Otterhead Estate Heritage Update May 2012

1. The Otterhead Estate was featured in The Guardian Country Diary:

2. Somerset Industrial Archaeological Society members have begun work including surveying and exposing water management features believed to be associated with an underground miniature waterwheel chamber.

3. The gardens of Otterhead House are now listed by Parks and Gardens UK.

4. Otterhead’s heritage rhododendrons are now being listed on the specialist Hirsutum website.

5. The condition of the walls of both walled gardens is of increasing concern.

6. Taunton Midweek Conservation Volunteers and Otterhead Forest School have been reducing laurel. It is intended to retain the original laurel plants and hedges while cutting back the spread and destroying the new plants that have arisen over many years.

7. The first six rhododendrons are in flower. Efforts will again be made to identify more rhododendrons including Rhododendron ponticum for removal. Many garden rhododendrons appear to have been cut down over relatively recent years and where these plants had been grafted, the reduction was often below the grafts, giving rise to more undesirable Rhododendron ponticum which was formerly used as a rootstock. The result is that although Otterhead rhododendrons were considered to be of note from at least 1864 to 1985, that is not really the present position. The survivors are being conserved and it is a case of what might have been if all rhododendrons, including Victorian varieties (cultivars), had not been considered unwelcome in some quarters.

8. Work is in progress on the leats to increase the wildlife potential as well as conserving these heritage features.

9. Much effort has been expended by Wessex Water and the Estate Trust on a new management plan based on the Swan Paul and Greenwood Environmental plans to take adequate account of the garden plants and other heritage features.

10. Otterhead Forest School has begun clearing self-sown vegetation from the Otterhead House site to lessen root damage and enable the footprint of the house to be exposed and information displays to be sited.

11. The Otterhead Estate’s website:


Roy Coombs, Project Co-ordinator, The Otterhead Estate Trust Company Ltd.