Be an eco-tourist – by Blueriver Cottages

At Blueriver Cottages, we strive to make the right choices for environmental sustainability. In this blog, we offer a few suggestions so that our guests and other visitors to this beautiful area can help us to protect the local environment, wildlife and economy for all to enjoy!

How to go green

CONSERVE ENERGY
At your cottage, reduce energy by switching off lights and closing windows if heating is on. Please visit energysavingtrust.org.uk for more information on what you can do to save energy at home and when on holiday.

SUPPORT THE REAL LOCAL ECONOMY
Locally made crafts and souvenirs are not always cheaper, but purchasing them ensures your contribution to the economy will have a more direct and positive impact.

CLEANER JOURNEYS
Some destinations are just harder to reach, so consider renting a hybrid or hybrid vehicle. Walk, bike, or use public transportation to get around whenever possible.

SAY NO TO PLASTIC
Take a BPA-free water bottle you can refill over and over again at many eateries. Refuse plastic straws.

BEACH CLEANS
There are monthly beach cleans to take part in but you don’t have to wait for those – spend 10 minutes before you leave the beach to do your bit.

EAT LOCALLY SOURCED FOOD
Support the region’s farmers, get a more authentic taste of the cuisine and cut your carbon footprint even more.

TAKE AN EDUCATIONAL WALK
Totnes is the world’s first Transition Town. Take part in one of their walks to find more out about the pioneering projects.

RESPECT NATURE
Help us to look after the beautiful landscape and wildlife of our county by not littering, guarding against fire and using footpaths and cycle-ways responsibly. Ensure you follow the Countryside Code.


You can take a look at Blueriver Cottages’ collection of holiday homes in South Devon and Torbay by clicking here.


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Dartington’s New Direction

Su Carroll looks at the changing focus on food at Dartington. In 1925, Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst bought the run-down Dartington Estate near Totnes. They were visionaries who began what they called the “Dartington Experiment” – bringing together other like-minded, creative people for education and inspiration. In the early days, the couple spearheaded changes to the estate – Schumacher College, Dartington Hall School and Dartington Tweed Mill were established, followed by Dartington Glass and The Shops at Dartington. Times change, and in 2015 Dartington Hall Trust held Open Space meetings following the arrival of CEO Rhodri Samuel to discuss proposals for the gardens, development, land use, food, arts, social justice and community of enterprises. One of the areas earmarked for expansion is food, with chef Oliver Rowe being appointed as Dartington Hall Trust’s Director of Food and Drink. It’s a good fit for the Dartington ethos – Oliver is the man whose trials in setting up a London restaurant with locally- sourced food was recorded in the BBC documentary, Urban Chef. Oliver’s appointment to the team signals “more joined-up thinking” he says. “Dartington is an amazing place. It offers a broad spectrum of the elements you need as a person to approach life and any given situation. It’s a holistic approach and I love that; it’s why I’m here. We look at everything from every angle.” Dartington is home to The White Hart Bar and Restaurant – holder of a Sustainable Restaurant Association star, The Roundhouse Café which offers drinks and light snacks, and a new space – The Green Table which has an informal atmosphere with big tables, a deli-style counter, an open- plan kitchen and a large terrace with tables and chairs. Oliver’s job is to advise and guide using everything he’s learned about sourcing locally and responsibly. He’s been working with The Green Table head chef Tara Vaughan- Hughes to develop an interesting menu in a space which is “quite a departure” for Dartington. “Sometimes you create an audience when you give people something they’re not expecting. The Green Table was like this for Dartington – a completely fresh approach.” He will also help to strengthen the links between tenant farmers on the Dartington estate who farm the land in innovative ways that benefit the community. As his experiences on Urban Chef will testify, it isn’t as easy as it looks. “It can be difficult to work with really small producers,” he admits. “Some of the ingredients that we need are hard to find in the volume we want. Then it’s about menu planning and discussing with the producers what we’re cooking and making sure they know what we’re about. We’re about great ingredients, locally sourced, being considerate to the environment and working with people in the area. We have respect for the produce, the animals and staff. That’s our food concept.” Oliver started cooking as a teenager, working in the kitchen of an art school in Tuscany, run by his cousin, the sculptor and art historian Nigel Konstam. He learned from Italian women how to make simple pasta dishes that owed a lot to the landscape surrounding him. At the age of 22, he wandered into the kitchens of Moro in London looking for work and found himself honing his craft there. Stints at restaurants in London and France followed before he opened a café in London and then a restaurant, Konstam (after his grandmother) at the Prince Albert – the focus of the Urban Chef series. “My mum was a very, very good cook, and so was my grandmother, and I definitely have a connection to that period in time. One of the great things about the chefs at Dartington is they’re not throwing anything away; there’s an appreciation for the ingredients – the way they’re cooked and presented. It’s about keeping it simple,” Oliver adds. London-based Oliver’s commitment to Dartington is three days a week but he says it’s no hardship to come to “a stunning” part of the world. “It’s not a million miles from London and it has a good vibe. There’s a real sense of community.” So, is Dartington going to be a deep-fat fryer free zone? Oliver laughs “We do have deep-fat fryers! You can’t knock a good chip and we do great ones at The White Hart. After all, everyone loves fish and chips, but we make sure we get potatoes that are sustainably sourced.”

Wild animals caught on camera at rewilding site Sharpham

Thrilling images of animals and birds have been caught on camera on the Sharpham Estate, near Totnes, South Devon.

Foxes, a tawny owl and a hedgehog are amongst the creatures caught unawares by hidden cameras on the Estate, around the site of the Sharpham Trust’s rewilding project which began earlier this year.

The Trust was awarded £177,400 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to make more space for wildlife and take action for nature in a three-year project called Sharpham Wild for People. The grant will help in turning the Sharpham Estate organic, re-wilding parts of its historic landscape and helping more people engage with the nature there – from members of the public to students of conservation learning to use camera traps.

“These first pictures of hedgehogs are amazing because as far as we know this is the first record of them being this far into the estate for over 20 years.” said Simon Roper, from Ambios Ltd, the nature conservation & education organisation which deployed the cameras via its trainees.

“Although our rewilding project has only just begun it is so encouraging to get this image of an animal likely to benefit from our future work in restoring nature.  Sharing these pictures is a step towards connecting people with nature,” he added.

Sharpham Trust Ambios camera trap pheasant
Sharpham Trust Ambios camera trap pheasant

Camera Trapping

The day- and night-time images show a variety of feathered and furred animals, from a Tawny Owl in a tree to a Blackcap by a pool.

There’s a fox, believed to be a nursing mum, a song thrush bathed in the sun’s rays, a crow close-up and a variety of songbirds beside a pond.

One of the happiest sights is a hedgehog, caught in a night-sight shot, snuffling in undergrowth.

“Hedgehogs have been in decline for many years,” said Jack Skuse, Director of Ambios Ltd, the nature conservation training organisation helping Sharpham Trust to deliver The National Lottery Heritage Fund project. “It was exciting to catch one on camera.  This is the mating season, so perhaps this one was looking for a mate.”

The images were collected by students on an Ambios course in camera trapping.  The hedgehog pictures were gathered by student whose place is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

Sharpham Trust Ambios camera trap fox 4
Sharpham Trust Ambios camera trap fox 4

Organic conversion for Sharpham farmland

An important aspect of the project Sharpham Wild for People is the exploration of organic farming techniques such as less-intensive grazing, in order to support biodiversity.

Ambios Ltd already operates Lower Sharpham Farm, an organic farm on the Sharpham Estate, and has just signed a tenancy to take over a further 50 acres of Sharpham parkland, which will be restored to parkland and wood pasture (a habitat with trees that would have characterised Sharpham parkland at the time of its design, in 1762). An additional 137 acres of land has been leased to farmer David Camp for organic conversion.

“A key mission for Sharpham is to care for wildlife and enable people to connect with our natural world,” said Trust Director Julian Carnell.

“Because of this project, almost all the estate land will be managed organically which has proven benefits for wildlife,” he said.

Sharpham Trust Ambios camera trap tawny owl
Sharpham Trust Ambios camera trap tawny owl

The effects of Covid-19

The project was to include school visits, public events, volunteering & training opportunities this summer and autumn, in order to enable a wider range of people to engage with and understand the land’s natural heritage.

The Coronavirus pandemic has meant that these have been postponed. However, the Trust hopes to start some of these in September, and is pressing ahead with other project goals such as introducing livestock, fencing and surveying wildlife. 

Sharpham Trust Ambios camera trap hedgehog
Sharpham Trust Ambios camera trap hedgehog

Watersports in Totnes

As we move into 2019, being active and healthy is top of the agenda for many people. It can be a struggle to get motivated during winter, as gyms can be expensive as well as overcrowded and temperatures outside plummet, making outdoor exercise very unappealing.

Weaving healthy activities into a weekend away is a great way to stay active whilst having fun. From canoeing in the Isle of Wight to hiking in the Lake District, last-minute holiday marketplace, Snaptrip has compiled the best spots in the UK to get some fresh air and stay active this January.

Watersports in Totnes

Totnes is bursting with outstanding natural beauty. Sitting at the head of the estuary of the River Dart, it’s the perfect location for watersport enthusiasts. There’s plenty of spots perfect for paddle boarding or exploring the river by inflatable SUP. The river winds its way through both Dartmouth and Totnes, so there’s a chance to explore both towns too. Paddle the river during the summer months and you’ll be welcomed by rolling hills and flourishing greenery.

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