Top of the crops! East Devon deafblind woman scoops first prize for scarecrow

A deafblind woman from East Devon has proved outstanding in her field after designing a winning scarecrow for a garden centre competition.

A beaming Laura Gaiger, from West Hill, was presented with a greenhouse worth £1,000 after scooping the top prize in Otter Garden Centres’ make a scarecrow competition.

Laura won the contest with her scarecrow named Otto, the baby otter protector; she beat off stiff competition from entries across the garden centre’s seven sites.

East Devon

Pictured here, left to right, is Mark Abbot and Sarah Fletcher from Otter Garden Centres with competition winner Laura Gaiger and Gayle McGoldrick from Sense.
Photo: Otter Garden Centres.

Deaf and partially-sighted Laura recycled her dad’s clothes and other items, in a bid to create the winning design.

Toy otters were added to the scarecrow’s arms and head by Laura before it was transported to the garden centre, in Ottery St Mary, to join the other competition entries.

Laura spent around four weeks creating her design with the help of Gayle McGoldrick from Sense, a charity providing services for those who are deafblind or have complex disabilities.

Her finished scarecrow was collected from Sense, in Exeter, to Laura’s home, where she could enjoy the fruits of her labour, having Otto in her garden, before it went off to be judged.

Keen tomato grower Laura will use her Elite greenhouse prize to plant seeds and share the crop with her friends at Sense next summer.

Bob Gaiger, Laura’s dad, said: “When Otto came to our house, he certainly had an impact on our wildlife – no birds came to the bird feeder for the entire weekend.”

Laura said the family’s dog, Barney, was also a little nervous of her scarecrow.

Gayle, who helped with her design, said: “Laura simply loves otters. When she was thinking how her scarecrow might look, we explored different ideas, and started talking about how the plant nurseries at Otter are like the nurseries which children go to.

“This made Laura think of baby otters and this became the inspiration for Otto, who protects baby otters.”


The scarecrow’s name badge.
Photo: Otter Garden Centres.

East Devon

Competition winner Laura Gaiger, middle, and Gayle McGoldrick from Sense, with the wining scarecrow.
Photo: Otter Garden Centres.

Otter Garden Centres said the competition attracted ‘many fantastic entries’ in the adult and children’s categories.

Initial judging was based on votes from the public, with all the first-placed entries in both categories winning Otter gift cards. The management team decided the overall winner.

Chris Amphlett, marketing manager, who was on the judging panel, said: “It was a tough call as the entries were just so impressive, with lots of thought and creativity going into the designs.

“But after careful deliberation, it was the idea of Otto protecting baby otters that caught the imagination of the judging panel – we just couldn’t resist.”

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