Wildlife Trust:

Nor­folk Wildlife evan­ge­list Nick Ach­e­son shares his joy at the sight of ot­ters on the Lit­tle Ouse

EDP Norfolk - - CONTENTS -

An ot­terly won­der­ful story from Nick Ach­e­son

Afew weeks ago I found my­self tear­ing as fast as I could run along the bank of the Lit­tle Ouse, away from a mother otter and her well-grown cub. Even though ot­ters have resurged from the edge of ex­tinc­tion in Nor­folk in the past 40 years, in large part thanks to the work of the now dis­banded Otter Trust, and even though they now in­habit all of our rivers and are greatly eas­ier to see than my child­hood self could ever have dreamed, I have still seen few enough ot­ters in Nor­folk for this to be a jolly strange way to be­have.

Some back­story is re­quired. I was with friends by the Lit­tle Ouse, hop­ing to see both birds and this cou­ple of ot­ters who had been seen of­ten through win­ter and spring. As we walked along the river we bumped into a man and his young son.

They had re­cently put in many hours along the river­bank, in the hope of seeing the ot­ters, but had had no luck. Foot­prints they had seen, spraint they had seen, but of the ot­ters them­selves, noth­ing.

It mat­tered a great deal to the young lad to see these ot­ters, be­cause of things hap­pen­ing in his young life, and it was clear that his gen­tle fa­ther was long­ing for them to see them to­gether.

We walked a lit­tle fur­ther, leav­ing fa­ther and son, but even­tu­ally – ot­ter­less – we turned around to head else­where. We again passed the man and his boy, peer­ing un­der tree roots and look­ing for signs of ot­ters in the mud.

Then, a cou­ple of hun­dred me­tres fur­ther on I caught sight of some­thing un­der the op­po­site bank, some­thing sleek, glossy and twist­ing. I raised my binoc­u­lars and saw the un­mis­tak­able round head of an otter.

Stam­mer­ing to my friends to keep their eyes on it, I turned and ran back whence we had come. It seemed cruel beyond words that we should see the ot­ters while the young lad who had tried so hard to see them did not.

Hap­pily I found them and they sped back with me. Still more hap­pily, the ot­ters switched from elu­sive to brazen, swim­ming along the river be­side us, re­peat­edly stop­ping mid-river to feed, even swim­ming to our bank, just to make sure we were get­ting a good enough look.

Thrillingl­y, the pup clam­bered onto the bot­tom branch of a wil­low two me­tres be­neath us and peered up, ap­par­ently as fas­ci­nated by us as we were by it.

But much of the time, I con­fess, I was not watch­ing the ot­ters. I was watch­ing the wide-eyed ex­cite­ment of the lad we had met. I was watch­ing him ex­plain to his dad as the ot­ters showed each be­hav­iour he had read about in a book.

I was watch­ing his dad beaming with love and pride and thanks for these ot­ters, swim­ming into their lives.

These ot­ters were what Nor­folk’s won­der­ful Si­mon Barnes would de­scribe as a ‘wardrobe’ (in ref­er­ence to

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) – some­thing which trans­ports you into a new world, which opens hori­zons beyond your pre­vi­ous imag­in­ing.

Had I 10,000 words of col­umn space I could not re­count all the wardrobe mo­ments I have had in my na­ture-watch­ing life, nor the mo­ments in which an encounter with a wild crea­ture has set my heart, as Shake­speare wrote; ‘Like to the lark at break of day aris­ing from sullen earth.’

I cannot imag­ine a life in which na­ture did not daily lift my heart, in­spire me. I do not want such a life. And with ev­ery breath I am given I will strive to make sure that no-one is forced to live one.

‘I cannot imag­ine a life in which na­ture did not daily lift my heart, in­spire me’

If you would like to connect to Nor­folk’s wildlife, Nor­folk Wildlife Trust holds hun­dreds of events, has wel­com­ing vis­i­tor cen­tres and vol­un­teer­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties with lo­cal peo­ple. Start at nor­folk­wildlifetr­ust.org.uk or phone 01603 625540.

BELOW: The ot­ters play­ing along the Lit­tle Ouse

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