Flowing from two sources on Dartmoor, down to the sea at Dartmouth, Totnes is an important stop along the River Dart situated between the moors and the river’s mouth. The town offers an excellent jumping off point for exploration of the river whether by foot, boat or canoe, and is the point where it becomes tidal.

Even for those who just want to admire the river without getting their feet wet there are many ways to enjoy the Dart, and many things Totnes has to thank the river for – and the two bridges crossing it.

Bridges and Bridgetown

Totnes Bridge has the honour of being the last bridge to cross the Dart before it reaches open sea, as plans to build a railway bridge across the river mouth from Kingswear to Dartmouth in the late 1900s never came to fruition.

There have been multiple bridges across the river in Totnes beginning with a river ford and evolving to the familiar stone bridge today. It was once a toll bridge that separated Bridgetown from Totnes until it was opened up on October 31st 1881 for everyone to cross.

A second bridge was built in 1982 and although less picturesque than the older bridge was necessary for the increasing amounts of traffic passing through Totnes and across the Dart. It is named the Brutus Bridge after the legendary founder of the town.

Whichever side of the bridge you’re on there are many places to enjoy the river from. Vire Island is worth a visit for anyone looking for a nice spot to enjoy a picnic. Although not a proper island the 400m peninsula is named after the French town Totnes is twinned with (not Narnia) and is the perfect spot for contemplating the river from in the summer. And there are plenty of restaurants  and cafes to eat or enjoy a drink in, high tide or low, rain or shine.

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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.

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.

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.