The Otterhead Lakes are situated within the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, south of Taunton and near the villages of Otterford and Churchinford. It was once part of the grand Otterhead Estate developed in Victorian times and by the 1890s included over 1700 acres of land.
Otterhead House is no longer there (it was demolished in 1952) but the two remaining lakes and former landscaped gardens have now become a wildlife haven with a range of semi-natural habitats including deciduous woodland, wet woodland, grassland, streams, leats and ditches. Dormice, bats, little grebes, kingfishers and dippers are just a few of the many species found here. The woodland floor is covered in a succession of colours from snowdrops, through to daffodils and bluebells; the flower rich grassland areas attract many species of bees, hoverflies and butterflies as well as providing warm basking areas for slow worms and lizards.
The former walled gardens are still present, along with the remains of terraced walks and drives. Many of the rhododendron cultivars that were planted here within the original former gardens can still be seen flowering throughout the summer. There is only one building still standing at Otterhead – the former Coach House just over the bridge, which is now occupied by Otterhead Forest School who organise many activities here as well as helping with the management of the site.
Since January 2008, the heart of the estate has been leased from Wessex Water to the Otterhead Estate Trust, a not-for-profit company.
The Trust was set up to conserve and improve the wildlife habitats, the garden plants and built heritage features as well as restoring where possible the designed landscape. They also organise guided walks for the public and have set up a Friends Of Otterhead group.
Other parts of the estate are leased to the Forestry Commission. The management of the watercourses and remaining lakes is retained by Wessex Water. Otterhead was also designated as a Local Nature Reserve in 2008 by Taunton Deane BC.
© Otterhead Estate Trust Ltd 2022