Otterhead Lakes, Churchstanton, Taunton, Somerset

There is something very magical about Otterhead Lakes, especially if you go there in the summer, early in the morning when the mist is rising off the lake and there is little to be heard except for birdsong and the stirring sound of a moorhen or duck taking flight. Equally good is a summer evening stroll as the sun is going down, when the trout are rising and the light imparts an incredible haunting beauty.

In Victorian times Otterhead Lakes was a dominant feature of a country estate; the big house stood on the bank beyond the top lake, with terraces that stepped gently down to the water’s edge. There were seven lakes then, each cascading into the next, but now only two remain, part of a local nature reserve where the River Otter rises, and home to a multitude of wildlife. The house fell into ruin and was finally demolished in 1952 but it is perhaps the grandeur that once was that gives the reserve its indelible air, an almost ethereal mix of sadness and tranquility.

Stroll lightly, take your time and you might well see swans gliding, ducks dabbling and moorhens scooting; down on the stream dipper, wagtail and kingfishers are regular visitors and it’s a great spot for spuddling, lifting stones to see what you can find – is that a caddis fly larva in his case of gravel and debris? Was that a bullhead darting off downstream?

Do the short circular walk around the lake and through the woods, or lace up your boots and venture off on the longer figure of eight route that takes you through the fields, around the lanes and across a turbary. Afterwards? Lunch at The Holman Clavel a few miles up the road is always a good option.

All information correct at the time of writing

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