The Otter estuary

Anyone who has ever read my blogs before will know I love otters! So where better to (potentially) spot them but on the River Otter itself!

Whilst staying at Sweetcombe Cottages’ Rosemary Cottage, I was looking up walks in the local area that were relatively accessible with a buggy, and I then remembered reading about a walk along the River Otter before.

river otter scene

This was a walk that I’d always wanted to do but hadn’t had the opportunity. To me, the River Otter is extra special in that it is home to breeding beavers so not only is there the chance you might see an otter or two but also if you are super lucky, a beaver! 

BaldHiker Retreats

The start of the walk

We parked up at Lime Kiln car park, which sits on the edge of the coastal town of Budleigh Salterton. Here, you can see the Otter’s estuary and the footpath fringes the edge of the river along the way.

Start of the walk

The parking charges change between the summer and winter months but were pretty reasonable. Plus, you can pay for parking by card to save scrabbling around for coins. 

Birdwatching

At the start of the walk, there were a couple of bird hides and viewing areas.

wildlife hide river otter

This area is extremely popular with birders in search of wetland species of bird such as Brent geese and shelducks. With quite extensive reed beds, there’s also the opportunity to spot reed bunting or Cetti’s warblers.

We chatted to some of the birders there and were able to see shelducks, little egret, Canadian geese and swans at this point. Further along the walk, we also saw lots of swallows and house martins who were feeding off the midges.

river otter walk

Some of the area is currently being developed as part of flood prevention schemes and also to increase the wildlife habitat. 

The walk 

For our walk, we decided to head along the river until Otterton Mill – a convenient spot for lunch that meant we’d be walking for just shy of 3 miles each way. 

For us, walking along a long stretch of river is something of a novelty. Sure, Hampshire is home to the Test Way, of which I’ve walked several stretches, however there aren’t huge amounts of places to follow directly along the river that are local to us.

path by the river otter

For the majority of the walk, the route was well signposted and easy to follow. It does get boggy in places, which isn’t a surprise given it’s beside a river, so this did make it a tad challenging with a buggy at times. 

If you fancy it, then you can go off this route at a couple of the bridges, allowing you to extend your walk or making a circular walk into the wider Devon countryside.

footbridge over the river otter

Wildlife along the way

I’ve touched upon the birds that we saw but for us, the highlight would definitely be seeing beavers or otters. Unfortunately, this wasn’t going to be the day but, in some ways, I wasn’t surprised given it was on a busy bank holiday weekend and we were walking in the middle of the day.

tree gnawed by beavers

Your chance of viewing either species is increased at dawn and dusk and also probably when you don’t have a noisy 2-year-old in tow! 

However, we did see plenty of evidence of beaver activity along the route. Gnawed tree routes dotted several areas of riverbank, with some that looked very fresh.

Beaver evidence

There was also the making of a dam and what looked like a beaver den too. Amazing!

The makings of a dam

Both beavers and otters can be controversial. Beavers are seen to destroy trees and habitats (however they are beneficial for flood prevention) and otters eat a lot of fish. However, the occurrence of both species does indicate the sign of a healthy river. 

A pit stop at Otterton Mill

We had planned for our walk to be a ‘there and back’ kind, with a pit stop at Otterton Mill. This beautiful mill is home to a café, farm shop, gallery and still operates as a grain mill making flour for the homemade bread.

Otterton Mill

We both opted for a ploughman’s and were mightily impressed by them. The majority of the food on the menu, whether you fancied something more formal or a lighter lunch, was locally sourced. I enjoyed some local cheeses and we all loved the homemade bread. It’s clearly a popular place with both locals and visitors and I can see why.

Outside dining area at Otterton Mill

The gallery featured lots of local artists and I could easily spend a lot here both in terms of time and money! If you are looking for something a bit different as your Devon keepsake, then be sure to pop in.

Sculpture at Otterton Mill

Returning to Budleigh Salterton

After our well-earned break, we started the walk back to Budleigh Salterton. The tide was beginning to come in a bit more now so as we approached the final stretches of the walk, you could see the estuarial landscape changing.

Looking towards the estuary

Note: If you are interested in knowing more about the beaver trial that’s been done here, Devon Wildlife Trust has lots of information.

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