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The Otter Estuary

The River Otter‘s source is just in Somerset in the Blackdown Hills. It travels 27 miles through East Devon to reach the sea, just east of Budleigh Salterton.
The Otter Estuary is a 57-acre Nature Reserve and SSSI. It’s habitat consists of saltmarsh and tidal mudflats. Two footpaths run on either bank of the estuary with hides on both sides for watching wildlife. The Otter Estuary supports large numbers of over-wintering birds, including Curlew, Common Sandpiper and Redshank.

The featured sketch above is:

High tide on the Otter

August 3rd, Watercolour ~ A6
Beautiful morning down here at Budleigh Salterton overlooking the Otter Estuary. A spring tide today so the water is very high in the estuary. The water has flooded much of the usual grassy/boggy areas and has gone over the lower footpath, out to the mouth of the river.
In the summers sun Martins skim the water for insects and Wagtails skit about too.

The Lunchtime Sketches

This is a period when the only way to get my baby son to have an afternoon nap, was to put him in the car and drive. Nothing else worked very well. So I would give him his lunch, make some sandwiches for myself and drive off somewhere. This set of sketches is mostly from the seafront car park overlooking the Otter Estuary. A fine spot to sit and sketch looking out through the windscreen.

Materials Used

For these sketches I was using a small, travelling Winsor & Newton, watercolour field paint box, two small round brushes, sable no.6 & a no.1 and A5 Daler Rowney, Red & Yellow cartridge & Langton 5 x 7”, ‘Not’ watercolour pads.

Pen sketch, 'Climbing Up West Down Beacon and looking towards the Otter Estuary.'

Climbing Up West Down Beacon

January 2nd, Pen ~ A5
We awoke this morning to sunshine, with the odd shower blowing through, so we off for a walk. Heading west along the coast path from Budleigh Salterton. We are armed with coats and brollies, a bit of cajoling was needed to keep the ‘wee man’ going. However, this proved to be fine, with him looking out for wildlife.
Arriving at the top of West Down Beacon we stopped to look back the way we had come. Back across to the Otter Estuary and beyond.
A little bit of carrying the small boy on my shoulders was needed on the way back, but not too much. (By the way we only had sun, no need for the brollies!)

Pen sketch 'Looking across the Otter Estuary'

Looking out across the Otter Estuary

February 12th, Pen ~ Double A6

Pen sketch out across the Otter Estuary.

Windy Budleigh

February 16th, Pen ~ A5
Nanny, Grandad, J, the ‘wee man’ and myself have come for a walk & a scoot along Budleigh prom. However the ‘wee man’ fell asleep on the way, so we are all sat in the car admiring the view across the Otter Estuary. It’s a lovely sunny day, but with a strong breeze blowing along the coast. However, when the ‘slumberer’ awoke he soon got too cold and didn’t want to use his scooter. So we ended up with a fairly short walk! But it’s still nice to get out and down to the sea for a blow through.

Watercolour sketch - 'On the Otter'

Curlew on the Otter

February 24th, Watercolour A5
It was dry when I was sketching, but then we had rain driving in up the estuary.
After the ‘little fella’ woke up we went for a short stroll up the valley. Just avoiding the worst of the rain.
Curlew, Swans and Gulls seen.

Watercolour sketch, 'Ebbing Tide' in the Otter Estuary.

Ebbing Tide

March 4th, Watercolour ~ A5
A bright day with a nippy wind, swans on the river and a huge flock of Gulls suddenly took wing.

Watercolour sketch, 'Quiet Otter Estuary'

Quiet Otter Estuary

March 15th, Watercolour ~ A5
It’s a lovely sunny spring day down here at the Otter end of Budleigh Salterton. There is a slight breeze blowing lazily along the coast and it’s very hazy off in the distance. In short the sort of day when you don’t have a care in the world.
There are a reasonable amount of people out for a stroll and we will soon be out there with them. Myself and a small boy on his scooter… Look out world here we come!

Watercolour sketch, The Otter in the mist at Budleigh Salterton

The Otter in the mist

March 19th, Watercolour ~ A5
Parked up looking across the Otter Estuary in the mist and rain. Very quiet here, not many folks about and a few gulls in the distance.

Pen sketch, 'Back at Budleigh.'

Back at Budleigh

April 14th, Brushpen ~ A5
Grey and overcast in contrast to yesterday. Parked in a surprisingly quiet Budleigh car park.

Watercolour sketch of the Otter Estuary

Estuary mud & marsh

May 19th, Watercolour ~ A5
Quiet grey, but a warm day.
Just a trickle of water in the muddy pools, at this point.

Watercolour sketch, 'Summer on the Otter'

Summer on the Otter

July 28th, Watercolour ~ A5
Another warm sunny day, with little wind and lots of holidaymakers about. (They are also being quite noisy outside the car, but fortunately, the ‘little fella’ doesn’t wake any earlier than usual!)
Looking across the Otter Estuary. Again I am struck by the lushness of the greens in the middle of the estuary compared with the ochres and browns of winter.


Watercolour sketch, 'Frosty Day in the Otter Estuary'

Frosty Day in the Otter Estuary

December 11th. Watercolour ~ A5
A cold day today, with a hard frost and not many people about. All the colours seem a little bleached out. We are walking along the seafront at Budleigh, heading towards the Otter Estuary.
There are a lot of birds all huddled together and several waders poking about in the mud. Also with all the rain lately, the pebble bar has changed shape. You can see where the river has scoured away the pebbles.
My hands are very cold today working on this sketch!

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