Tarka Country’s name refers to Henry Williamson’s classic novel, ‘Tarka the Otter’ (1927). The ‘land of two rivers’ (Torridge and Taw) inspired Williamson to write his book which mentions places along the Torridge including Canal Bridge (aqueduct at Beam), Beam Weir, Halfpenny Bridge, Annery Kiln, Never-Be-Good Woods and Landcross (‘Landcarse’) Pill. A walker or cyclist along the Tarka Trail will pass through the contrasting landscapes of Tarka Country described in the book: peaceful countryside, wooded river valleys, rugged moorland and dramatic coast.
A film was made of ‘Tarka the Otter’ in the 1970s directed by David Cobham and narrated by Peter Ustinov in which local people took part. In 2008 wildlife photographer Charlie Hamilton James spent a year filming on the river to make ‘On the Trail of Tarka’ for the BBC Natural History unit. In Williamson’s day otters were treated as vermin and were trapped and hunted for sport. Today the otter is an endangered species and our attitudes towards it have changed and the film explores whether the lives of modern otters reflect this shift. It is a charming combination of well-loved fiction and modern-day fact and is a wonderful evocation of the changing seasons and the wildlife on the River Torridge.