Any Comments about the Otterhead Estate or this website?  

Please click on HAVE YOUR SAY in the column on the left. 






The Otterhead Pico Hydro Project is competing for funds


Please register and consider using up to all ten votes for the Otterhead Project.



Otterhead Estate South Drive restoration continues:


Otterhead South Drive restoration nears completion September 2017

Lost and overgrown until cleared by Groundwork South West Trust teams in 2009 and having the most difficult sections surfaced in September 2017, the drive of unknown origins is being brought up to an acceptable standard for visitors on foot with funding from St. Modwen Environmental Trust.







Photographed 23 October 2016. The best Autumn display for many years but the trusses are smaller than those flowering in the Spring.





TMCVs 0316

Taunton Midweek Conservation Volunteers clearing invasive Cherry Laurel from North American Rhododendrons 17 March 2016.


The photographer on the other bank of the House Leat was standing on the House Leat Path, one of the major components of the Otterhead North Western Paths Project.





The free of charge guided walks on Saturday 12 September 2015 will not enter the Walled Gardens but will with the aid of photographs from 1904 onwards include the sites of former herbaceous borders, terraces and water features as well as surviving garden plants such as North American rhododendrons and philadelphus. Tea and cake will be available in the former Coach House. Donations welcome. 


Guided Walk in The Lost Gardens of Otterhead House, excluding the Walled Gardens, on Saturday 12 September starting at 10am and repeated at 3pm.




This rarely listed Waterer introduction has been identified in July 2015 with help from the Rhododendron, Camellia and Magnolia Group of the Royal Horticultural Society: 

Rhododendron maximum picotee form at Otterhead 

Rhododendron maximum hybrid 'Eileen' photographed at Otterhead 25 June 2011. 




A white rhododendron, possibly 'Cunningham's White', is starting to flower close to the car park; more flower trusses this year due to improved light conditions resulting from work by Otterhead Forest School. 'Cunningham's Blush' is flowering beside the Back Drive and 'Rosamundi' is in flower further along the same drive. 'Russellianum' is flowering by the Coach House. (12 May 2015)




Heritage, Flora and Fauna Walks are planned to take place every month in 2015, starting on Saturday 18 April. Details will appear on this website's Events Calendar. 




Fallen trees that have blocked the drive north west of the Otterhead House site for several months have been cleared.




Flowers at their best on Churchstanton (west) part of reserve. 7 March 2015, 




Beavers currently downstream along the River Otter are to be rehomed if the bid by Devon Wildlife Trust is unsuccessful:

Bid successful as tests show beavers are Eurasian and healthy - Five year licence issued.






 Rhododendron maximum selected form at Otterhead 25 June 2011


Visitors should note that there are no forms of Rhododendon maximum to be found growing on the Otterhead Estate downstream from (south of) the House Lake.






Many flowers opened late last year leaving relatively few to flower in the spring when the flowers are more striking. Photographed on 20 April 2014. This Victorian rhododendron is beside the Otterhead Estate Back Drive.




Better weather provides a chance to see the Otterhead Snowdops before flowering ends for 2014.




A watch has been found at Otterhead; for information please contact the Churchingford and District Community Shop (see Useful Links on this website).




The group's most recent visit on 21 November included cherry laurel reduction to enable restoration of a very overgrown hedge:

Taunton Midweek Conservation Volunteers

Walls of the Otterhead Walled Gardens are just visible in this photograph. 

A few of the group, later joined by several others, began reducing another very overgrown cherry laurel hedge and thereby enabling the former garden terraces north of the site of Otterhead House to be seen clearly for the first time in many years:

Taunton Midweek Conservation Volunteers

The Taunton Midweek Conservation Volunteers are following up pioneering work carried out by several Somerset Rural Youth Project teams including one from Churchinford Youth Club.


Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus)  is one of the most invasive alien plants at Otterhead. This laurel has been recorded as being spread by seed but at Otterhead wherever the branches touch the ground, roots and then new plants develop:


Cherry Laurel

Roots are developing at several places along this Cherry Laurel branch.



Notice of ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING for 2012-13  

Thursday 10th October 2013               10am


To be held at the Coach House, Otterhead Lakes



1                   Present

2                   Apologies

3                   Minutes of Annual General Meeting October 2011 -12

4                   Matters Arising

5                   Financial Report 2012-13

6                   Annual Report

7                   Election of Directors

8                   Future Plans

9                   AOB


This meeting will be followed at 12pm by a working party tackling the Laurel Hedge beside the drive. Please bring handtools - saw, pruners, gloves etc.

Also please bring your sandwiches, we can make hot drinks in the Coach House.




Sunday 6 October 2013

If you are intending to visit the Otterhead Estate on Sunday 6 October 2013 and are coming by car, there may not be spaces during the afternoon in the car park as the Apple Day event begins at 2pm. Why not consider arriving earlier than planned? 


DOG WALKING AT THE OTTERHEAD ESTATE: A website listing dog walks in Somerset has recently deleted the entry for Otterhead Lakes. Wessex Water and The Otterhead Estate Trust Company Ltd. do not allow dog walking on any part of the Otterhead Estate other than along the public footpaths where by law dogs are allowed under close control (the Wessex Water code of conduct for visitors mentions on a leash:

The public footpaths are depicted on Ordnance Survey maps and on the map in the Otterhead Lakes car park. In practice there is one public footpath that forks into two on the Otterhead Estate. It is impossible to walk a circular walk along public footpaths at Otterhead without straying onto paths where dogs are not allowed even when under close control. These restrictions are primarily due to public health considerations in this mains water catchment supplying water to Taunton and nearby areas. There have also been confrontations between dogs and wildlife at this local nature reserve designated by Taunton Deane Borough Council. 



OTTERHEAD RHODODENDRONS: Rhododendrons at Otterhead have been flowering a month or more later than usual this year but the North American Rhododendron maximum forms are flowering more or less on time:


 Rhododendron maximum roseum at Otterhead 17 June 2012.

Specimens of Rhododendron maximum roseum (photographed in 2012) can easily be found in flower now beside the former front drive to Otterhead House (by the Picnic Area) and along the back drive. Another type, with lavender mauve flowers, is at the junction of the back drive and the track to the former estate yard.

Look high up in the canopy of rhododendrons beside the picnic area from a distance and pale coloured flowers may be seen; this rhododendendron, possibly the cultivar (variety) 'Gomer Waterer', has probably been flowering every year but has been hidden from view by other rhododendrons that became storm casualties earlier in 2013. 'Gomer Waterer' is often regarded as being developed from another North American rhododendron, Rhododendron catawbienseA photograph including the pale pink flowers has been added to the Churchstanton part of the Otterhead Estate Photo Album on this website.



WILDLIFE WALK at Otterhead Wednesday 29 May; see Events Calendar on this website.



IN FLOWER NOW AT OTTERHEAD: Many wild flowers including bluebells. Garden plants include later flowering Narcissi and heritage Rhododendrons: 'Russellianum' (by the coach House); 'Cunningham's Blush' and 'Rosamundi' (by the Back Drive). Many other rhododendrons will be in flower soon. It is not clear whether the delayed flowering will continue until all the rhododendrons have flowered or whether the flowering season will be compressed; if the latter it will be challenging for rhododendron identification and conservation.



LOST AND FOUND AT OTTERHEAD: A Philips metallic pink mp3 player and recorder has been found. Please email if it could be yours.



COUNTY COUNCIL GRANT: The directors of The Otterhead Estate Trust are very grateful to County Councillor Ross Henley for his continuing support. The latest grant of £500 from Councillor Henley's Somerset County Council Community Allocation will be used for general running expenses. Both of the Otterhead Estate parishes, Churchstanton and Otterford, are within the Blackdown and Wellington East County Council Division represented by Councillor Henley.



SNOWDROPS at OTTERHEAD are mostly over. A few of the last Snowdrop flowers were photographed on 8 April (see Photo Album for the Churchstanton part of the Otterhead Estate on this website).



GUIDED WALK Thursday 28 February repeated on Saturday 2 March, see Events Calendar on this website.



OTTERHEAD ESTATE TRUST ANNUAL MEETING 2012, POSTPONED DUE TO THE DEATH OF A DIRECTOR, will be held on Tuesday 12 March 2013 at Bishopswood, Otterford, Somerset. For further information if you wish to attend or have matters brought to the attention of the meeting, please click on Have Your Say in the column on the left.



WEATHER DAMAGE is quite widespread. Trees have fallen across paths and drives; please allow extra time for this if intending to complete an afternoon walk before dark. Heritage rhododendrons have been partly uprooted and remedial action has been discussed.  



SOMERSET GARDENS TRUST AND DEVON GARDENS TRUST MEMBERS plan to visit Otterhead for a walk at snowdrop time on 9 February (weather permitting); please see Events Calendar on this website for links.



SOMERSET INDUSTRIAL ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY MEMBERS have carried out fieldwork at Otterhead as part of a project to locate a hydraulic ram site;  rams are believed to have pumped water to the walled gardens from the 1850's until the 1930's or possibly until the 1960's.



CULMHEAD APPLE DAY is due to take place on Sunday 14 October. Please note that if you are intending to visit Otterhead Estate and Lakes that day and particularly in the afternoon, based on last year's event, parking spaces in the Otterhead Lakes Car Park and nearby are likely to be very difficult to find.  



TAUNTON MIDWEEK CONSERVATION VOLUNTEERS followed up Bracken cutting on 2 August with Laurel reduction on 27 September. 



SOMERSET INDUSTRIAL ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY members carried out further fieldwork on 20 September. Findings from previous surveys were confirmed and preparatory work carried out for the next fieldwork visit.



Further Reduction of HIMALAYAN BALSAM within the River Otter catchment in Somerset:

There has been a further reduction in the numbers of Himalayan Balsam plants found and destroyed at the Otterhead Estate and upstream along the Royston Water valley. Surely very good news for anyone trying to control this invasive alien annual plant further downstream in Somerset and in Devon as the supply of seeds carried by the river will therefore have also been considerably reduced.



Philadelphus (Mock Orange) in the Otterhead Lost Gardens 19 July 2012:

Philadelphus in the Otterhead Lost Gardens July 2012




The last Rhododendron flowers of Summer 2012 at Otterhead: Rhododendron maximum on 13 July: 

 The last Rhododendron flowers of 2012; Rhododendron maximum at Otterhead on 13 July. 



FOUND: if you believe you may have lost KEYS at Otterhead, please contact Avon and Somerset Police (reference PE 3219/12) or Devon and Cornwall Police (reference A44990). Keys were found on 5 July and left at a police station on 6 July.



Somerset Industrial Archaeological Society fieldwork at Otterhead. For details please see Useful Links on this website. The site being excavated is not open to visitors at present.



GUIDED WALK about Rhododendron conservation and reduction in the lost Victorian Gardens of Otterhead House (one of England's sadly lost country houses), including opportunities for questions and answers, due to take place on 21 June 2012, postponed due to heavy rain, is expected to take place on Thursday 12 July; see Events Calendar for details.



Flowering at Otterhead (17 June 2012)


Rhododendron maximum roseum at Otterhead 17 June 2012.

Rhododendron maximum roseum at Otterhead 17 June 2012.



Bluebell Time at Otterhead

Bluebells at Otterhead 24 May 2012

Bluebells at Otterhead 24 May 2012. 



Flowering at Otterhead (6 May 2012)

Rhododendron Hybrid 'Russellianum' ('Cornish Red') from the Otterhead Coach House public footpath 6 May 2012.

Rhododendron Hybrid 'Russellianum' ('Cornish Red') by the Otterhead Coach House public footpath May 2012.


Rhododendron Hybrid 'Cunningham's White' at Otterhead 6 May 2012.

Rhododendron Hybrid 'Cunningham's Blush' by the Otterhead Back Drive May 2012.



Flowering at Otterhead (28 April 2012)

Marsh Marigolds by the Otterhead Bypass Leat 28 April 2012

Marsh Marigolds by the Otterhead Bypass Leat April 2012.


Rhododendron Hybrid 'Cunningham's White' at Otterhead 28 April 2012

Rhododendron Hybrid 'Cunningham's Blush' April 2012.



The Otterhead Estate is now registered with Parks and Gardens UK - See Useful Links on this website.



Flowering at Otterhead (16 April 2012)


The majority of the Daffodils and other Narcissi are now flowering as well as primroses, lungworts, town hall clocks, marsh marigolds, golden saxifrages and the first few bluebells. Rhododendron hybrid 'Rosamundi' ('Rosa Mundi') is flowering but the display has been reduced as more than usual of the flowers opened in late 2011.



The first flowers of the Victorian Rhododendron hybrid 'Rosamundi' were photographed on 7 April:


Rhododendron Hybrid 'Rosamundi' at Otterhead: the first flowers of 2012, photographed on 7 April.



Otterhead Snowdrops 2012


The display was at its best until the end of February and even into early March, with a few individual snowdrop flowers still flowering in less sunny places for much of March. The Snowdrop flowering time at Otterhead was brought forward by the relatively mild winter with many plants in bud by late December. 


Snowdrops at Otterhead March 2010 

Snowdrops at Otterhead March 2010.



The History of Otterhead House and the Otterhead Estate


A representative of The Otterhead Estate Trust gave a talk about the history of Otterhead House and the Otterhead Estate to members of a local history group in a Blackdown Hills parish on 17 November. 



Holyrood Academy Team from Chard clears Otterhead Victorian terraced garden path:


Path Clearance at Otterhead by a Holyrood Academy team organised by Somerset Rural Youth Project November 2011.


Path Clearance at Otterhead by a Holyrood Academy Team organised by Somerset Rural Youth Project November 2011.


Terraced Garden Path at Otterhead, not mapped since Victorian times, being cleared of overgrowing Laurel and Rhododendron maximum; it is expected that the original plantings of both will be retained. This is the latest work by teams from Somerset and from Devon organised and led by Somerset Rural Youth Project and arranged by the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The terraced walks were a notable feature of the lost pleasure grounds of Otterhead House. Photographed on 10 November 2011.



The two specimens of Rhododendron Hybrid 'Rosamundi' (Rosa Mundi) are beginning to flower:


Rhododendron 'Rosamundi' at Otterhead September 2011

Photographed on 14 September 2011; most of the flowers are produced in the spring and are deeper in colour (see Photo Album on this website).





Buses on Saturdays for Otterhead: Petition to Devon County Council for reinststatement of Service 387 to Churchinford on Saturdays closed on 20 September 2011.



Several hundred Himalayan Balsam plants have been uprooted prior to producing seed in the Royston Water valley this year.


Himalayan Balsam at Otterhead August 2008

Himalayan Balsam flowers and seed capsules at Otterhead August 2008


This is the fourth year of attempting to eradicate this alien invasive plant from the River Otter in Somerset; without such work it will be impossible to eradicate Himalayan Balsam from the banks of the River Otter downstream in Devon. The area of land where Himalayan Balsam is being controlled has been extended every year from 2008 onwards.  



Fallen Branch cleared from Public Footpath and Nature Trail


Fallen Tree across Public Footpath and Nature Trail, Otterhead Estate.

The fallen branch (above) has been removed by Otterhead Forest School. 



The Otterhead Estate Trust has submitted views, which have been acknowledged, on the Future of Forests and Woods to the Independent Panel on Forestry (closing date was 31 July). 



Bus service times (indicative only for which the Estate Trust accepts no responsibility) added to How to Find Otterhead Estate and Lakes on this website.



Otterhead's North American Rhododendron maximum specimens have finished flowering; perhaps a visit in 2012?


Rhododendron maximum at Otterhead 25 June 2011

Rhododendron maximum at Otterhead 25 June 2011


Rhododendron maximum selected form at Otterhead 25 June 2011

Rhododendron maximum selected form at Otterhead 25 June 2011.  



The Breathing Places Website for Otterhead Estate and Lakes could not be found from 8 June 2011 onwards (BBC Breathing Places was a time limited project). Links to that website and also sadly to The Local Channel website for Otterhead Estate and Lakes have been removed from this website as neither is now available.  



 Access from Car Park has been improved by constructing a path avoiding the steps:


New Path to Otterhead Car Park avoiding Steps


and also by rebuilding the steps and adding a handrail:


Steps to Otterhead Car Park rebuilt with Handrail




Teams from Groundwork South West have been clearing paths in the Walled Gardens and also the abandoned South Drive east of Otterhead Lower Lakes:


Former Drive East of Otterhead Lower Lakes October 2010 



Teams from Somerset Rural Youth Project have been clearing overgrown Victorian terraced walks south-west of Otterhead Middle and Higher Lakes:



Otterhead Victorian Paths Clearance February 2011  

The Chard Connexions Team at Otterhead

The Chard Connexions Team at Otterhead



Too late for visitors to see rhododendrons. 


Rhododendron 'Rosamundi' at Otterhead April 2011

Rhododendron Hybrid 'Rosamundi' at Otterhead April 2011



Rhododendron Hybrid 'Russellianum' ('Cornish Red') by the Otterhead Coach House April 2011 

Rhododendron Hybrid 'Russellianum' ('Cornish Red') at Otterhead April 2011: competing neighbouring sycamore reduced by Forest School.


Rhododendron 'Cunningham's White' at Otterhead April 2011.

Rhododendron Hybrid 'Cunningham's White' at Otterhead April 2011, possibly planted as a rootstock, has been liberated from invading neighbouring rhododendrons.


Rhododendron Hybrid 'Cynthia' at Otterhead June 2005

Rhododendron Hybrid 'Cynthia' at Otterhead June 2005: a competing neighbouring rhododendron has been gradually cut back during recent years.


Rhododendron Hybrid 'Roseum Elegans' at Otterhead May 2011

Rhododendron Hybrid 'Roseum Elegans' at Otterhead May 2011: these first flowers for many years allowed identification. 


Rhododendron Hybrid 'Baroness Henry Schroeder' at Otterhead May 2011

Rhododendron Hybrid 'Baroness Henry Schroeder' at Otterhead May 2011: newly identified this year and a fifth specimen discovered.


Rhododendron Hybrid 'Lady Eleanor Cathcart' at Otterhead June 2010

Rhododendron Hybrid 'Lady Eleanor Cathcart' at Otterhead June 2010 when identified. A third specimen of this cultivar was found in 2011.


Rhododendron 'Countess of Derby' at Otterhead June 2011

Rhododendron Hybrid 'Countess of Derby' at Otterhead June 2011: identified in 2011 and competing vegetation removed. 



Taunton Midweek Conservation Volunteers have been reducing Laurel south of the Walled Gardens: possibly an out of control laurel lawn.


Taunton Midweek Conservation Volunteers cutting laurel 



Forest School has been clearing ash and sycamore from the Lower Walled Garden; box hedging, snowdrops, primroses, and twayblades are being retained:



Lower Walled Garden from restored entrance steps.



A Guided Walk with 74 visitors in two groups looked at Snowdrops, the Nature Trail and Heritage Features on 12 February 2011: 


Snowdrop Walk at Otterhead February 2011



NEW BOOK. 'Along The Wild Edge: a journey through the northern Blackdown Hills' a local history produced as part of the Neroche Landscape Partnership Scheme, published in April 2011, includes a section on the Otterhead Estate (pp 147-155):


Link deleted 29 July 2015 as it is now broken.



Copyright The Otterhead Estate Trust Company Ltd. 2011-2017