The Otter estuary

A walk from Budleigh Salterton to Otterton along the River Otter

Anyone who has ever read my blogs knows that I love otters! So where better to (possibly) spot them than on the River Otter itself!

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

This was a hike I had always wanted to do but hadn’t had the chance. To me, the River Otter is extra special as it is home to breeding beavers, so not only is there the chance of seeing an otter or two, but if you are super lucky, a beaver!

Social walks with baldhiker

The start of the walk

We parked in the Lime Kiln car park, on the outskirts of the coastal town of Budleigh Salterton. Here you can see the mouth of the Otter and the footpath along the edge of the river along the way.

Start of the walk

The parking rates change between the summer and winter months, but were reasonable. In addition, you can pay for parking with a card, so you don’t have to search for coins.

Bird watching

At the start of the walk there were a few bird hides and viewpoints.

wildlife hiding river otter

This area is extremely popular with bird watchers looking for wetland bird species such as brent geese and shelducks. With fairly extensive reed beds, there is also the possibility of spotting reed bunting or Cetti’s warblers.

We talked to some bird watchers there and were able to see shelducks, little egrets, Canada geese and swans at this point. Further on during the walk we also saw many swallows and house martins feeding on the mosquitoes.

river otter walking

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

The stroll

For our walk we decided to go along the river as far as Otterton Mill – a handy place for lunch, which meant we only had to walk three miles.

For us, walking along a long stretch of river is something new. Sure, Hampshire is home to the Test Way, of which I’ve walked several stretches, but there aren’t a huge number of places that can be followed directly along the river near us.

path along the river otter

For most of the walk the route was well signposted and easy to follow. It gets boggy in places which is no surprise considering it’s next to a river so this made it a bit challenging with a buggy at times.

If you fancy, you can deviate from this route at a few bridges, allowing you to extend your walk or take a circular walk into the wider Devon countryside.

pedestrian bridge over the river otter

Wild animals on the road

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

tree eaten by beavers

Your chances of seeing both species are higher at dawn and dusk and probably even if you don’t have a boisterous 2-year-old in tow!

We did see enough traces of beaver activity along the way. Trails ran along the banks of the river through gnawed trees, some of which looked very fresh.

Beaver proof

A dam was also made and what appeared to be a beaver den. Astonishing!

The ingredients of a dam

Both beavers and otters can be controversial. Beavers are seen to destroy trees and habitat (they are beneficial for flood prevention though) and otters eat a lot of fish. However, the presence of both species indicates a healthy river.

A pit stop at Otton Mill

We planned our walk to be a ’round trip’, with a pit stop at Otterton Mill. This beautiful mill is home to a cafe, farm shop, gallery and still operates as a grain mill making flour for the home-baked bread.

Otto mill

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

Outdoor dining area at Otton Mill

The gallery featured many local artists and I could easily spend a lot here both in terms of time and money! If you’re looking for something a little different as your memento of Devon, be sure to stop by.

Sculpture at Otterton Mill

Returning to Budleigh Salterton

After our well deserved break we started the walk back to Budleigh Salterton. The tide was starting to come in a bit more now, so as we approached the last stretches of the walk you could see the estuary landscape changing.

Looking at the mouth

Remark: If you want to know more about the beaver trial done here, Devon Wildlife Trust has a lot of information.

You may also like:

  • Fosdyke Bridge to Surfleet – A walk along the River Welland
  • Walks along Lancashire’s Wyre Estuary
  • Hawes Bridge and the River Kent loop
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