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You are in: Devon > Discover Devon > Great Outdoors > Coast and Country > Devon's rivers: The Otter

River Otter mouth

The mouth of the River Otter

Devon's rivers: The Otter

The River Otter may be a Devon river, but it actually starts its south-westerly journey to the sea from across the county border in Somerset.

Otter by name

The River Otter in East Devon gets it name from the creatures which once thrived in the waterway - that's how the story goes, anyway.

The past century, however, has been disastrous for otters - not just in the River Otter, but everywhere.

The good news is that after decades of decline, the otters are now making a comeback to the river as a result of conservation efforts.

The river actually starts just over the border near Otterford in Somerset.

It flows south-westerly, passing through villages and towns including Ottery St Mary before reaching the sea at Budleigh Salterton. The Otter Valley also takes in places such as Honiton.


Otters on the banks of the River Otter

Haven for wildlife

Large stretches of the river are of environmental importance. The estuary is a nature reserve managed by the Devon Wildlife Trust. It's a special site of scientific interest (SSSI).

The saltmashes, mudflats and reed beds are a great habitat for birds and this area attracts birdwatchers keen to catch a glimpse of the species which winter on the estuary.

Among them are redshank, greenshank, dunlin, common sandpiper, ringed plover, grey plover, curlew, brent goose, reed bunting and little grebe.

For centuries, the river supported industries such as corn and textile mills. These days, the river is largely a recreational resource, visited by walkers and people just taking in the scenery.

The river used to be important for trout and salmon, but is much less so now.

The River Otter at Tipton St John

The river bank is being eroded at Tipton St John

The Otter often bursts its banks and flooding is a major problem for communities along the river.

Ottery St Mary has been flooded several times in recent years and a £4 million flood defence scheme was built in 2004.

Other places have been affected too, including the village of Tipton St John - where erosion is also a problem.

Here, the banks of the river are being pushed further and further back, eating into adjoining land.

The River Otter isn't one of the biggest rivers in Devon, but it's among the most scenic and has played a big role in the past and present of the communities it flows through.

And its environmental importance is significant. Let's hope the revival of the otter population continues so that the river can again be 'Otter by name, otter by nature.'

last updated: 06/02/2008 at 13:45
created: 05/02/2008

You are in: Devon > Discover Devon > Great Outdoors > Coast and Country > Devon's rivers: The Otter

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