Walk - To the Otter's Mouth

Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2020. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.

Route Description

  1. From the car park head for the promenade. The information board next to the coast path signpost is the start of our walk.

The car park is named after the old lime kiln by the entrance. Coal and limestone were brought in (usually from Brixham) on special flat-bottomed boats, which were beached here at high tide and then unloaded at low tide. The limestone was burnt in the kiln to make lime, which was used for fertiliser, and for plastering the walls of the cob cottages.

  1. Facing the sea turn left heading away from Budleigh Salterton and follow the rolled stone path towards the river mouth.

Budleigh Salterton's name comes from the 33 salters who made a living out of salt panning for the Abbot of Otterton Priory. Salt panning here goes back at least as far as Roman times, and possibly further.

Budleigh Salterton beach was formed almost entirely of cobbles and pebbles which the sea has eroded from the cliffs to the west of the beach. These were formed during the Triassic period, about 240 million years ago, when giant rivers flowed through a desert landscape, depositing these pebbles and sand, which subsequently dried out and were compressed into the red cliffs like those beyond the beach.

The pebbles are formed of a hard quartzite which has been found to be identical to one formed in Brittany some 450 million years ago. Budleigh Salterton pebbles have been found as far away as Hastings in Kent, having been swept along the coast by the sea.

  1. At the end of the rolled stone path there is a seat. From here you can enjoy the sea view. Venturing onto the shingle you can walk down to the river mouth.

From the time the Saxons first arrived here, in the eighth century, until Tudor times, the harbour was at Otterton, which was known then as Oterey Haven. Over time, however, shingle and pebbles were washed into the mouth of the river, and a massive storm in the sixteenth century blocked the mouth of it altogether. Plans to blast a new channel in it to restore shipping to Otterton were scuppered by the arrival of the railway in the nineteenth century, and the land was reclaimed for agricultural use, with labour provided by French prisoners of war following the Napoleonic Wars.

  1. Follow the lower path alongside the river estuary back to the information board and then on to the car park.

The Otter Estuary is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Consisting of salt marsh, reed beds, low-lying meadows and pastureland, it is very fertile, providing habitats for a rich diversity of wildlife. The salt marsh provides invaluable invertebrate life, which attracts many summer breeding and over-wintering birds. Cormorants and osytercatchers can be seen, as well as Brent Geese, wigeon, teal, and other migratory ducks.

Songbirds abound too: blackbirds and thrushes, as well as finches, warblers, wagtails and pipits. Rushes, reeds, flowering grasses and abundant wildflowers attract insects, including colourful dragonflies and damsel flies, as well as butterflies like the clouded yellow and the painted lady. Swallows, swifts and house and sand martins can be seen pursuing these, while kingfishers hover over the river in pursuit of the trout and salmon in its waters.

Nearby refreshments

On Budleigh Salterton seafront.

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