Local BBC Sites

Neighbouring Sites

Page last updated at 11:27 GMT, Monday, 1 February 2010
Devon's rivers: The River Otter
The mouth of the River Otter
The mouth of the River Otter

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.

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 River Otter
Stretches of the Ottter are important for wildlife

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 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.

Otter by nature

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'.

Devon's rivers: The River Dart
04 Jan 10 |  Nature & Outdoors
Devon's rivers: The Exe
05 Jan 10 |  Nature & Outdoors
Devon's rivers: The Tamar
04 Jan 10 |  Nature & Outdoors
Devon's rivers: River Taw
03 Feb 10 |  Nature & Outdoors
Devon's rivers: The River Teign
28 Jan 10 |  Nature & Outdoors
Devon's Rivers: The Torridge
27 Jan 10 |  Nature & Outdoors
A-Z of Devon's natural world
16 Dec 09 |  Nature & Outdoors
Walks in Devon
23 Sep 09 |  Nature & Outdoors
Devon webcams
02 Sep 09 |  People & Places


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2019 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific