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Country notebook

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 03, 2013

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I have spent many years trying to see a wild otter. Inspired by Henry Williamson's Tarka the Otter, I have crouched for hours by the side of riverbanks in secret places in the Taw and Torridge estuary.

I have trudged for hours across remote parts of Scotland for an outside chance of a glimpse of them in the sea. I have been to secluded parts of North America well known as hot otter spots. I have never ever seen one. Until last weekend.

I was tramping in the rain. Unforgettable relentless rain that had turned the daylight moor to almost dark. Normally popular walkers' parking spots were deserted, and the moorland slopes, and woodland around Burrator seemed almost deserted and devoid of any life or movement, save for the rain, and the great cascades that are usually moorland streams.

The sky fall had washed all the colour from the land and the trees, leaving only a grey, green black hue. The tor sheep were grey with the weight of water in their fleeces, the ponies morose with their backs to the wind. Everything just stood, stilled by the never-ending downpour.

Footpaths were streams, roads were rivers, and rivers terrifyingly powerful torrents.

I was near the end of my mission, heading for Burrator dam having descended Sheepstor and rejoined the road. And there, tragically, is where I spotted my first water wanderer. Dead, aside the road, after what looked like being hit by car. I had no idea there were otters in the area.

It was the saddest end to a very grey day.

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