Most people have read or are aware of author Henry Williamson’s classic tale of Tarka The Otter.

First published in 1927, the book appeared at a time when otters were quite common, inhabiting most of Britain’s river systems.

Then, from the 1950s, the animal suffered a dramatic decline brought about by a combination of factors including increased use of pesticides pollution, destruction of waterside habitats and persecution.

However, within the past decade, otters have made a steady and welcome come back, returning also to the Thames, even being spotted as far downstream as Putney.

Basically nocturnal, otters are difficult to observe in the wild. But, we do not need to sit quietly by a riverbank at night, for the animals can now be seen at the wonderful London Wetland Centre.

Housed in a large enclosure with lake and waterfalls, the species is very similar to our native animal but known as the Asian short-clawed variety.

Moreover, the big difference lies in its habits, for the otter is not nocturnal but very active during the day and can be watched swimming, play-fighting and sporting about.

They are fed twice daily on a diet of trout, whitebait and chicken and are a delight to see.

Their presence at the Wetland Centre adds a further dimension and a must-see attraction at the already brilliant reserve with its birds in great variety, wild flowers, dragonflies, butterflies and children’s activities. The restaurant is great too!