Otterhead Estate Heritage Update September 2013



1. Walled-in garden walls. The grant application has been postponed until October. The project would now include the internal retaining walls as well as the perimeter walls. If only the latter are restored, quite large areas of the gardens would still be closed due to safety concerns. Vegetation clearance is in progress so that contractors can assess the condition of the walls and the opportunity has been taken to reduce competing vegetation from the box hedging remnants in both of the gardens. Conservation of the walls of the glasshouses and sheds would be a separate project and restoration, besides funding, would need resources for maintenance to be in place. Laurel reduction has revealed the route of the cart road that led to a loading and unloading area outside the gardens.

2. Somerset Industrial Archaeological Society (SIAS). Recent fieldwork has included the hydraulic ram site and leat culverts. There has also been an initial brief tour of the walled-in gardens. An update on Otterhead is understood to be in the latest issue of the SIAS Bulletin.

3. House Leat. Further work has been carried out building on work carried out by Somerset Rural Youth Project teams and SIAS members.

4. Water Pipelines. Vegetation reduction has been carried out where one of the pipelines crosses the House Leat.

5. Heritage Rhododendrons. The flowering of the Asiatic forms of rhododendron at Otterhead was delayed by more than a month but the late flowering North American forms flowered more or less at their normal time thereby compressing the flowering season. Some Victorian hybrid rhododendrons were unfortunately cut down to ground level before the Estate Trust lease was signed; the ensuing shoots have been carefully monitored and halo clearing carried out to reduce competition, improve light and encourage flowering. Three of the hybrids are known to have survived as they have flowered but much patience is required: a large specimen of what is believed to be ‘Lady Clementine Mitford’ cut down in 2006 has still not flowered and no flower buds have been formed for 2014. Storm damage revealed flowers of ‘Gomer Waterer’. It has presumably flowered every year but has been completely hidden except from above. Both of these Victorian rhododendrons (introduced in 1870 and 1900 respectively) are the only known specimens at Otterhead.

6. Otterhead House. SIAS fieldwork has located what is believed to be the wall of the ‘new’ dining room and parch marks seen and photographed indicate the walls of the drawing room.

Roy Coombs   16 September 2013