• From Troy to Totnes – The Tale of the Brutus Stone

    “Here I stand and here I rest, and this good town shall be called Totnes”.
    These are the words with which Totnes is said to have been founded by Brutus the Trojan while standing on Fore Street’s easily missed granite attraction – The Brutus Stone.

    Brutus in Britain

    According to the legend of the Brutus Stone the origins of Totnes stretch all the way back to ancient Troy. After accidentally killing his father Brutus set off to Greece with his army of followers, where he defeated the king Pendrasu. The king gave Brutus his daughter to marry, and 324 well-stocked ships, at least one of which ended up on the River Dart.

    Following the advice of the oracle Diana, who suggested the Trojans should travel to an island in the Western Seas that was possessed by Giants, Brutus set sail for Great Britain – at the time called Albion.

    It was on the Brutus stone that he made his proclamation after landing on Britain’s shores, undeterred by the giants and attracted to Totnes by its location and fish-filled rivers. Not only was Totnes named by Brutus, but it’s said he named Britain after himself.

    Ice Age to New Age

    The Brutus legend is recorded in several ancient books, though there’s little evidence to suggest any of it is true. The stone itself probably settled in its location during the great Ice Age, and may have been called several things which sounded similar to ‘Brutus’.

    More recently, when Fore Street was widened in 1810, the stone was reduced in height from 18 inches above ground to the level of the pavement. Whether or not Brutus stood on the stone it’s a town custom that royal proclamations should be read there by the mayor.

    No matter how true they are, the legends surrounding Brutus and the stone persist and are enjoyed to this day. Visitors to Totnes can see the stone in the pavement on their right-hand side when walking up Fore Street next to number 51.

    Read more...
  • Famous Tunesmiths from Totnes

    The street performers of Totnes are as much a part of the town’s character as its castle, shops, and quay, and while musical tastes may differ there’s no denying that a few Totnesian troubadors have gone on to greater things. Below are two popular musicians you may have heard of but may not have known hail from Totnes, and one to watch out for.

    Joe from Metronomy

    Electronic music group Metronomy was formed by Joseph Mount in Totnes in 1999. In addition to being the lead singer, and playing keyboard and guitar, Joe releases remixes of songs by the likes of Gorillaz and Lady Gaga under the Metronomy name. In 2016 Metronomy released their latest album Summer 08 though it was 2014’s Love Letters that delivered their highest chart position at number 7.

    If the name of Metronomy’s first album Pip Paine (Pay the £5000 You Owe) seems familiar it was inspired by the message painted onto old cars parked around town.

    Ben Howard

    Although not born in Totnes, Ben’s musical career did start here – one of his first musical gigs was in the Seven Stars Hotel. Since then Ben has released two critically acclaimed albums, Every Kingdom and I Forgot Where We Were. In addition to his musical achievements which include two BRIT awards and a number one album, Ben also has the honour of appearing on the Totnes £10 note.

    Ben’s clearly never forgotten his roots and the video for 2011’s ‘Keep Your Head Up’ was filmed at Dartington.

    Ryan Keen

    Busy working on his second album and one to watch out for Ryan Keen was a guitarist and songwriter for other musicians before starting his own career in 2009. You can find Ryan on Twitter or listen to his latest song ‘Guidance’ here.

    With a thriving local music scene in Totnes and the South Hams the next big thing could be attending an open mic night near you, or even busking on the streets. So keep your eyes out and your ears open when you’re walking down the high street.

    Read more...
  • A UK first opening in Totnes

    Totnes has always attracted forward-thinking businesses with social responsibility at the core.

    Soon to open in Totnes is Earth.Food.Love. It is the UK’s only, family-run, organic, bulk-buy, zero waste shop! Focusing on creating a better future, they decided to look back to the past, where eating real food with minimal packaging was normal practice. They believe returning to these simple ways will benefit not only our own health, but the planets too.

    The shop stocks a wide range of products such as grains, cereals, beans, legumes, flours, sugars, herbs, spices, loose leaf teas, nut butters, syrups, oils, vinegars, cleaning products and personal care products. Everything is self served and priced by weight, eliminating the toxic and wasteful packaging. Just take along any bottle, jar, tub or container; if it can be weighed, it can be used.

    Earth.Food.Love is located at 101 High St, to find out further information check out their website www.thezerowasteshop.co.uk.

    You can keep up to date by by liking their Facebook page.

    Read more...
  • Sir Francis Drake and the Totnes Orange Race

    Sir Francis Drake is famous for many things – he helped defeat the Spanish Armada, brought the potato to England, and when he wasn’t messing round with spuds inadvertently started Totnes’s famous orange race.

    On the third Tuesday of every August crowds gather to watch participants chase their juicy citrus fruits down the high street. And it all started when Drake didn’t dodge a delivery boy.

    A juicy legend

    The story goes that Sir Francis Drake bumped into a delivery boy carrying a basket of oranges at the top of town, sending the citruses tumbling down the hill. Because oranges were an exotic and expensive fruit at the time all the town’s children decided to chase after them and a legend was born.

    Another version of the story, which identifies the boy as John Hayman, says that Drake offered him an orange which he dropped (perhaps in surprise as he had not seen an orange before) and let roll down the hill.

    It wasn’t until the 1970s however that the first modern race was held, organised by the Totnes Elizabethan society.

    Orange Tuesdays

    Although the origins of the race may be legendary, the one rule is very real – competitors cannot carry their orange. They can however kick, throw, or roll it to get ahead. And if you’re wondering how judges tell the oranges apart they don’t – the rule is simply that the first person to cross the finish line with an intact orange wins.

    The course runs for 450 metres from the Market Square and everyone is welcome to join. Younger participants race from the top of the high street and finish at the market square, for older ones the finish line is at the Seven Stars hotel. Winners get trophies and the satisfaction that they can run faster than a piece of fruit, and afterwards a charity auction is held.

    Of course oranges aren’t quite as valuable now, and if you don’t fancy running down the hill after one you can walk into one of the town’s food shops and find a zesty treat.

    Read more...
  • Matt’s recipe of the month

    Fish Soup with rouille, gruyère & croutons

    A favourite on the menu at the Waterside Bistro since early days. I like to keep authenticity within my dishes and so garnish with a spicy mayonnaise type sauce called rouille, toasted croutons to spread it on and finely grated Gruyère cheese, although a mature cheddar would work just as well.

     

    Ingredients / four tarts:

    500g Whole shell on Atlantic prawns

    500g Organic salmon (on the bone is fine)

    500g White fish (coley, whiting, pollack)

    3 Carrots

    3 Onions

    3 Celery sticks

    1 Fennel bulb

    2 Red peppers

    3 Garlic cloves

    400g Good flavoured tomatoes (or tinned)

    2tbsp Tomato puree

    1 each Star anise

    3lt Fish stock

    1 pinch Cayenne pepper

    1 pinch Safron pistils

    50ml Pastis (you could substitute Pernod)

    250ml White wine

    Thyme, bay, parsley stalks

     

    What to do:

    Roast the prawns with a splash of oil in the oven until the shells start to colour and you get the wonderful aroma of roasting shellfish. Separately in a large heavy based pan sweat the onion, carrot, fennel, peppers, celery & garlic in a little oil.

    Once you have a little colour add in the wine and pastis, then all the other ingredients, fish & prawns. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 ó hours.

    Allow to cool a little then blitz it all up with a hand blender until most of the fish, veg & prawns are blended in.

    Push it through a sieve or conical strainer, discarding the solids. Taste & season with salt & pepper, rinse out the sieve and pass again.

     

    Rouille

    We make a potato based rouille by mixing half mashed potato with mayonnaise & adding a little garlic, saffon & cayenne pepper to taste.

    Read more...