Illustrating the changes on the Lower Otter by John Washington, Budleigh Salterton artist

Knowing that a major restoration project was due to begin, early 2021 seemed like an ideal opportunity to plan a visual diary. The idea was to record the existing landscape and observe the changes as they occurred over the months of preparation, the work itself right through to completion and the eventual changes to the lower River Otter valley and estuary.

Rather than a simple photographic exercise, I wanted to reflect the varied changes to the landscape in a more subjective way through a series of line and wash sketches, often created on site to capture the context and atmosphere of the area.

To achieve the necessary coastal and river protection, some unpopular and drastic decisions had to be made – felling long standing trees, closing and re-routing existing footpaths, piling for foundations of the new South Farm Road and construction of a bridge to enable flood water to pass harmlessly across the flood plain. All of these works were of course likely to be exposed to flooding issues throughout the duration of the project.

Much of this activity has been covered by the drawings and will form a permanent record with around a hundred in the series spread over the length of the project.

As the work draws to a conclusion, I intend to keep the series updated as new hedging, shrubs and grasses takes root, 24,000 newly planted trees start to grow and importantly birds and other wildlife regenerate the area.

For their help and support I would like to thank the following:

Kier, The Environment Agency, Clinton Devon Estates, East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Trust and Fairlynch Museum.

John Washington

Budleigh Salterton Artist