  Dorset’s heathland wildlife and heathlands across the UK are under increasing pressure from development and rising visitor numbers.  The project offers a fantastic opportunity to restore and enhance important areas of these sites; helping to secure a future for some of the UK’s rarest wildlife.

Natural England’s Team Leader for Dorset Ian Alexander said “We are very pleased to be able to offer Dorset Wildlife Trust funding for these restoration works through Defra’s Countryside Stewardship Scheme.  We expect this project to play an important role in enhancing and safeguarding these nationally and internationally designated sites for years to come.”

For more information about Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Tadnoll and Winfrith Heath nature reserves, visit

Bowhayes Trees Nursery – Now Open in Venn Ottery

Online plant nursery Bowhayes Trees has recently opened up a retail area on its site near Ottery St Mary, Devon. Located at Bowhayes Farm, in Venn Ottery (EX11 1RY), the retail nursery is open Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 4.30pm and on Saturday mornings from 9.30-12.30pm.

The Nursery offers a lovely selection of ornamental and fruit trees as well as container hedging plants and planting accessories. Bare root hedging plants and screening trees will be available from November.

For more information, call 01404 812229 or visit the website


How allotments and ‘growing your own’ helped Brits survive two World Wars

When the First World War ended a century ago, nobody expected another catastrophic global conflict to take place less than 20 years later. It’s 80 years now since the onset of World War Two.

The fear of starvation in both conflicts was real. In the 1930s, Britain imported 70% of its food, which required 20 million tonnes of shipping each year. It was recognised by the UK’s adversaries that cutting off such imports could lead to mass starvation, so Britain was forced to act. In this article, Arbor Deck, who supply decking boards used on allotments around the country, investigate how growing your own food helped the country during these hardest of times.


At the start of 1940, the UK had introduced a rationing system, so the public’s food and commodities were fairly distributed when they were limited. A typical weekly food ration for an adult included:

• 4oz margarine

• 1 fresh egg and a dried egg allowance

• 2oz butter

• 4oz bacon and ham

• The equivalent of two chops (monetary value of one shilling and two pence)

• Three pints of milk

• 4oz cooking fat

• 2oz tea

• 12oz of sweets every four weeks

• 8oz sugar

• 2oz cheese

• 1lb of preserves every two months

Even though the war ended in 1945, rationing wasn’t abolished until 1958, and was looked upon as a way to regulate food production and usage.

Grow-your-own campaign

New Zealand was responsible for a quarter of butter imports and half of cheese imports, which required a long ship journey. Eighty percent of fruit was also imported. This led to the Dig for Victory campaign being launched by the Ministry of Food in October 1939, one month after the outbreak of the war. Professor John Raeburn, an agricultural economist who was recruited by the Ministry of Food led the campaign until the end of the war.

The grow your own veg campaign was set up to try to get the public to transform their garden spaces into vegetable plots. Its aim was to replace imported food with locally grown produce in a bid to free up shipping space for more valuable war materials, and also replace goods that were sunk in transit – German submarines were responsible for Britain losing out of 728,000 tonnes of food by the end of 1940.

The public parks in cities were transformed into allotments, while even the lawns outside the Tower of London became vegetable patches. The campaign proved to be a roaring success, with it estimated that home gardens were producing over one million tonnes of produce by 1943.

Come the end of the conflict, Britain had almost 1.4 million allotments, according to the Royal Horticultural Society. By 1945, around 75% of all food consumed in Britain was locally produced. It’s estimated that 6,000 pigs were kept in gardens and back yards, chicken coops and rabbit keeping also became popular as Britain attempted to grow their own source of protein.

Women’s Land Army

The Women’s Land Army – set up during the First World War – became very important with so many allotments appearing around Britain. Here, females would help farmers and market gardeners by replacing male workers who had been sent to war. By 1944, over 80,000 women were in the British Women’s Land Army, before it was eventually disbanded in October 1950. Without this workforce, Britain would certainly have struggled to continue its harvesting.

With the idea of ‘growing your own’ coming back to the forefront as we begin to realise its cost and health benefits, it’s nostalgic to see how allotments and grow-your-own patches played a vital part in keeping the country nourished during the war. Indeed, in recent years, the government urged Britain to return the Dig for Victory campaign in a bid to combat possible food shortages and the ‘disastrous’ consequences it could bring.


2020 Septic Tank Rules & Regulations Change

Admittedly it’s not a strapline that jumps out at you, but if you are looking to buy, sell or let, or if you own a residential property that is served by a septic tank, we would encourage you to read on - it might well save you a block in the works down the line.

Historically, property owners were able to discharge waste water from a septic tank directly into the surrounding land or a nearby watercourse. However, the latter will need to stop next year.

The ‘General Binding Rules’ require anyone in England and Wales with a septic tank that discharges into a watercourse to replace or upgrade their system by the 1st January 2020, or before the property is sold ahead of this date. However Stags are already experiencing hindered property sales where these works have not been done.

So what can you do if your septic tank isn’t compliant? Well, you actually have three options:

1.    Connect to a mains sewer.

2.    Divert the discharged water to a ‘drainage field’.

3.    Install a sewage treatment plant

There’s still time to make any changes should you need to. Our team of surveyors and agents are on hand to assist you or put you in touch with a specialist local drainage contractor.


If you’re looking to buy, sell, or if you’re unsure what these changes might mean for your property, please contact Stags Professional Services team on 01392 439046 or email

Volunteers and staff celebrate TCCT Cockington Country Park’s 23rd Green Flag Award

A record number of parks and green spaces collected a Keep Britain Tidy Green Flag Award last week and Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust (TCCT) are delighted to announce that Cockington Country Park, Torquay, was one of them!

Not only is the country park recognised by the Green Flag Award Scheme as one of the very best in the world, but is one of only 5 sites in the UK that have held the award since its launch which means it’s the 23rd flag for the country park.

Cockington is among a record-breaking 1,970 UK parks and green spaces that have received a prestigious Green Flag in 2019 – the mark of a quality park or green space. An international award now into its third decade, the Green Flag is a sign to the public that the space boasts the highest possible environmental standards, is beautifully maintained and has excellent visitor facilities.

Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust is Torbay’s independent conservation charity and is responsible for the care and maintenance of Cockington Country Park. This care could not be achieved without the massive contribution made by a small army of local volunteers. The Cockington Green Heart Appeal Project has been largely responsible for the parks success and has provided means to refurbish parts of the park in recent years including the historic lakes, the Gamekeeper’s cottage, which is now home to the park’s voluntary trainee team, and The Linhay, which serves as the Park’s Visitor Centre.

Damian Offer, Chief Executive of Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust said:  

“We are delighted to receive the Green Flag Award for 23rd year running”.

“The award celebrates high quality green spaces like Cockington. It is great acknowledgement of the huge effort made by everyone involved in caring for this very special part of Torbay. We could not have achieved the Green Flag for 23 consecutive years without the generous help of Cockington’s friends and volunteers, for which we are extremely grateful”.

Hannah Worthington, former Cockington Green Heart Access Officer said:

“A part of the Green Heart Project was to deliver a programme of community volunteering, for all ages and abilities. Our volunteers have been involved in virtually all areas of the parks regeneration including landscaping around the lakes, many general maintenance tasks as well as helping in the Visitor Centre. Since its start in 2015, over 140 volunteers have helped deliver the project, contributing a collective 6000 hours of their time! Time that has helped achieve the high standards required to qualify for Green Flag recognition.”

International Green Flag Award scheme manager Paul Todd said:

“It’s fantastic that we have more Green Flag Awards in the UK than ever before, joined this year by 131 International winners.”

“Each flag honours the thousands of staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to maintain the high standards demanded by the Green Flag Award. We congratulate each and every winner on their fantastic achievement.”



Research from NacSBA (the National Custom and Self Build Association) shows that self building is 50% more common in the South West than in the rest of the country.

But the South West, as well as the rest of the UK, has a lot of catching up to do compared the rest of the world’ Said Peter Johns, the Show’s Managing Director. ‘Self-Build accounts for just 8% of house building starts in the UK, compared to 80% in Austria and 65% in Belgium, Italy and Sweden, putting us at the bottom of the pile’  

‘The UK really needs to work harder to change perceptions about self-build.  And the Self Build & Design Show South West intends to do just that as well as provide people planning to embark on a self-build project with all the information and inspiration they need for the journey. And self building doesn’t require practical building skills – many self builders employ specialist design and build companies or supervise contractors themselves.

‘The most common barriers to UK self builds are finding suitable plots and obtaining planning permission’ continues Peter who launched SelfBuild & Design magazine to help self builders realise their dream 22 years ago. ‘It is true that land is at a premium in many parts of the UK, but there are ways and ways and means to get the piece of land you covet in the location you desire.’  

Here are Peter’s top six tips for those dreaming of a self-build adventure:

  • Once you’ve settled on your desired area, talk to the locals. Make them aware that you are on the hunt for a building plot. Locals are much more likely to have their ear to the ground on such matters and might be able to give you some inside information before a potential building plot even gets onto the market.


  • Keep an eye on planning applications in your target region, too. Local authorities publish a register of these on their websites.


  • Use a dedicated and trusted plot finding service such as ‘Plot Browser’ ( which is completely free and lists 1,000s of available self-build opportunities throughout the UK. Be very wary about buying a cheap plot without planning permission. Do your research and recognise that if someone is selling a wonderful plot of land at way below market price, there’s probably something wrong with it!


  • Consider buying an existing building if the location is right. Demolishing an existing building and starting again will be easier for obtaining planning permission. The more flexible you are with location or type of project (consider whether a renovation or conversion would meet your needs).


  • Prevent an oversight from turning into a financial catastrophe by considering whether the plot matches your dreams for your ideal home. Common mistakes include whether the plot can be easily connected to mains water and electricity, as well as whether the footprint is big enough to accommodate the size of the house you wish to build.


  • The facts about planning permission are far more positive than you might think. In England, about 75% of applications for building are granted and then 40% of those that are rejected are approved once amended and resubmitted.


The Self Build & Design Show is the South-West’s premier event for anyone considering undertaking a self-build project.  Come and meet hundreds of exhibitors including manufacturers, architects, suppliers, designers, builders and project advisors, take part in seminars, and ask our experts for advice ranging from plot finding, planning applications finance and design through to building methods and the latest products for your home. 

The 2019 Show is on Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 September at Westpoint, Exeter.  

Tickets cost £6.00 in advance from

New ADAS research shows crimping kills black-grass seeds

New trials undertaken by ADAS have shown that preserving cereals by crimping kills 100% of the black-grass seeds ensiled with the crop. 

The results come as welcome news to arable and grassland farmers, who may be able to use crimping as a means of reducing the burden of black-grass on their farms. Researchers have speculated this burden could decline year on year, if crimping is undertaken over the long term.

A further benefit of the crimping process – which involves processing and adding a preservative to the grain and ensiling it in a clamp or plastic tube – comes through its early harvest which is typically three weeks ahead of dry cereal harvest.

The trials also demonstrated that at the time of an early harvest, black-grass seeds were less viable (achieving an 18.6% germination rate) than seeds from a fully mature plant (42% germination). 

The early harvest associated with the crimping process also increased the amount of black-grass seed removed from the field, compared with conventional harvest timing.

The findings add to a string of benefits to come from crimping rather than harvesting dry cereals. These include the higher nutritional quality of the earlier-harvested cereals, the reduced grain loss through shedding and disease, the ability to start autumn cultivations on the cereal ground earlier and the lack of a need to dry grain. 

Dr Laura Davies, ADAS weed researcher, who carried out the trial said crimping looked very promising as an additional method of reducing the black-grass burden on a farm. She said it could be used alongside a range of practices beneficial for reducing black-grass, including strategic ploughing, delayed autumn drilling and opting for spring- instead of autumn-sown cereals.

“We are very encouraged that this trial demonstrated the crimping process itself will kill black-grass seed, making it unviable,” she said. “This suggests that early harvest and crimping could be an effective part of a multifactorial approach to black-grass control.”

Furthermore, she said the results were so promising that their long-term impact over several seasons should be researched.

“We would like to investigate the impact of early harvest on reducing the weed seed bank and emergence of black-grass in subsequent crops,” she said.

Feed preservation specialists, Kelvin Cave Ltd, whose product, Crimpsafe 300, was used in the trials, said the results confirm what they have heard anecdotally for many years.

“Farmers are increasingly using early harvest and crimping as part of their black-grass control strategy,” said Michael Carpenter, the company’s northern area manager.

Neil Welburn who farms 1,600 acres near Goole in Yorkshire is a case in point, and has turned his entire cereal acreage over to crimping.

Mr Welburn says: “Early harvest and crimping are an important part of our black-grass control strategy. We set the combine sieves fully open for crimping and catch all of the weed seed, which you can see in the tank.

“Once everything has been through the crimper, had the preservative applied and been clamped for a month or so, my feeling is that the seed isn’t viable at all.”

He now produces around 500 tonnes/annum of crimped cereals, fattens 600 head of cattle every year on a high crimp ration and sells the remaining 300 tonnes to other livestock producers.

“The cattle are really healthy and the grades have definitely gone up since we’ve been feeding crimp,” he says.

The product is also widely endorsed by independent nutritionists including Stephen Caldwell from SC Nutrition (UK) & Grass Science.

He says crimped cereals are safer for the rumen than dry, rolled cereals or compound feed, and can be fed in higher quantities.

“Crimp wins on several counts for me as the cows perform well on it because it is so rumen-friendly, without any negative action on rumen function and intakes; it’s very straightforward, usually coming straight from another farm in one journey; and because of this, it’s both cost-effective and good for the environment.”

“I think we will see more crimp traded from farm to farm as this low-cost, home-grown feed increases in popularity with livestock producers,” adds Mr Carpenter. “And now we have such compelling evidence of its agronomic benefits in arable rotations, we expect growers will be keen to produce crimped cereals to trade with their livestock farming neighbours.”

Germination of black-grass seed collected at crimped grain harvest, at black-grass seed shedding, and seed stored in crimped grain for one month


Black-grass seed collection timing

% Germination (average across three replicates)

Field collection at time of crimping

June 2017


One month crimped

June 2017 (+ 1 month crimped)


Mature seed

July 2017


Black-grass facts

  • Initially predominantly in East Anglia but black-grass has spread north and west

  • The ninth most common weed in 1989, by 2009 it was number one

  • Around half of the UK’s wheat production area is affected

  • 80% of black-grass populations show resistance to one or more herbicide

  • Non-herbicide control can include changing cultivations, drilling, competitive crops and preventing seed return

    What is crimping
    Crimping cereals involves the rolling of early-harvested grain through a crimping machine to expose the carbohydrate and protein, and the application of a preservative. This ensures a controlled fermentation and maximum nutrient retention once stored in an airtight clamp (or plastic tube). A range of modern preservatives allows cereals to be crimped at moisture contents of 25%-40% and maize at 35-40%. Crimp must remain sealed for at least three weeks and can then be fed throughout the year.

    Why crimp grain

  • Maximises nutrient value, digestibility and dry matter/ha

  • Enables earlier harvest at peak nutritional value

  • The process is simple – crimp, ensile, feed

  • No drying or specialist storage is required

  • Allows early establishment of follow-on crops

  • Reduces grain loss in the field

  • Harvest is less weather-dependent

  • Turns home-grown moist cereals into quality, digestible and palatable concentrate feed

  • Improves animal performance (dairy, beef or sheep) over dry-rolled cereals

  • Completely destroys the viability of black-grass seed in the clamp

  • Backed by over 40 years successful use in Finland and northern Europe

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The Mid Devon Show - 27th July

A must date for your Summer diary is the 27th July when the Mid Devon Show hold its 26th Annual event. Hosted by the National Trust in the Beautiful grounds of the Knightshayes Estate this is truly a gem in the South West’s Calendar. This year`s nominated charity is Farms for City Children who offer breaks for city children in one of their three farming locations. Our nearest one is just outside Exeter and they provide invaluable experiences for young people in the South West and further afield.

This year continues with a packed entertainment schedule in the main ring. The main attraction being the Devils Horseman. Normally seen on the Big Screen they are bringing the magic and stunts from the movies to Devon. There is also Scurry driving, Young Farmers Competitions, Heavy Horses, The Grand Parade, Majorette demonstration, Vintage Tractor Parade, Pony club games and the parade of Hounds.

Away from the main ring we have one of the biggest livestock competitions in the country. With Cattle, Sheep, Horses and Pygmy Goats all competing for the top prizes. The Countryside area is packed full of exhibits and demonstrations. From Ferret Racing, Birds of prey and pony displays. We also have the hilarious and ever popular sheep show returning in 2019. If you have seen it, you will want to see it again, If you have not then it’s a must to visit this year.

We also welcome back our Demonstrators which is unique to the Mid Devon Show. Local companies show off their latest equipment in the demonstration area and it is amazing to get up close and see these massive bits of equipment at work.

 Our 2019 Food Marquee is the biggest in the history of the show with over 50 producers from all over the South West. Local Gins, Ciders and Cheeses are always a great hit together with breads, pastries and hot food make the food hall one of the most popular parts of the show.

This year we are pleased to announce that children 15 and under will gain FREE entry to the show. We hope this will help young families to attend and enjoy all the attractions for the kids. On that note we have loads going on for the youngsters. Funfair Rides, Bouncy Castles, Archery, climbing wall, trampolines, bungee, face painting, Paintball, Donkey Rides and so much more. We also have a big Classic Car Display, Music Festival, Youth Village, Churches Marquee, Flower Marquee, Women’s Institute, Vintage Tractors and Young Farmers Marquee.

Last and not least is shopping and we welcome hundreds of traders from across the South West. You will find anything from Jewellery to Hot Tubs or Hats to Brand new cars. There really is something for everyone and all of our traders are South West based so you know you are supporting local businesses. Another lovely shopping area is the Magpie Market Marquee full of small artisan traders who create a unique market environment and you will be surprised at the lovely items you can find.

Of course, there are the various food outlets serving everything you could possibly want to eat and supported by two local public bars

Getting to the show is really easy with it being Located within walking distance of Tiverton. You can also catch the FREE bus service from the surrounding area, missing all the queues and arriving on the doorstep. This also includes the FREE park and ride service from just outside Tiverton. The show does also have two FREE Carparks adjacent to the show field.

The Mid Devon Show truly is a great day out celebrating everything that The South West has to offer.

Cygnet Causes Panic at Palace

Eagle-eyed viewers of the 24-hour Swan Cam at The Bishop’s Palace have had an exciting week.  Firstly, a cygnet was spotted hatching in the early hours of Saturday morning.  The little cygnet was seen exploring the nest and snuggling up to mum Grace during Saturday. It then delighted viewers by heading into the Palace Moat for its first swim on Sunday morning. It has made several forays onto the Moat since and has even been taken round to the famous Gatehouse bell by both parents, who were showing off their prowess in ringing the bell for food.

The cheeky cygnet managed to cause quite a stir amongst the viewers when it climbed up onto the Moat bank on the wrong side of a fence. It then managed to get itself stuck in the fence at around 8:45pm. Quick-thinking viewers were soon on social media trying to find a solution to the problem and the Palace Marketing team spotted two tweets at around 9pm. The Head Gardener was called up to come down to the Moat bank to help the cygnet to escape – he was seen by Swan Cam viewers gamely fending off Grace with a bucket and extracting the mischievous cygnet!

On Wednesday morning, it managed to pull the same trick again with some more “exploring” of the flower bed and fence. This time our Swan Trainer Moira Anderson was on hand (no bucket needed!) and James helped out with removing the fence for good to ensure no further incidents.

 The three remaining eggs on the nest have not yet hatched and Moira suspects that they are no longer viable. All eggs usually hatch over a 24-hour period and it is thought that the disturbance of being moved from their former unsuitable home, to their new home at the Palace, may have somehow interrupted the normal breeding season.

The new family may only stay on the nest for a few more days, so the Palace is encouraging viewers of Swan Cam (located on the Palace website home page) to enjoy watching them now. 

Gabriel and Grace are finding their way as parents – it is thought that they are first time parents – but seem to have the usual Swan protectiveness instilled in them, which means that the ducks on the moat get swiftly chased off when they get too near.

We are hoping that the cygnet, who Palace Staff have named Lucky, will be looking to have a quiet couple of days now just enjoying some swimming on the moat after all this excitement.

Moira Anderson said…. “I’m delighted that we have a cygnet hatched.  Grace and Gabriel arrived with us and we were just so pleased to have swans back on the moat, so to have any cygnets at all is just amazing.  It means that Grace and Gabriel are loving their new home and we hope that they will be great parents and we will be keeping our fingers crossed for many more cygnets from their little swan family for years to come.    We have been overwhelmed by how everyone has taken this little family to their hearts as was very evident from all the concern expressed when our little cygnet got stuck on Tuesday!  I hate to think how much mischief 6 or 7 cygnets could have caused!”


Education is crucial to agriculture’s future, says CAAV

Educating the younger generation and embracing technology will be crucial to safeguarding the future of agriculture in the UK, a group of professionals has warned.

The approach taken towards attracting young people to pursue an education and career in farming needs to change to ensure the industry can survive, said speakers at the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers’ (CAAV) AGM on June 28. “The industry needs more degree-qualified people and highly skilled staff, as well as more continued professional development (CPD),” said Professor David Llewellyn, vice chancellor at Harper Adams University. “Solid professionals, able to deal with technology leadership skills are needed in modern farming.”

There’s a huge shift happening in agricultural business management. “There does need to be a new approach to food, the environment, climate impacts and health implications, but we need to close the skills gap and bring the best and brightest into farming – this will be as important as the food we produce for the future,” explained Prof Llewellyn.

“With a demographic dip in 18-year-olds, agriculture needs to look at ways of improving skills but also attracting those into the industry that do not have a natural affinity to it. Productivity – and profitability – is driven by education.”

There also needs to be a comprehensive approach to education throughout workers’ careers, not just in the teenage years, he said. “Education and skills run together.”

Advancing technologies mean a number of jobs could become fully automated, including tractor driving, which might see a loss of jobs. But there’s also hope that automation might protect family farms as technology could make smaller farms more financially stable. In addition, Prof Llewellyn believes co-bots, rather than robots, and labour-augmented automation could be the future. “New jobs could be created while leadership and management would need to be adapted.

Jeremy Moody, secretary and adviser to the CAAV, said it was vital to adopt technological advances, or risk being left behind. “If we don’t pick it up, our competitors will.”

However, one of the core issues is the management of land occupation – and the latest tenancy law review could be integral to moving land into the hands of the trained. “We need the right people on the land to do the right thing with it. It doesn’t matter where land comes from, but it does matter who it goes to.” 

Younger generations perceive technology differently, which could be used to attract them into agriculture, said Prof Llewellyn. With Generation Z having never lived without access to a smartphone, it’s essential they’re informed that agriculture is a technologically advanced sector in which to pursue a rewarding career. “We need to consider the attitudes of young people, because if we don’t adapt as an industry, we will not attract them. 

“We have a national drive to get skills into the industry at the moment – through various channels such as AHDB and the NFU, with the idea to build a new professional agenda for farming,” said Prof Llewellyn. “So we can say to young people that agriculture is the industry they should choose as it’s professional. Education and skills need to be front and centre to fulfil our ambitions for the future. If we don’t advocate the exciting advances in the industry, then we will lose out.”

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Tory leadership candidates asked to back five pledges for the rural economy

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has written to Jeremy Hunt MP and Boris Johnson MP asking them to back five pledges for the rural economy, recognising the particular needs of communities and businesses in the countryside:


  1. Introduce a long-term funding settlement for agriculture, forestry and the environment. Current funding commitments expire at the end of this Parliament with no guarantee that sufficient funds will be made available to help deliver the Conservative Party’s ambitious environmental agenda whilst also helping the industry transition away from the Common Agricultural Policy. This lack of certainty is stifling investment as businesses wait and see what will happen next.


  1. Commit to prohibiting food products produced to lower environmental and animal welfare standards from coming into the UK. The UK should be seeking to export its high standards not accepting lower standards from elsewhere. In addition, allowing the import of products such as chlorinated chicken as part of post-Brexit trade deals will undermine UK farmers who will be unable to compete against these cheaper low standard imports.


  1. Ensure a fully connected countryside. For years rural areas have lagged behind towns and cities with their broadband and mobile connectivity. There are a range of steps, such as legally binding mobile targets and public investment, which if implemented will help ensure the rural economy can maximise the connectivity opportunities taken for granted in many urban areas.


  1. Put landowners at the heart of rural housing delivery. Changes to the tax system through, for example, providing tax incentives to aid affordable housing delivery alongside providing greater certainty via the planning system at an earlier stage which will encourage land to be brought forward quickly for housing.


  1. Create a taxation system which works for rural businesses. Many rural businesses have multiple elements, all of which are taxed differently despite forming part of a single business. Creating a single rural business unit to allow all these elements to be taxed as a single entity would help reduce administration and better reflect the reality of these businesses.

Commenting on the pledges, Tim Breitmeyer, President of the CLA said: “We cannot continue with a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to policymaking. By backing these five pledges, the next Prime Minister – whoever it will be – is making a very public commitment to ensuring the particular needs of the countryside are both recognised and met. Our membership looks forward to hearing from Mr Hunt and Mr Johnson soon.”

St Bridget Nurseries wins National Homes & Gardens Family Business of the Year!

On Thursday 6th June at an award ceremony held in The Mayfair Hotel London, St Bridget Nurseries won Homes & Gardens Family Business of the Year 2019. The garden centre business were also joint runners up in the South and South West Regional Category.

The Family Business awards are now in their seventh year and were organised by Family Business United who are a resource centre for family businesses and their advisors.  The evening celebrated the vital contribution that family businesses of all sizes play in the UK economy. The entries were diverse and showed evidence of innovation, investment, passion and pride. All of Great Britain was represented from Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and all parts of England.

St Bridget Nurseries were nominated for an award at the start of the year and then joined a list of fourteen shortlisted companies for the South & South West region. Each shortlisted company was then invited to submit a detailed entry for use by the judges. These entries covered how each family business is governed, key milestones, company values, the involvement of the company in the larger community and how well the company is doing fiscally. In April, St Bridget Nurseries were told that they were finalists along with six other companies for the region and they were one of three national finalists for the Homes & Gardens Category.

At the awards ceremony, Tammy Falloon (Managing Director for St Bridget Nurseries and the fourth generation of the family business) was presented the award by Anthony Gallagher from the award sponsor Easigrass. Tammy said “I am truly honoured and delighted to win this Family Business of the Year Award. This award not only goes to our wonderful team of staff but the teams before them who helped my ancestors build their vision and dream so I can take it forward into its next century.”

St Bridget Nurseries has been a family business since it was founded in 1925. Now in its fourth generation the business still grows over 85% of the plants it sells in the company’s two Exeter based garden centres. When asked what makes their business so special, they answered: “Everything, you will have to visit to see! It’s the people. We’ve been in business for over 90 years. We’ve survived two generations of ‘only children’ so luckily succession planning went well and now we are a rare but strong Mother & Daughter team. We couldn’t have got where we are without the support and loyalty of our wonderful team of staff. Many of which have been with us for 30 plus years!”

St Bridget Nurseries has garden centres at Sidmouth Road, Clyst St Mary, EX5 1AE and Old Rydon Lane, Exeter, EX2 7JY.

Homes & Gardens Family Business of the Year award.jpg
Tammy Falloon receiving Homes & Gardens Family Business of the Year award 2019

Tammy Falloon receiving Homes & Gardens Family Business of the Year award 2019

Alan Watson from Paxton & Whitfield Wins Cheesemonger of the Year 2019!

Alan Watson, a cheesemonger from the UK’s oldest cheese shop Paxton & Whitfield, was crowned Cheesemonger of the Year at the Royal Bath & West Show on Thursday 30th May 2019. 

The competition, held on the second day of the Royal Bath & West Show, saw eight contestants from cheese retailers across the country compete for this coveted title. The finalists had been selected by the British Cheese Awards committee from written entries that cheesemongers from across the UK had submitted for consideration to then be invited to the final. 


The written entry form consisted of a brief history about the entrants’ work in cheese and a response to the following question: ‘You have around  £30 to shop for a cheeseboard for 6 people – which British cheeses would you buy?’   

Alan Watson, winner of Young Cheesemonger of the Year 2019, says: "Just taking part in the competition is a great accolade for any cheesemonger and to have been surrounded by such talented people yesterday was incredibly daunting. On top of that having such respected and  experienced  judges added to my slight feeling of nerves when I started the day. However, I managed to keep a calm mind and approached each round of the competition with determination. The feeling of hearing my name read out as the winner at the end of the day was amazing and it really hasn’t sunk in yet that I won!”

Alan beat seven other cheesemongers who came from cheese shops that included Neal’s Yard Dairy, La Fromagerie, La Cave a Fromage and others. 

The eight finalists were put through four, nail-biting rounds: 

1.     Round one - Cheeseboard Proposal & Discussion where they discussed their cheeseboard selection that they created for their competition entry forms. 

2.     Round two - a Cut & Wrap exercise where they had to cut and wrap different weights of cheese from whole cheeses by sight with no use of weighing scales.

3.     Round three - Identification, where contestants had to taste and identify a number of unmarked cheeses.

4.     Round four - where each contestant took part in a Mastermind-style quiz and give responses to questions asked about British cheese. 

Ros Windsor, managing director of Paxton & Whitfield, says: “We were thrilled to hear that Alan had won the competition. It’s testament to his hard work and dedication in the job that he does. He’s the second Paxton & Whitfield cheesemonger to have won the competition since it started four years ago. He is so passionate about cheese and it’s this passion that shines through in his work at Paxtons and I’m sure that it helped him during the day of the competition.”  

Julius Longman, chairman of the British Cheese Awards, says: “I was extremely impressed by the eight finalists and how they performed throughout the competition day. Although there did have to be a winner it’s good to know that the profession of being a cheesemonger is in safe hands with young cheesemongers like these coming up through the ranks.”

Mary Quicke MBE, award-winning cheesemaker and managing director of Quicke’s, says: "It was a privilege and pleasure to have spent the day with such talented young people working in cheese.  They were all really passionate, knowledgeable and capable when it came to participating in the competition.  We had such a great range of challenging tasks to give them and a great variety of cheesey things to do.  There were so few points between all the competitors in the final marks.  The winner, Alan, was well deserved. It’s great there are such motivated young people championing cheese across the country."

Tracey Colley, director of the Academy of Cheese, says: "What a fantastic line up we had for Young Cheesemonger of the Year 2019, they were certainly put through their paces but rose to all the challenges with passion, skill, patience and humour! Our eight finalists ranging in age from 21 to 29 years old are a credit to the cheese industry and we feel very proud to be helping them on their journey onwards and upwards. The winner, Alan Watson from Paxton & Whitfield the UK’s oldest cheesemonger, shone through with his knowledge of British cheeses, cutting and wrapping skills and identification and assessment of the five competition cheeses.” 

Michael Lane, editor of Fine Food Digest, says: “Alan Watson’s experience, understanding and enthusiasm proved to be a potent winning combination but he was run very close by an excellent field of finalists. All eight of the contestants impressed the judging panel with their level of knowledge, approach to selling cheese and, most of all, their individual personalities. Each one is a credit to themselves, the shops they work in and the professional title of ‘cheesemonger’.”

Becoming an expert cheesemonger is more than just learning about how to cut cheese. It’s about knowing all the cheese varieties, how to care for them and understanding how they are made. The competition was open to cheesemongers under the age of 30 and sponsored by Fine Food Digest, Britain's leading trade magazine for speciality fine food and drink, and the Academy of Cheese, providing training and knowledge for the cheese industry.


Farmers vital in combating climate change

Farmers and land managers have a huge role to play in combating climate change and enhancing the environment, and must be recognised as such, according to speakers at the Bath & West Show. 

With Brexit and resulting changes to agricultural and environmental legislation looming, it’s vital that the Government – and the public – recognise the beneficial role which farmers can play, said Lord Bathurst, president of this year’s Show. Speaking at the CLA breakfast on Wednesday (29 May), he said that farmers provided food, timber, renewable energy, clean water, environmental measures, tourism, leisure, and mitigation of inclement weather conditions. 

“To be successful, environmental payments must deliver real income and profit if they are to be sustainable,” he explained. “And we need to get public support – it’s so important that we get our message out to the public and the Bath & West show provides the ideal platform for knowledge exchange.”

David Cross, director of farm agency at Savills, said that natural capital will likely become a more visibly traded asset to meet new environmental targets. “It may well be traded like milk quota in future, and the value of such commodities (like floodplains and marshland) will increase.”

However, in order to thrive in the new era, farmers need to adapt to become active land managers, warned Mark Tufnell, vice president of the CLA. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they will have to plant and manage more trees, to sequester carbon, for example. “Carbon is also locked up in our soils, so grass and the animals that eat it are absolutely vital.”

Payments for public goods also need to be tailored to local areas and local needs, according to James Heappey, MP for Wells and Somerset. But there is more to the rural economy than land management – local infrastructure also needs to evolve to match the rate of development, he warned. 

“Too many villages have no houses under £350,000 – and rural schools can’t survive if families can’t buy,” he said. But with ever more housing developments – aimed at lowering house prices - roads, high speed broadband, 4G and other services all need to be improved, too. “Our local communities won’t be sustainable if we don’t square that circle.”

However, according to Minette Batters, president of the NFU, any discussion around payments to protect the environment is premature. “All of this has to be seen in the context of what our future trading relationship is going to be,” she said. “Farms are businesses, and they can’t deliver environmental goods if they are not economically viable. They receive a miniscule amount of the value chain, and the Government has a duty of care to make sure these businesses are trading fairly. 

“If farmers are undermined by cheap raw ingredients coming into our market place, which are produced to a lower standard, it will be economically disastrous for the industry,” she added. “We’re putting the cart before the horse – we need to focus on the industry structure to ensure that farms are profitable, sustainable businesses, and that revolves around food production and market viability.”


  • The Royal Bath & West Show will be held on 29 May – 1 June. Tickets are available from the website: or by calling 0844 776 6777. Children - for the first time - can go free during the May half term.