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24 September 2014

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The River Otter and Heritage Coast
Mouth of the River Otter
The mouth of the River Otter, with Budleigh Salterton just visible through the trees
Part of the East Devon coast has been named a World Heritage site because of its prehistoric age. The coast here is magnificent, and you can combine a walk along the top of the cliffs with a riverside stroll along the River Otter - which is a haven for thousands and thousand of birds.
Dart Valley Trail
Tipton St John
Puffing Billy Track
Thatched village of Cockington
Mariners' Way

Clinton Devon Estates

Devon Wildlife Trust

Walking Routes UK

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The East Devon and Dorset coast was made a World Heritage site by the cultural arm of the United Nations.

The designation was awarded as a result of the rock formations at the cliffs, where prehistoric fossils can be found.

The stretch of coast is known as the Jurassic Coast, because of its prehistoric origins.

The Otter Nature Reserve is managed by owned and managed by Clinton Devon Estates.

The birds here are plentiful during the winter months especially.

Among the bird species are wildfowl and waders, redshank, greenshank, dunlin, common sandpiper, ringed plover, grey plover and curlew.

The seaside town of Budleigh Salterton is situated just down from the mouth of the River Otter.

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Distance: 6 miles
2hrs-2hrs 30 mins

You get the best of both worlds with this walk in East Devon. There are fantastic views along the River Otter estuary - with lots of birdlife to see - and part of the walk also takes in a section of the East Devon coast which has been named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations.

The walk begins in the village of Otterton, where there is plenty of on-road, free-of-charge parking.

The bridge at Otterton
The walk starts here...

At the bottom end of the village is a picturesque bridge over the River Otter, where you start the walk following the right bank of the Otter.

This walk was taken in the middle of winter, which is the perfect time to see the river in full flow, and the birdlife in full flight.

After around half-an-hour walking along the river, with open fields to your right, you reach a road. Turn left here and go over the bridge, so that you are now on the left bank of the widening estuary.

This is the Otter Estuary Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest - an area of reed bed and grazing marsh (Grid Ref: SY 076 822). The 23-hectare reserve, which is managed by the Clinton Devon Estates, is full of bird varieties at this time of year.

If you follow the sign posts around the reserve, with open fields now on your left, you will see a bird hide half-way up the hill overlooking the estuary. From here, you can spy on all the goings-on down on the river. During this walk, there were literally hundreds and hundreds of birds enjoying a swim.

River Otter
The River Otter's meandering estuary

Many of the birds come here to get away from colder winter climes, and to enjoy all the food on offer on the estuary. Among them are wildfowl and waders, redshank, greenshank, dunlin, common sandpiper, ringed plover, grey plover, curlew and snipe. To name but a few.

Having had a little rest in the bird hide, the walk then continues to the mouth of the River Otter, where you can look across to the seaside town of Budleigh Salterton.

This is where you join up with the South West Coast Path eastwards - and upwards! There is a climb, a drop and another ascent along this stretch of the coast, which is part of the newly-named World Heritage Site.

The prehistoric cliffs are a dramatic sight, and on a clear day you can see High Peak and Sidmouth in the distance. This was not a clear day, however...

The Heritage Coast near Budleigh Salterton
The coastline just up from Budleigh Salterton

It takes around an hour or so to walk from the road bridge at the Nature Reserve, to a footpath sign, which sends you inland and back to Otterton.

After the hilly coastal section, the rest of the walk is nice and easy.

The path, which can be muddy in places, disects typical Devon farmland - all red soil and rolling hills.

And, once back in Otterton, what better way to round off the walk than to have a pub lunch in the King's Arms. Like many other rural pubs in Devon, the King's Arms also doubles up as the local function rooms - the hub of the community.

In all, the walk takes between two and three hours, depending on how long you decide to linger to take in the views. The going is moderate - but make sure you've got appropriate footwear, as it can be muddy in places during wet weather.

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