Frequently Asked Questions


How can we contact The Otterhead Estate Trust?

Preferably by email to     as there are no postal facilities at the reserve.; all relevant observations made by email either about the reserve or about this website are passed to the Estate Trust directors. There may be times when the postcode of the reserve is needed; the postcode of the car park is TA3 7EE but this is not for the receipt of mail; the postcode for the southern part of the reserve is TA3 7EF but again there are no postal facilities for receipt of mail. The car park is east of the River Otter; all the reserve east of the river and lakes is in the Parish of Otterford and the remainder of the reserve to the west of the river and lakes is in the Parish of Churchstanton.



Where was Otterhead House?

From the Car Park walk down the drive and take the first turning to the right after crossing the bridge. Trees at present mark the house site.


Otterhead 'Lost Gardens': Steps to former lawns and borders April 2008 


A flight of steps just beyond the site of Otterhead House leads up to former gardens. Please note these steps are now temporarily partly hidden by a fallen willow; the oak and hawthorn to the right of the steps are still visible at Otterhead. Nearly all the trees growing among the rubble on the house site are being removed by Otterhead Forest School.



May we or our dog(s) swim at Otterhead Lakes?

No. The Wessex Water Code of Conduct (please see Useful Links on this website) states that only persons fishing (members of the Taunton Fly Fishing Association) may enter the water. Dogs are only allowed on the two public footpaths and then on a leash; this legal right for public footpath users clearly does not extend to allowing dogs to deviate from footpaths either on land or into the water, in which circumstances it would be reasonable to conclude that they are not under close control.



When, by whom and why was Otterhead House demolished?

1951-1952 and later, mainly by Taunton Borough Council, due to concerns over possible contamination of the public water supply.


Otterhead House, Churchstanton, from south east. The laurel hedge on the left still survives.

Otterhead House (from Estate Sale Particulars).



What are the ruins on the left of the main drive on the way down to the Otterhead Lakes?

The walls of the Lower Walled Garden. The adjoining flight of steps from the drive, restored by means of combined funding from Somerset County Council and from the community fund of Councillor Ross Henley, county councillor for the Blackdowns and Wellington East division, which includes Otterhead, provides a view across the closed Lower Walled Garden, which, unlike the Higher Garden, is not terraced:


Lower Walled Garden from restored entrance steps.

Lower Walled Garden from restored flight of steps (but no present access).



Who lived at Otterhead House?

Successively members of the Beadon, Mellor, Reid, Lewis Lloyd, Bovill, Black and Goschen families and some of their domestic staff.



Can we see the source of the River Otter during our visit?

From the 1890's until 1919 the Estate included the sources of the River Otter. The sources are a mile or so upstream from the present day Otterhead Estate and there is currently no direct access from the Estate; roads and public footpaths provide access to the River Otter higher up the Otter Valley but visitors, without permission from landowners, should keep to those roads and public footpaths.  



Do you know that The Local Channel website for the Otterhead Estate and Lakes is down?

Yes and so does The Local Channel. Unfortunately all websites at The Local Channel share the same problem.



Do you know that the Breathing Places website for Otterhead is down?

Yes; BBC sponsorship came to its scheduled end and the website has been down from 8 June 2011 onwards.



Can we travel to Otterhead by bus?

Although the answer is yes from a few places, it is not really recommended as the Estate is a mile or so from the bus route and it would be very easy to overstay and miss the only bus back.

The infrequency of the 387 bus service means that even that return journey is only possible from Sidmouth, Ottery St. Mary, Honiton and other places south of Churchinford. 

It is possible to reach Hunters Lodge or Churchinford for Otterhead by that bus from the Taunton direction but there is no bus back until the next day (and none on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays)!

Indicative timetable is at How to Find Otterhead Estate and Lakes on this website.

Petition for reinstatement of Saturday buses closed 20 September 2011.



Is it safe to let my dog off the lead at Otterhead? 

Wessex Water discourages dogs due to public health considerations as Otterhead is a water gathering area for the public mains water supply. Dogs under close control are allowed on the two public footpaths at Otterhead. Dogs must not be allowed to chase any animals in this Nature Reserve. Leaving aside the Code of Conduct (please see Useful Links on this website), dogs could be attacked if swimming in the lakes and ashore could be at risk in deep spring line mires and when adders are active. There have been occurences of dogs chasing deer at Otterhead; it is difficult to resist the conclusion that in such instances either the dog is being encouraged to chase deer or it is out of control in a public place.



Can we ride or lead horses or ponies at Otterhead?

The two public rights of way are public footpaths and are signed as such:


Public Footpath fingerpost at Royston Road, Otterhead Estate

Public Footpath fingerpost at Royston Road, Otterhead Estate July 2011.


The public do not have a right to ride or lead horses or ponies along any public footpath anywhere and this therefore includes Otterhead. All the other visible paths are Wessex Water permissive footpaths where the same prohibition to visitors' use other than on foot applies.



Where is Otterhead? Directions by private transport from Taunton and from Honiton:

The B3170 road is the easiest for first time visitors.

From Taunton, drive uphill after Corfe and the turning for Otterhead (signed for Otterford Church) is the first on the right some distance after an advisory 40mph speed limit. If you reach the Devon county boundary, you will have missed the turning.

From Honiton, drive through Monkton, ignore the A30 for Chard and take the B3170 signed for Taunton on the left just after a closed filling station. After the Somerset boundary, drive through two cross roads and then take the first left (signed for Otterford Church). If the advisory 40mph speed limit is reached, you will have missed the turning.

After taking the lane signed for Otterford Church, bear right at a triangular junction and the entrance to the free car park is on the left before a sharp right bend.

Map: there is a map on the BBC Breathing Places website for Otterhead (website down from 8 June 2011 onwards as above).




Do you know that there is Japanese Knotweed at Otterhead?

Not to our knowledge; plants pointed out as believed to be Japanese Knotweed are actually Bamboo, Bohemian Hybrid Knotweed or Himalayan Knotweed.


Bohemian Hybrid Knotweed at Otterhead September 2006

Bohemian Hybrid Knotweed at Otterhead September 2006.


Himalayan Knotweed at Otterhead August 2008

Himalayan Knotweed at Otterhead August 2008.


Unlike at some locations, these plants from overseas would have been deliberately brought to the Otterhead gardens for ornamental purposes. All are monitored as to spread. If any were particularly invasive they would have had ample time, since the gardens were last maintained in the late 1930's, to have spread to all parts of the estate by now as Japanese Knotweed, if present then, would almost certainly have done.

The Otterhead Estate Trust has been controlling another non native invasive plant, the annual Himalayan Balsam, since 2008:


Himalayan Balsam at Otterhead August 2008

Himalayan Balsam flowers and seed capsules at Otterhead August 2008.


Eradication of this annual invasive alien introduction at Otterhead and therefore also along the River Otter downstream through Somerset and Devon to the sea will only be possible if similar work being carried out upstream along the Royston Water tributary is successful. Only four seedlings were found and destroyed in 2016 whereas in 2008 there were hundreds.



Is Geocaching allowed at Otterhead?

No because those seeking the geocaches could cause inadvertent damage to wildlife and habitats at this designated local nature reserve.



Otterhead Lakes: How many lakes are/were there at Otterhead and when did construction take place?

In addition to the two remaining lakes, House Lake and Royston Lake, there are five former lakes. There are also sites of an unfinished lake and of an unfinished extension to a former lake. The forerunner of the House Lake, the Wyke or Week Pool, could have been several centuries old. William Beadon's new pleasure grounds by 1864 also contained a large lake with a double waterfall, known as Otterhead Falls of which photographs taken in the 1920's are known to survive. Both lakes were enlarged in the 1880's and that was when all the other lakes were constructed including the Royston Lake.



Otterhead Gold: Bracken and Larch Plantation across the Royston Lake November 2008 

Royston Lake, the largest of the Otterhead Lower Lakes, is sometimes referred to as Royston Water but that is the name of the locality and possibly of a stream; use of the name predates construction of the lake.



Copyright The Otterhead Estate Trust Company Ltd. 2010-2017