Exploring the most Picturesque & Historic parts of England
The Otterhead Estate and Lakes Local Nature Reserve is in the south of the Borough of Taunton Deane within walking distance of the boundaries of East Devon, Mid Devon and South Somerset Districts. Otterhead can thus claim to be at the heart of the Blackdown Hills as that Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is composed of countryside in those four local council areas.
The nature reserve, registered as a BBC Breathing Place (no. 33901) in 2008, consists of a one mile long steep sided section of the valley of the River Otter within two miles of its source. The River Otter after leaving Somerset, passes the Devon towns of Honiton and Ottery St. Mary to reach the sea near Budleigh Salterton. The Otterhead Estate at its greatest extent also included the headwaters of the River Culm and the River Yarty. The present estate, though much reduced in size in 1919, includes throughout its length the Otterhead Lakes, a chain of seven lakes and former lakes which together with the river and other water channels give the impression of a neglected landscaped water garden. The river is the parish boundary separating Churchstanton and Otterford. The former parish was in Devon until 1897.
The Otterhead Estate Trust, a not-for-profit limited company, has leased the reserve since 2008 and its aims are to improve wildlife habitats as well as to conserve and where possible restore built heritage features and the designed landscape of the Victorian estate. The former gardens of Otterhead House (built in 1840's and demolished in 1952) with surviving garden plants such as Rhododendron maximum are also being conserved for the first time since the late 1930's and are therefore examples of lost gardens.
Otterhead provides opportunities for quiet pursuits such as walking and photography and there are successive displays of snowdrops, daffodils and other narcissi and bluebells. There are various habitats ensuring a range of wild flowers. The intention is to develop Otterhead as an education resource for estate, heritage landscape and wildlife management.
It should be noted that the old paths and drives are often quite steep, uneven and muddy. There is no admission charge and there is a small free car park. However although Churchinford (Churchingford) is only a mile away by public footpath, buses there are infrequent.
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