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.

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New retreat venue at Sharpham

Charity invests £1.6million in a new retreat venue at Sharpham

The Sharpham Trust is investing £1.6 million to convert a stable yard behind Sharpham House to a new centre for mindfulness courses and retreats.

The charity, which works to connect people to nature and themselves, has begun the creation of The Coach House - which will feature a new meditation space and 18 en-suite rooms.

The current, disused stableyard is a Grade II-listed building, dating back to 1760 when Sharpham House was built for the naval sea captain Philemon Pownoll.

Now work has begun to develop the single-storey quadrangle directly behind Sharpham House into a new retreat centre where participants can stay, amid historic grounds thought to have been landscaped by Capability Brown.

The Trust runs an annual programme of courses and retreats featuring mindfulness meditation and nature connection on the wider Sharpham Estate and on the adjacent River Dart.

“Prior to the pandemic we were finding that our programme was fully booked with long waiting lists,” said Trust Director Julian Carnell.

“As a charity we want to help as many people as possible and so creating more accommodation became a priority. The stable yard had become rundown and so there was a fantastic opportunity to give the building a new lease of life and restore it as part of the Sharpham Estate’s important heritage,” he said.

The Coach House behind Sharpham House INSIDE April 2021 LO RES
The Coach House

Retreats in The Coach House

The Coach House will join the Trust’s other retreat venues Sharpham House, The Barn Retreat and Woodland Campsite and it will offer a weekly programme for those in need of developing and deepening their mindfulness practice, compassion and their connection to nature.

Participants staying there will be able to spend a week living in community surrounded by the amazing natural environment of the Sharpham Estate.

They will spend time volunteering in the 18th century Walled Garden – helping to grow food for the retreats at Sharpham – and conserving the heritage and wildlife of the wider estate.

Helping 1,000 more people a year

Chairman of Sharpham’s Trustees Daniel Stokes said: “Our mission is to connect people to nature and foster mindfulness and wellbeing. There is now a plethora of research showing the physical and mental health benefits of spending time in nature.

“This project will enable us to help another 1,000 people a year, giving them a chance to spend time slowing down and reflecting in a beautiful natural setting,” he said.

Using local construction companies

The Trust is using South Devon firm Carpenter Oak to build the frame for an eye-catching glass structure linked to The Coach House which will be the new centre’s meditation and dining space.

Classic Builders, a local South West-based construction company, has been awarded the contract to convert the Coach House and hopes to complete the works by January 2022.

“We are delighted to be working with The Sharpham Trust on this significant local project. The Coach House is an important listed building, not only in a sensitive location but also next to Sharpham House. We’re looking forward to drawing on our years of experience delivering comparable works in similar settings to make this project a success,” said Adam Brimacombe, Director at Classic Builders.

The Trust has been busy over the last ten years developing its charitable programmes and refurbishing the heritage of its listed landscape and properties. Every year, some 2,000 people attend retreats, courses and events on the Sharpham Estate.

See our events here: www.sharphamtrust.org/Calendar  

A new fish finger takeaway in town

Cormack's Seafood recently launched a takeaway lunch menu from our fish shop. We sell a range of four sandwiches, featuring our handmade products. On offer at the moment is:

Classic Fish Finger Sandwich  £8
shoestring fries, tartar sauce, iceberg

Nashville Hot Fish Finger Sandwich £8
fish fingers, hot chilli dust, pickles, Cajun mayo

Plaice Katsu Curry Sandwich £9
Curry mayo, pickles, cabbage

Brixham Crab & Avocado Sandwich £10
Coconut, lime and chilli mayo, smashed avocado, crispy fried onions

Our fish fingers are made using line caught pollack from Devon and are battered in panko breadcrumbs, dill and spices. Our katsu fillets are inspired by Aarik’s (owner and chef) time working in South-East Asia and are made with plaice landed in Brixham.

fish finger

The takeaway is available every day from noon Tuesday to Saturday. We are located on Ticklemore Street in Totnes. 

Why we love Totnes

Why We Love Totnes - by Blueriver Cottages.

One of the first things you might notice when you visit Totnes is the eclectic fashion and alternative attitude to life. Don’t be surprised to see festival dress or the occasional parrot on someone’s shoulder as you make your way to one  of the many cafés and coffee shops.

Totnes is the first transition town with a global reputation for its interest in environmental and sustainability issues. Take a trip over to Dartington Hall which has a programme of wonderful courses, talks, festivals and events set in beautiful surroundings.

Staying in the town centre, a visit to the Totnes Museum will give you a rich insight in to the history of this enchanting town. Right in the middle of the hubbub is Totnes Castle which offers super views of the town and surrounding area.

Totnes prides itself on its high percentage of independent shops, cafés and restaurants. Interestingly, in 2012, the town came together to protest against a large coffee chain opening locally and won. This is a town with heart and spirit.

Its narrow winding roads, hidden passages and half-timbered housing give Totnes a certain Harry Potter charm. It’s hard not to succumb to the magic of this quirky, friendly town.

The team at Blueriver Cottages are passionate about where they live. Gemma, local Property Recruiter and Quality Assessor shares what she loves about the town..


" Down the road from Dartington, this arty town has plenty to satisfy all senses from the food, to the entertainment, and the views.

TIPS FOR EATING OUT
Pie Street is a great place to visit if you are looking for great comfort foods.

BEST VIEW
Standing at the top of Totnes Castle looking out over the town.

DON'T MISS
The Totnes Elizabethan Market is unique. I also love the Christmas markets which are great to get a bargain."


You can take a look at Blueriver Cottages’ collection of holiday homes in Totnes and surrounding area by clicking here.


48 hours in Totnes

Set in the heart of South Devon, between the wilds of Dartmoor and the sparkling waters of Start Bay, lies the bohemian market town of Totnes.

Easily accessible by train in under three hours from London, and with no need for a car while you’re there, Totnes is the perfect spot for a weekend break spent exploring the town’s independent shops and restaurants, fascinating markets and vibrant culture and music scene.

What’s more, a self-catering holiday property in Totnes with Toad Hall Cottages gives you the freedom to discover the town at your own pace, and after a long day exploring, you can relax and unwind in your very own home from home.


Day one
Having arrived and settled into your holiday cottage the night before, it’s time to start exploring!

Retail Therapy
Shops and markets flourish in Totnes, which flies the flag for Fairtrade and ethical retail. You can easily lose a contented morning browsing the unique gift shops and galleries that line the steep high street, or exploring the regular Friday and Saturday markets in Civic Square for unusual gifts.

Café Scene
Having worked up an appetite you’ll be spoilt for choice for lunching spots in Totnes from its chic restaurants and bistros to its vibrant cafés and delicatessens, this really is a foodie’s heaven. Choose from authentic Italian at The Curator Café & Kitchen, inventive vegetarian dishes at Willow or Seeds 2, or a leisurely lunch overlooking the river at Waterside Bistro as well as many more fantastic independent cafés and eateries.

The High Street

Ghost Cats, Castles & Cromwell
A good place to start discovering the rich and colourful heritage of Totnes is at the Totnes Museum on Fore Street. Here you can take a tour around a medieval kitchen and climb the iconic spiral staircase carved from a ship’s mast. The museum is also said to be home to a feline ghost with visitors regularly reporting to have felt the tail of an invisible cat against their legs while viewing the exhibits here!

From the museum, head to the nearby Grade I listed 16th-century guildhall on Ramparts Walk, one of Totnes’ most historic buildings. Home of the town council for over 450 years, this Tudor building still houses the table where Oliver Cromwell sat in 1646 during the final throes of the English Civil War.
And what better way to end your afternoon of discovery than a visit to Totnes Castle.

Standing strategically at the top of town, with far-reaching views across the town and beautiful Dart Valley, Totnes Castle is an immaculately preserved example of a Norman motte-and-bailey fortress and well worth a visit.

Live Music
If you still have some energy left after your busy day exploring, Totnes has a thriving and varied live music scene. So if you’re partial to a live gig head out in the evening to The Barrel House, The Bay Horse Inn or The Dartmouth Inn which all hold regular music nights to suit all tastes.


Day two

Pygmy Goats, Eagle Owls and Steam Trains
After a lazy Sunday morning breakfast at your holiday property, head to Totnes Rare Breeds Farm; a family-owned attraction dedicated to the preservation of endangered farm animals. A very hands-on attraction, here you can cuddle a guinea pig, feed the goats or smooth the feathers of a huge eagle owl, and lots more!

Close by you’ll find the South Devon Steam Railway, where you can hop on a vintage steam train and take a trip along the beautiful River Dart valley.

Sunday Lunch – Decisions, Decisions
Back in town there are serious decisions to be made – which pub to choose for Sunday Lunch when there are so many great free houses to discover. The answer is they’re all pretty good but some favourites include The Steam Packet Inn with its riverside beer garden and the highly acclaimed gastro pub The Bull Inn, or why not break from tradition at Pie Street .

And then when you thought you’d made up your mind someone mentions the Totnes Good Food Sunday Market! Devon’s largest fine food farmers market held on the 3rd Sunday of each month. Here you can sample and buy a wide range of quality produce from local producers or grab a take away from one of the street food vendors to eat al fresco in the sunshine.

Boats at the edge of the pier

Messing about on the River
If working off lunch out on the water sounds like fun then Totnes is certainly the place.

Canoe Adventures offers adventure-filled experiences on the River Dart for all ages and abilities. But if that all sounds like too much effort, why not hop aboard the Totnes to Dartmouth river cruiser, and savour some of the region’s most enchanting waterways.

And just like that the weekend is all but over, but the beauty of Totnes is that there are always new things to discover, so on your journey home, you could spend the time planning your next visit to this unique and fascinating town.


Where to stay
Couples will love Riverside Loft, a romantic waterside apartment overlooking Vire Island and the River Dart. Wake up to views of Totnes’ Castle from 10 Castle Street tucked beneath the ancient castle walls or as a complete contrast take a look at The Sidings an ultra-modern eco-house in the centre of town. Or for dog owners, 2 North Castle Mews is a colourful and contemporary dog-friendly townhouse, just moments from Totnes’ high street

For further information on holiday properties in Totnes and beyond visit
www.toadhallcottages.co.uk or call 01548 202020

World Breastfeeding Week begins

Mums on a Mission… Totnes on its way to becoming UK’s most breastfeeding friendly town as World Breastfeeding Week begins As World Breastfeeding Week begins on Wednesday 1st August, two mumpreneurs from Devon are delighted to announce that they are on their way to making Totnes the UK’s most breastfeeding friendly town. On a mission to improve breastfeeding rates in the UK, which has according to UNICEF some of the lowest in the world, working mums Lisa Lessware and Philippa Doyle launched their ‘Breastfeed Here with Confidence’ scheme in March. Widely known for its unique vibe and independent spirit, nearly every cafe and eatery on Totnes high street is now displaying the latest breastfeeding friendly badge. Over 40 cafes, eateries and businesses have signed up to the ‘Breastfeed Here with Confidence’ scheme in Totnes alone, all highlighting their support of breastfeeding mums. Both the NHS and UNICEF list embarrassment at feeding in public as a major barrier to breastfeeding and Lisa and Philippa wanted to do more to minimise this, helping mums be safe in the knowledge that they can do so with confidence.   blog   Lisa and Philippa are welcoming nominations for new establishments to display the badge. Gathering with local mums in Totnes to celebrate putting Totnes on the map as the UK’s most breastfeeding friendly town, they said – “We want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been so supportive of the scheme, we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response and passion to show support to breastfeeding mums. The ‘Breastfeed Here with Confidence’ scheme is so important not just for mums, but to let all customers and diners that walk through the door to know that it is a breastfeeding friendly space. The more women who feel able to breastfeed confidently in public, the more normal it will become.”   blog 2     Lisa and Philippa celebrate putting Totnes on the map as one of the most breastfeeding friendly towns in the UK with local mums, ahead of World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August) The family friendly destination store, Dobbies Garden Centres, became the first official national retailer to sign up to the Bshirt ‘Breastfeed Here with Confidence’ scheme during National Breastfeeding Week in June, with the badge becoming a permanent fixture in all 34 centres throughout the UK. The scheme has been commended by leading breastfeeding specialist, trained nurse and midwife, Clare Byam-Cook. Author of the top breastfeeding guide 'What to Expect When You're Breastfeeding and What If You Can't?', Clare is a regular main speaker at The Baby Show and an expert on many sites including Annabel Karmel. Commenting on the launch of the latest scheme, Clare said: “It is well-documented that many mothers feel apprehensive about breastfeeding in public. I am delighted to support this initiative, which I hope will encourage more mothers to feel confident that, whenever they see this badge they can be assured that breastfeeding is encouraged and they will receive a warm welcome. I hope this idea takes off and that many businesses will display this badge.” blog 3 The ’Breastfeed Here with Confidence’ badge on display at Delphini's Gelato in Totnes Signups in Totnes range from cafes, restaurants, business and shops, including - Rumour, The Curator Cafe, Waterside Bistro, Hairy Barista, Maisie’s Cafe, Hill House, Mange Tout, Saveurs, South Hams Citizens Advice Bureau, The Old Bakery, Pie Street, Room 101, Seeds Bakery, The Cornish Pasty Co, Delphini's, Zero Waste, Woods Bistro, Rare Breeds Farm and Willow to name just a few. In and around the South Hams, the response has been equally positive with the likes of Riverford Field Kitchen and The Venus Company displaying the badge. blog 4   With the world spotlight on breastfeeding, the news follows the US announcement that it is now legal to breastfeed in public everywhere in the United States, following the passing of laws to legalise public breastfeeding in Idaho and Utah. Lisa and Philippa are looking forward to welcoming even more businesses to the scheme in the South Hams and beyond to help women in the UK breastfeed with confidence. To read more about the Bshirt’s ‘Breastfeed Here with Confidence’ scheme, register interest or nominate a venue to display the badge, visit breastfeedwithconfidence.org.uk. blog 5    
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