Meet the mascots at top Devon family attractions
- Credit: Phil Saunders, Beep Media
These colourful characters are getting ready to help families have fun in Devon this season, as CHRISSY HARRIS discovers
Woolly the sheep is thinking about learning how to ski. The star mascot at the Big Sheep amusement farm park in Abbotsham, near Bideford, has already jumped over a car on a motorbike, tried his hand at boxing, done some shifts on a school crossing patrol and appeared on national television.
There’s really nothing this giant bundle of fun can’t turn his hoof to. Woolly (and the kind volunteer beneath the suit, of course) are part of an eclectic bunch of characters lined up to spread a little mascot magic at Devon’s top attractions this summer.
Many of these family favourites have been delighting locals and visitors for years, bringing smiles to the faces of even the most stony-faced (or perhaps holiday-stressed out) parents.
Because who couldn’t fail to be at least mildly amused by the sight of a waving giant pig or a caveman making rock cakes?
All of Devon’s mascots - who include Gilbert the station master from Seaton Tramway and Appy Angus the deer from World of Country Life - work hard at keeping the crowds entertained and have become valuable members of the team at our attractions.
Their work often takes them on road trips up and down the county and beyond, helping to spread the word about Devon and its family-friendly destinations.
Beach front roadshows, litter picks and even a mascot ‘bake-off’ are just some of the events the mascots have taken part in recently.
These larger-than-life entertainers also work hard in their local communities, bringing a little joy and laughter where it’s needed most.
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Woolly was there in Bideford on the first day back at school after lockdown to help welcome children through the gates.
The man under the sheep suit, local personal trainer and sports coach Jack Johns, says it’s a great gig.
“As soon as they see the mascot, the kids’ faces just light up,” he says, adding that he’s been playing the part for about four years, during which time Woolly and his sidekick Bodie (Jack’s now 13-year-old son) ended up taking part in the opening sequence of ITV's Britain's Got Talent in 2018.
“That was really fun,” says Jack, who had to bust out moves to hits such as Kung Fu Fighting, Gangnam Style and even the Baby Shark song as part of his act on the hit show. “I’m always looking for an opportunity to do something a bit different. It’s all about making people laugh and having fun.”
Appy Angus at World of Country Life in Exmouth is also a local celebrity, heading out on regular trips around town, often aboard some of the attraction’s vintage vehicles. Angus – a member of the team here since 2011 – has even been given the privilege of switching on the Christmas lights at one of the local hotels.
“He certainly gets involved,” says Debbie Butler from World of Country Life. “He’s happy to take part in all sorts of activities. Quite a few of our annual pass holders are absolutely nuts about Angus.”
Debbie says souvenir versions of Angus end up all over the world.
“People send us photos of him in Rome, the USA,” she says. “He’s certainly well loved by all of his fans.”
Back in North Devon, John and Woolly are getting ready for their next adventure.
“I’m thinking about trying some more extreme mascot wearing stuff around the local area,” says John, adding that teenage son Bodie is still happy to act as Woolly’s co-star, should he be needed. Daughter Willow, nine, is not quite so keen.
“I’m thinking we might try skiing,” says John. “I could maybe get some skis with wheels and we could go down some hills….”
That’ll get the holiday momentum going…
Joining in the fun
Devon’s mascots are a force to be reckoned with when they get together. Some of the events they’ve done include:
Clean Up the County, heading out to clean up the roadsides around the attractions.
Service station road shows – they are frequent visitors to some of the inbound M5 Service stations.
Beach front roadshows – the mascots come together to promote Devon at Dawlish Warren and Exmouth Beach fronts.
Sandy Park – The mascots love to get together for the rugby.
Mascot Bake-Off at Beverley Holiday Park, Paignton, where Cavog from Kents Cavern dished up his favourite ‘rock cakes’.
Members working together
All of the places mentioned are members of the Devon Association of Tourist Attractions (DATA).
The not-for-profit group represents the county’s best visitor attractions. To become a member, an organisation has to go through a tough inspection process and maintain certain quality standards. The 37 DATA members include adrenaline-packed theme parks, animal encounters, historic houses and gardens, museums, steam railways, boats and trams.