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Oxburgh otter resurgence is a good sign for wildlife

River improvement work is continuing to benefit wildlife at the National Trust’s Oxburgh Hall, with regular sightings of otters now being recorded on the estate.

The news comes as the charity announces £10million is to be spent on reviving five of the UK’s most precious rivers, including the chalk stream habitats of the Upper Bure in Norfolk, which runs through the estates at Blickling and Felbrigg.

An otter in the River Gadder at Oxburgh Hall. Picture: JUSTIN MINNS (3513919)
An otter in the River Gadder at Oxburgh Hall. Picture: JUSTIN MINNS (3513919)

The resurgence of the otter, which is top of the food chain in river environments, is seen as an indicator that a river is at its healthiest.

Back in 2013, staff at Oxburgh Hall observed water levels noticeably dropping in the moat and work began to repair the leaks. The work involved repairs to the brick weir and sluice that were located in the River Gadder.

Whilst the team readdressed the Victorian engineering, they also removed 1,000 cubic metres of silt from the river bed.

Helen Gregory, the National Trust’s (NT) outdoor manager at Oxburgh Hall, said: “The reduction in silt has resulted in higher water levels, making it easier for otters to swim along this stretch of river. It’s fantastic to have had so many more sightings this year, as otters are a sign of a healthy wetland ecosystem.

“In England, the otter disappeared between the 1950s and 1970s. Although there are historic records of otters on the estate, this year we’ve had far more sightings of what we believe to be a mother and two cubs. They’ve even been spotted in the moat!”

Recently, the Environment Agency (EA) have helped carry out additional improvement work to the river, as part of their Green-leave programme.

Currently, only 14% of England’s river catchments are in good health and the NT charity wants to start reversing thistrend through its “Riverlands” project with partners the EA and Natural Resources Wales.

To celebrate Norfolk’s rivers, Oxburgh Hall on Tuesday hosted ‘Going with the Flow’ – a new event in partnership with the EA, enabling visitors the chance to get up close to fish, crayfish and other creepy crawlies that live in these habitats.

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