Katinka in the Clouds - Blog

The blog of Kate Griffin. For the last 33 years we have lived up here at the head of the Holme Valley and have not once felt any urge to move again. It has proved inspirational for me. The places where I set my stories and plays, whether it is north, south, east or west, have as much significance and potency as the characters, and since living here the landscape has had a profound effect on my writing. In the last few years, since health problems have clipped my wings I have taken up painting and much of what I paint is very local, sometimes from the house or garden. In my writing I have explored the lives, loves, passions and drama of ordinary people, often taking audiences and readers into dark and uncomfortable places and now, in my painting, I have found, using the texture of paint and the juxtaposition of colours, a new way to express my passion for the tough and gritty world that we live in.

Urban Otter Watch

Urban Otter Watch

One of the silver linings of having a lung disease is that it means I have to stop frequently to get my breath back.  It gives me a moment to look around and see things that in my previous life went unnoticed. 


I need to do this a lot in Holmfirth and it is the river that I try to get to for these periods of recovery.  A week or so ago, with a friend, I stopped on the footbridge from Crown Bottom car park to the little park.  We looked down at the river, as it gurgled away beneath us and then down the river towards us came a creature.  It was about two feet long, head and body, with a long tail and was swimming under water.  It came near the bridge and put up its head.  It looked like a cute miniature seal, with a broader face, and tiny ears. Then it turned towards the bank, climbed out and went into a hole between two blocks of stone that buttress the river bank at that point.  We looked at each other and said, in unison: “What was that?”  Then a second one followed and did exactly the same and joined its mate or sibling in the hole.   Well, were they otters or mink?  I felt sure that there was no way that they could have been otters.  In a town?  In broad daylight?  Under a bridge with people thumping over it all day?  In the thirty five years we have been here no one had ever mentioned otters in our river.  And yet, and yet it kept niggling at me.  So I phoned our local outpost of Yorkshire Wild Life Trust, spoke to someone there and described what I had seen.  He felt they were river otters.  I said that I would try to video them and send it in to them.  Then I contacted the U K Wild Otter Trust and again the man I spoke to there was of the same opinion.  He said that otters were becoming more common towns and were seen during the day.  I think the fact that they were swimming completely submerged was distinctive.  They were small, but they could have been young ones or a mother and offspring.  Mink have nasty mean, weaselly faces, but I was so wanting to believe they were otters that I think I am capable of subconsciously seeing what I want to see.  


If you are going to roll your eyes and say “For goodness sake, Kate, we’ve had otters in the river for twenty years.  Do you walk around with your eyes closed?” I would feel foolish and sad.  So please don’t.


When I was a child our lodger, who went by the soubriquet of Hazel Hairy-Whatnot to us disrespectful children, had a friend to stay.  This friend was from Cornwall and her passion was otter hunting.   My sister thought up a scheme of revenge; we would gather together the sharpest and most weapon-like of the garden tools and burst in on her when she was having a bath and attack her so she would know what it felt like to be an otter.  Needless to say we didn’t do it.  But it was a nice moment of fantasy.  Oh, the simple blood-thirstiness of children.  Otter hunting has never been officially banned but it died out in about 1978, because of the shortage of otters and the negative publicity it attracted.

A few days later I saw one them on the bank, but it was at a distance and I cannot be sure whether it was an otter or a mink.

Country Bumpkin braves the metropolis. With Zebra.
It's not always about lungs, you know


Guest - Jon Burdon on Sunday, 20 August 2017 12:04

WOW! I REALLY want this to be otters. I'd heard that they are present in every river system in the UK. A friend told me that they saw one in the canal near Huddersfield a few years ago but I've not seen one yet.

WOW! I REALLY want this to be otters. I'd heard that they are present in every river system in the UK. A friend told me that they saw one in the canal near Huddersfield a few years ago but I've not seen one yet.
Kate Griffin on Monday, 21 August 2017 10:46

Confirmation is coming from people who know!

Confirmation is coming from people who know!
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Thursday, 25 April 2019