Otterton Mill wins two Golds in regional awards

Owners say beavers have made enormous difference to the risk of flooding to the site.

Philippa Davies

Otterton Mill has been rewarded with two Golds in the latest Taste of the West Awards.

Its café-restaurant achieved Gold for the eighth year running, and its farm shop also won Gold for the second time, having entered for the first time last year.

The regional awards are assessed using secret shoppers and diners. The independent judges commented on Otterton Mill’s commitment to local sourcing, high quality produce and knowledgeable friendly staff.

Owners Chris and Carol Wright, who have been running the Mill since 2015, said they are ‘delighted’ with its continued success, and the way the awards recognise all their hard-working staff.

But there is another busy group whose work behind the scenes is contributing to Otterton Mill’s strength as a business. According to Chris, the River Otter beavers have made an enormous difference by reducing the flood risk to the site.

Before Chris and Carol took over, Otterton Mill was plagued by flooding, with a particularly bad incident in 2012 which led to it being closed for two months. Flooding was still a regular occurrence when the Wrights arrived in 2015, but Chris said he had noticed a definite change in the following years as the River Otter’s beaver population expanded.

He said: “When you get a lot of rain the problem is when you get it hitting the river too quickly. Those beavers are slowing down how quickly it hits the main watercourse because it’s held up in all these ditches and things they’ve created their dams in. I used to be here all the time dealing with floods, but now I’m very rarely here due to flooding, The beavers have definitely, definitely made a difference, it just doesn’t hit us so quickly.”

Of course, the Lower Otter Restoration Project is also alleviating flooding in the area, but Chris said the beavers got there first.

He said: “We’ve noticed a difference 2017-18-19 onwards, before the scheme. I think the LORP will just improve the situation even more.

“The beavers didn’t necessarily help us win a Gold, though! It’s a very good team here at the Mill and it’s great to be recognised for doing a good job, and this is what the awards do for everyone involved in our business here.”