• New from Lion Brewery

    Local Hero beer created using hops from Totnes community at Lion Brewery

    The Hop Club at the Lion Brewery has been enlisting locals as hop farmers for 2 years now with 2018 being the third harvest supplied by the community. A delicious, speciality beer is created from the harvest, with some of the beer being given back to those who supply the produce.

    In 2016 the total harvest amounted to 1.3kg, which increased by a staggering 1150% in 2017 resulting in 15kg of fresh hops. The total hop harvest for 2018 was just over 15kg and would have been 20kg but sadly two of the biggest growers were unable to pick.     

    The produce is brought to the Lion Brewery in a variety of vessels from little bags and tea cups to anything up to large bin bags. The hop plants are covered in hop cones which if teased apart will produce a yellow powder running down the middle called lupulin, which is the magic ingredient needed by the brewery to create the beer.

    ‘Local Hero’ is the name of the once-a-year brew which is created using the community hops in time for the Forking Local Food Festival on Vire Island on October 8th.  The batch also uses local ingredients including 10% of the mash being pea flour from the brilliant Grown in Totnes.

    In Spring 2019 the brewery will be looking for more hop farmers, big and small. Rob Hopkins, one of the Lion Brewery Directors said, ‘It’s things like this that make our brewery the very special thing that it is. Whether your harvest was small enough to fill a bin bag or a teacup, whether the slugs ate your plants or you were showered with lupulin, thank you.’

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    If you haven’t harvested before and you’re interested in getting involved next year, contact the Lion Brewery for tips and advice.

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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.”

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  • Zero Waste & Plastic Free

    8 million pieces of plastic are making their way into the ocean every day, an estimated 8.3 billion straws are on coastlines around the world and 1.75 billion single-use plastic bags are still being handed out by supermarkets in the UK. With plastic never fully degrading this has already and will continue to have a huge impact on our planet. The 5p plastic bag levy (which will soon increase to 10p) has helped to reduce the number of bags being used and there are other nationwide schemes available, however much more still needs to be done.

    Many of the local businesses and organisations in and around Totnes have been making a conscious effort to reduce, reuse and recycle for many years now. Most recently the Plastic Free Totnes campaign has been developed, a community-driven movement aimed at reducing the use of single-use plastics across town. Formed from the Transition Town Totnes Waste Into Resources group in partnership with Totnes Rubbish Walks and Totnes Against Trash, they have signed up to the ‘Plastic Free Communities’ campaign led by Surfers Against Sewage which sets out 5 objectives for the town to meet including replacing single-use plastics with sustainable alternatives.

    Many businesses including Waterside Bistro have signed up to Refill Devon, a free tap water initiative designed to reduce plastic pollution by making refilling a water bottle easy, social and rewarding.

    Earth Food Love was the UK’s first zero-waste shop and is based at the top of the High Street in the area known locally as the Narrows. The shop was started by ex-Manchester United player Richard Eckersley and his wife Nicola after their frustrations with how much packaging they used as a family. With a simple self-weighing system, consumers can bring in their refillable pots and buy everything from flour to peanut butter, tea, fruit, syrup and many more food items, plus non-food items including washing up liquid, wooden toothbrushes, metal straws and bamboo cutlery.

    Other businesses who are striving to significantly reduce their waste and actively encourage recycling include the riverside restaurant Waterside Bistro who feed their coffee grounds and vegetable peels to the owners’ chickens, and the Totnes Brewing Company who feed excess malt and grain from their brewing process to local pigs.

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    As a small, independent, family-run brewery, the Totnes Brewing Company is very close to zero waste and has a very low carbon footprint. With the main brewing area at the back of the bar, you can watch one of your future pints being made while sipping on your last, and the benefit of production taking place on site is that it significantly reduces carbon footprint. Many beer kegs are now made out of plastic as they’re lighter and easier to transport but of course, they’re not environmentally friendly, therefore owner Sarah Trigg reuses them as seats for the pub or gives them to the local community for free to be used as garden cloches.

    As a nation of dedicated coffee drinkers, Brits are throwing away 7 million disposable coffee cups every day. As they are very difficult to recycle due to the layer of a waterproof plastic inside, this is adding to an already massive problem. At The Hairy Barista, a speciality coffee shop on High Street, they actively encourage people to use reusable coffee cups and they themselves use compostable straws as well as supplying and using vegan, organic and plant-based ingredients, food and drink.

    Delphini’s  also use compostable cups, lids and spoons for take away gelatos, Waterside Bistro has banned plastic straws and The Kitchen Table, a bespoke catering company, use recycled or compostable kitchen supplies and take-away crockery and cutlery.

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  • Independent Totnes Cinema

    How many High Streets in Great Britain can boast their very own independent art-house cinema?

    Totnes Cinema CIC is a social enterprise, set up by a local couple, passionate about film and excited about Totnes. So far the project has been entirely funded by local donations and memberships and the success of its carefully chosen programme, and we still have plenty more to do!! All the bar staff, stewards, and musicians volunteer their time and are paid with the chance to watch the film.

    Totnes Cinema is located in the heart of Totnes, down a hidden passageway just off the High St. Our mission was to bring back the magic of cinema to our local town. We were inspired by a wonderful photograph, taken in the late 1940s of boys holding banners saying “Save our Cinema,” and in true Totnes style, they marched up the High St to make their feelings known. There had been a cinema in Totnes from the early days of film and the last remaining one, The Romany, closed its doors in 1964 due to falling audiences. The building became the well-loved Totnes Library until its expansion and relocation, and the building fell empty. As a local couple, film lovers and with teenage children, we took on the challenge of re-creating a cinema for our local town center to create a social and cultural hub in the town.

    As you leave the hustle and bustle of the market day, you are taken into this unique and surprising space, more like a Berlin cabaret than a cinema, with subdued lighting, comfy sofas, bistro table and chairs and luxurious cinema seats on the balcony. We even have a baby grand piano!

    As a truly independent cinema, we can offer a wide range of films, carefully chosen from all genres including classic black and white film noir, the best from musical theatre, and modern-day classics and Oscar winners.

    With a fully licensed bar which stretches the width of the building, beneath an enormous screen we encourage people to come early and enjoy cocktails, fine wines, and craft beers and to meet up with friends, often with live music and a showreel of classic adverts. There is always someone around afterward, to chat and discuss the film. On a Saturday you can pop in for excellent coffee and homemade cake, as our “mystic portal” opens up to daylight.

    We believe we add to the uniqueness of our wonderfully independent High St and complement all the many individual traders and businesses around us, bringing life to the evenings on the High St as well as the days.

    Jane Hughes, Director of Totnes Cinema

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  • Rest and BE Wild…with a Den in Devon!

    The BE Wild! initiative follows a study of 1,000 parents by Beyond Escapes which found that over a third, 36 per cent, of UK mums and dads don’t think their children spend enough time playing outside.

    Whilst parents themselves nostalgically remember tree climbing (19 per cent), den-making (17 per cent), playing hide and seek (12 per cent) and even making mud pies (5 per cent of them!) as some of their favourite childhood activities, they don’t think their own kids get outdoors enough…and are looking for ways to get them off their smart phones and engage with the wild!

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    Although many parents, 32 per cent, have built dens with their children during the past six- months, these are made from mainly sheets, curtains, chairs and towels; indoors, in the lounge! In fact, 52 per cent of all dens are now made at home in the bedroom, playroom or lounge, with only 23 per cent made in an outdoor space! So, now is the time to turn this around to bring back true the true den building experience!

    Mark Sears, from The Wild Network and Director of Dens at Beyond Escapes, commented: “Beyond Escapes approached us with this great idea to introduce complimentary den making kits to hire at their Devon resort, which we have helped advise on. Getting kids outside, detoxing from their smart-phones and tablets and ultimately rewilding them is what we are all about and we have seen more and more parents join us to encourage families and communities to do just that with positive results.

    “Beyond Escapes has the perfect setting with acres of land, sea views and plenty of flora and fauna. Families, or even big kids can enjoy some fun time foraging, building and getting involved with nature in their own time. I’m sure it will be a huge success and is a fantastic activity whatever the weather.”

    For those keen to get den building in their own garden, or to practise their den building skills before visiting Beyond Escapes, Devon, follow these key steps produced by BE Wild!

    1. Find: Locate your perfect den spot
    2. Forage: Source the material you want to use to make your den
    3. Foundation: Pick your base tree to build your den around
    4. Frame: Construct your den frame
    5. Finesse: Add the final personal touches to your den
    6. Fun: Games to play with your new den
    7. Friends: Make den friends and have lots of adventure

    Jason Bruton, Managing Director at Beyond Escapes, said: “Our new den-making initiative was designed following a study which found that families were crying out for a reason to enjoy their nostalgic childhood activities, whilst simply getting outdoors.

    “With its breath-taking views, stunning beaches and abundance of natural attractions nearby, Beyond Escapes Devon is the perfect location for families to get outdoors, whilst still having the luxury of staying in high-end boutique accommodation. We welcome everyone staying to make their very own Devonshire Den, just hire the kit and get building!”

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    Helena Wiltshire, from Save the Children, added: “We’re thrilled that Beyond Escapes will be supporting Save the Children’s Den Day. The BE Wild! ‘re-wilding’ initiative is a fantastic way to encourage families to spend quality time together, get creative and build some dens this summer. We hope lots of families get involved and have some fun, whilst raising as much money as possible!

    “The funds raised will enable Save the Children to help transform children’s lives and provide them with the things they need to grow up healthy and happy, like a safe place to shelter or a vaccination to protect them from pneumonia. All children deserve the opportunity to fulfill their potential.”

    Beyond Escapes, Devon, set in the glorious South Devon hills, offers luxury self-catering accommodation options ranging from one bedroom BE Chic Studios to BE Deluxe Mansion Suites and two, three and four bedroom BE Deluxe Lodges complete with their own private hot tubs, as well as dedicated pet and baby friendly lodges. Top-class facilities on-site include the BE You Spa and Gym, and BE Tempted Restaurant serving locally-sourced dishes as well as offering tempting takeaways and hearty breakfast packs delivered directly to your accommodation.

    For more information or to book, call 0333 230 4538 or visit www.beyondescapes.co.uk/be-wild-a-den-hero

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  • Totnes Pride set to be bloomin’ marvellous!

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    The historic market town of Totnes in Devon is set to host the sixth Totnes Pride on Saturday 1st September 2018.

    Social enterprise Proud2Be is laying on a whole host of events, which will bring the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and/or asexual+ (LGBTQIA+) community together with their allies, to celebrate diversity in the town.

    This year’s theme is ‘Marsha Was Her Name’. In a recent blog post, Proud2Be Co-founders Jae and Max Price revealed the meaning behind the theme:

    ‘Marsha P. Johnson is an important figure in LGBTQIA+ history. Too often the actions of Marsha and those like her are ignored, erased and hidden; not just from what we are taught at school but in how our history is spoken about, sometimes from even within our community. It’s for this reason that we are really excited to have the opportunity to honour Marsha and those like her at this year’s Totnes Pride.’

    ‘Marsha’s legacy reminds us of what Pride is truly about. It is a celebration of who we are. It is a reminder of where we have come from. It is a statement of where we are going. Marsha often wore flowers in her hair, so this year we invite everyone to hold, wear and/or decorate themselves in flowers!’

    This year’s special guests are Human Rights Activist, Feminist and founder of African Rainbow Family Aderonke Apata and Film makers (My Genderation) and trans campaigners Fox and Owl.

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    Fox and Owl

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    Aderonke Apata

    The day kicks off at 10.45am outside The Dartmouth Inn with a special performance from Spectrum Choir and opening speeches. The award-winning Samba ROC Band, will then lead a procession up Fore Street and High Street to Totnes Civic Hall at 11.30am. The road closure will be in place between 10.30am – 1pm at Ticklemore Street and from the bottom of Fore Street up to where the High Street meets Castle Street.

    Community bus service Bob the Bus will be running a park and ride service from 10am at King Edward VI Community College (KEVICC) and will also be transporting wheelchair users and those with mobility issues up the procession at 11.15.

    It is at the Civic Hall from midday, where visitors can enjoy workshops, talks and live music, community stalls, Dot’s Cafe, a youth space and a variety of family-friendly activities including art and craft, slime making, face painting and much more.

    There will be a panel discussion from 3:00pm at Pie Street, where local and national activists will discuss the theme: ‘Can We Be Proud of Pride?’.

    There will be registered British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters present to interpret the opening speeches and the panel discussion.

    The fun continues into the evening at Totnes Pride After Party from 7.00pm at Totnes Civic Hall, which will be hosted by The Ambiguous A and feature live music from popular Disco Funk band Golddust and DJ sets from Mamma Boogie Oogie, Rhi Rhi Rhythm and Madame Souza.

    Due to a successful bid to People’s Health Trust using money raised by HealthContact through The Health Lottery, entry to all daytime events are free. Tickets to the After Party are £10.00 (16 and over) and are available to purchase online and at Totnes Pride day event.

    To mark the event Totnes Town Council will once again, raise the rainbow flag over Totnes Civic Hall. The flag raising ceremony will take place on Monday 27th August at 6.30pm, followed by a Totnes LGBTQIA+ History Tour led by local Writer, Historian and Publisher Bob Mann.

    Inspired by their own experiences of bullying, discrimination and shame- identical twins Jae & Max Price set up Proud2Be in 2011 when they recorded the first Proud2Be video. Since then various public figures and members of the public have contributed to the campaign.

    As well as campaigning and hosting Totnes Pride, Proud2Be facilitates various groups and events, including a social group, activity days, fundraiser discos and more. In 2014 Proud2Be launched its youth project which now includes a youth group and a counselling & mentoring service.

    Proud2Be delivers workshops to school students and awareness training to organisations around the UK.

    About this year’s event, Proud2Be co-founder Max said:

    “The Pride Action Group have been working tirelessly for the past year to ensure that Totnes Pride continues to be an event that we can all be proud of. For us, Pride is both a celebration and a protest and we invite everyone to come and join us for the sixth Pride in the town.”

    Proud2Be are looking for volunteers to help out on the day. If you would like to get involved, please email Jules & Dot at volunteer@proud2be.co.uk.

    Proud2Be are also encouraging local businesses and residents to show their support by displaying rainbow flags during the week of Pride. These are available to buy for £7 from Proud2Be.

    To find out more about Totnes Pride or to buy an After-Party ticket, please visit totnespride.co.uk or email info@proud2be.co.uk.

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  • World Breastfeeding Week begins

    Mums on a Mission…

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    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.

     

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    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.”

     

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    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.”

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    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.

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    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.

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  • The atmospheric town taken by the sea

    Only 18 miles from Totnes the village of Hallsands near Kingsbridge in south Devon is the village that fell into the sea. To say the village is still there would be bending the truth slightly, however the remains (which are now closed) can still be seen from the safety of a viewing platform over the cliffs.

    No-one knows exactly when Hallsands was established although some say it was probably in about 1600 and growing in the 18th and 19th centuries. By 1891 it had 37 houses, the London Inn and a population of 159 with a very close community. Most residents owned their own homes and depended on fishing, mainly crab, for a living. It was a hazardous business with irregular earnings and frequent losses at sea. Everyone, including women and children, helped haul in the boats and nets.

    Everything was fine until the 1890s when the Admiralty decided that the naval dockyard at Keyham near Plymouth should be expanded which required hundreds of thousands of tons of concrete. In January 1896 the construction company Sir John Jackson Ltd was granted permission to dredge shingle from the coast between Hallsands and neighbouring Beesands. Many fishermen at the time, who knew the area offshore intimately, opposed the plans saying the dredging would alter the seabed as well as the beach and what was taken would certainly not be replaced.

    Despite the resident’s protestations dredging began in the spring of 1897 and during the next four years some 660,000 tonnes of material were removed. Activity was eventually paused when opposition from several fishing villages grew as they saw their shingle beaches being relentlessly carried away.

     

    It took 18 years from the start of the dredging to the final destruction of Hallsands village. It had been assumed that the removal of any shingle would be replaced naturally but we now know that the same shingle which protects the nearby villages of Beesands and Torcross was deposited thousands of years ago during the ice ages, and is not being replaced.

     

    An inquiry was established in response to protests from villagers who feared the dredging might threaten their beach and village, but dredging continued after it was decided that the activity was not likely to pose a significant threat. However by 1900 the level of the beach had started to fall and in the autumn storms that year, part of the sea wall was washed away. In November 1900, villagers petitioned their Member of Parliament, Frank Mildmay complaining of damage to their houses, and in March 1901 Kingsbridge Council wrote to the Board of Trade complaining of damage to the road.

    The Liberal MP for the area was extremely supportive of the residents of Hallsands and on more than one occasion offered his own money to help out the residents.

    In September 1901 a new Board of Trade inspector concluded that further severe storms could cause serious damage and recommended that dredging be stopped and on 8th January 1902 the dredging licence was revoked.

    On 26th January 1917 a combination of easterly gales and exceptionally high tides breached Hallsands’ defences and the village fell into the sea! Miraculously no one was hurt but many families had to relocate to neighbouring villages having lost everything.

    Only one house was left standing after the destruction. The owner Elizabeth Prettyjohn stubbornly refused to leave and lived there with her chickens until her death in 1964. She acted as a guide to the visitors who came over the years curious to see the remains of the village. Today her house is used as a summer holiday home.
    Another famous Hallsands resident was Ella Trout together with her sisters Patience, Clara and Edith. When their fisherman father, William, became sick, Patience and then Ella gave up school and operated his boat which was the only source of income for the family. William died in 1910 when Ella was 15 years old. On 8th September 1917, after the Hallsands disaster, Ella was crab fishing with her 10 year old cousin William when they saw the SS Newholm struck by a naval mine one mile south of Start Point. With William Stone, another fisherman in the vicinity, they rowed to the scene and helped rescue nine men. In recognition of her bravery she received the Order of the British Empire.

    The sisters, with compensation for the destruction of their cottage at Hallsands plus some earnings, built Trout’s Hotel on the cliff above the deserted village. The Trouts ran the hotel successfully until 1959. More recent owners moved down from London and attracted some of their well-known friends to stay including Danny La Rue and Larry Grayson, and for years their signed photographs hung on the walls of the dining room. The hotel has since been turned into apartments now called Prospect House.

    In more recent years the story of Hallsands has been turned into an opera called ‘Whirlwind’ commissioned by acclaimed company Streetwise Opera and written by Will Todd, one of the country’s leading young opera composers, and Ben Duwell, and has also featured in a book by Steve Melia called “Hallsands; A Village Betrayed”.

    You can walk to Hallsands from the villages of Beesands or Torcross following the South West Coast Path. Beesands, albeit a small village, has a café and toilets and free car parking. Torcross is bigger with a few cafes and a pub and more (charged) parking. Please note that you can no longer drive from Blackpool Sands to Slapton Sands and then on to Torcross because of the recent storms and road damage which in itself is somewhat ironic.

    Hallsands and Beesands are both walkable with a moderate degree of accessibility from Torcross, which has ample (paid) parking. Beesands however has free parking. If driving from Totnes head for Dartmouth, then Slapton and finally Torcross.

    If you want to travel by bus you can take the 164 to Kingsbridge or the X64 to Dartmouth and then catch the number 3 to Torcross. All routes joining the coastal villages are part of the South West Coast Path and therefore accessible at all times.

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  • Eat al fresco in and around Totnes

    There are many ways to enjoy eating al fresco in and around Totnes with delicious menus at riverside restaurants, pretty pub gardens and high street tables, but why not take your open air eating to another level and have a picnic in a unique location with far reaching views of the countryside. With July being National Picnic Month what better time to do so.

    When it comes to deciding where to kick off your shoes and lay your blanket we have many beautiful locations for you to try.

    Why not explore the River Dart and neighbouring coast from a whole new perspective with Canoe Adventures and Sea Kayak Devon and choose a secluded spot along the way to stop for lunch. Or with the Dart running through Totnes you can sit along the bank of the river and watch the boats go by while enjoying your plate of nibbles. There are also many natural and leafy parks and gardens in and around town and on Dartington Estate where you can stop and relax, enjoy your food at leisure and watch the children play.

    You could combine your picnic with a short walk or cycle from Totnes to Sharpham Cheese and Wine, Dartington Estate or the Shops at Dartington where you can stock up on more local food and drink, have a wander and soak up the superb views of each location.

    Take a steam train to Buckfastleigh with South Devon Railway where you can walk (or take a bus) to Buckfast Abbey and enjoy your food in the stunning grounds, or walk along the river while listening to the birds sing. Climb to the top of Totnes Castle and gaze at the wonderful views of Totnes and beyond or visit Berry Pomeroy Castle, both offering the perfect location to enjoy your refreshments.

    When it comes to deciding what to pack for your picnic the wide variety of delis, cafes, independent shops, farmer’s markets and bakeries in Totnes, Dartington and Sharpham mean you can ditch the soggy sandwiches and create a fresh, local and seasonal feast fit for all.

    If you fancy some Devon Blue or Sharpham Rustic cheese to go with your crusty bread, visit Sharpham Wine and Cheese or Country Cheeses and Saveurs, The Old Bakery or Flour & Rice for the loaf. For some fresh fruit and the all important salad grown locally in Devonshire soil try Annie’s or The Happy Apple, or if you’re feeling more Mediterranean why not grab some olives, charcuterie or continental cheeses from Mangetout, Jano or Amalie’s Deli. And no picnic is complete without a slice of homemade cake so stop off at Waterside Bistro or one of the many cafes or bakeries in and around town for some tasty treats.

    Most cafes and independent food outlets in town will also supply take away drinks from the likes of Luscombe to keep you hydrated on those balmy summer days…or why not sample a bottle of something fizzy or fruity from the Totnes Wine Company, the only shop in town to stock the entire range of Sharpham wine.

    For those who’d like all the pleasure of eating in nature but don’t have time to prepare the food, The Kitchen Table specialises in outside catering and sources all of their key ingredients from within 30 miles of Totnes, so you will get quality, local food without any of the hassle.

    Don’t forget to pack your sun cream or raincoat for those unpredictable days but most of all, stop, relax and enjoy your day being at one with the world.

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  • Swap bricks for canvas this summer

    Did you know it’s National Camping Month?

    With the hustle and bustle of life and many of us relying so heavily on our phones and other electrical devices, what better way to switch off and relax than to take to the great outdoors and go camping or glamping. Put the phone down and listen to the birds sing, take away the ipads and build a den with the kids, and get away from the TV to gaze at the stars.

    With June being National Camping Month there’s no better time to try it – whether a first-timer or camping aficionado, there are many places in and around Totnes where you can escape to the country and get back to nature.

    Higher Broadgates Campsite is based in the beautiful village of Cornworthy, just 20 minutes from Totnes, where you can secure a pitch on their flat, working farmland for only £10 for 2 people. If you’d like all the joys of sleeping al fresco but you’re not ready to bunk in a sleeping bag, they also have 2 Bell Tents which offer many homely comforts including beds, fairy lights, BBQ, hamper and games costing £55 a night. The family run farm has a toilet and shower for visitors to use and is dog-friendly as well, offering the perfect excuse for a long, country walk.

    Just 3 miles from Totnes in the village of Littlehempston, Devon Yurts offers an excellent base for a short break or longer holidjay with their comfortably furnished traditional Mongolian yurts and beautifully rustic Shepherd’s Hut. Visitors will be able to cook a hot meal on site in the communal kitchen, toast marshmallows on a campfire or dine in one of the traditional, local pubs, while enjoying on site comforts including fully flushing toilets, hot showers and solar power. Prices start from £50 per night for 2 people in low season.

    If you’re camping on a budget and have all of your own equipment, Beara Farm is the perfect place to pitch up a tent or park your campervan. This 3.5 acre level meadow is only a 15 minute drive from Totnes just outside of Buckfastleigh, or if you’d prefer a more leisurely journey you can take an historic steam train from South Devon Railway which is a 30 minute walk or 5 minute drive from the campsite.

    At Camp Dartington just outside of Totnes you can wake up to views of Dartmoor, wander through 1,200 acres of stunning woodland and listed gardens, and enjoy many delicious treats at one of the onsite cafes and Shops at Dartington. The site also boasts a traditional 14th Century Barn Cinema and goat’s milk ice cream made fresh at Dartington Dairy!

    Other local sites include Steamer Quay Caravan in Totnes itself, Broadleigh Farm Caravan Park and Higher Well Farm & Holiday Park both near Stoke Gabriel.

    So consider swapping bricks for canvas this summer, breathe in the fresh Devonshire air and stomp your stresses away in the countryside.

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  • Totnes and surrounding area in the Spotlight . . .

    Written by Jeremy Holloway, Visit Totnes Informtion Officer

    Totnes, and the surrounding South Devon area, has often had a starring role in films and television series. Churches, historic houses, ferries, even harpoon guns, carnivorous crabs and suicidal fish, they’ve all played their part.

    Down the River Dart from Totnes is “Lighthaven”, as featured in the television series The Coroner, a town better known as Dartmouth to locals of course. The hit daytime show stars Claire Goose as single mum Jane Kennedy who returns to her hometown to investigate murders alongside childhood sweetheart Detective Sergeant Davey Higgins.

    Producer Sandra MacIver says “We wanted to feature Dartmouth as a major location as it’s so beautiful and the view across to Kingswear is breath-taking. The way the light twinkles across the River Dart always makes it feel like summertime, even in February. The slogan we use for The Coroner is ‘summer holidays all day long every day’. “Dartmouth provided us with a town feel to our fictional Lighthaven,” says Sandra. “We’re made very welcome by the locals. They help us out a lot and we in turn we try and keep ourselves discreet and not get in the way of the busy town.”

    Amoungst other sites used in the filming of The Coroner are Blackpool Sands, Leonards Cove, Slapton Sands, Bellever Forest, Bonehill Rocks, Hound Tor and Salcome. And not forgetting the Dartington Estate of course as this features regularly throughout the series, and is where The Coroner’s production office was based.

    Dartmouth is not of course new to being featured on television as it was also used for the Onedin Line, a 1970s BBC shipping drama set in Liverpool. Bayards Fort, the scene of many TV series, was used in the series and is at the far end of Bayards Cove from whence to Pilgrim Fathers sailed a long, long time ago.

    Further along the coast at both Bigbury on Sea and Burgh Island Agatha Christie’s two famous sleuths and acclaimed crime-solvers Poirot and Miss Marple have been filmed, starring David Suchet and Geraldine McEwan respectively. The beach at Bigbury on Sea has also been seen in television shows such as the 1980s’ classic Lovejoy and GMTV’s slimming segment Inch Loss Island (starring Anton du Beke).
    As well as the setting for various adaptations of Christie’s Evil Under The Sun, the location also featured in the 1965 film Catch Us If You Can, starring the British band The Dave Clark Five.

    Further along the coast is the port and seaside town of Teignmouth, used for The Mercy, the Donald Crowhurst Movie. Filmed in Teignmouth in June 2015 and starring Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz the film tells the story of the doomed yachtsman Donald Crowhurst. The film was released in February 2018.

    Moving inland as far as the parish of Marldon, in the small village of Compton, Compton Castle was used as the estate of one of the characters in the film Sense and Sensibility. Sense and Sensibility was a hit screenplay directed by Ang Lee and based on the Jane Austen novel. With an all-star cast, featuring Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet and Hugh Grant it managed to be nominated for seven Academy Awards with Emma Thompson scooping the Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, having written the script as well as staring in the film herself.

    St Mary’s Church in Berry Pomeroy also makes an appearance in the final wedding scene of the film and is situated not far from Totnes. Built in the 1490’s this historical building is still a large part of the community at Berry Pomeroy. Nearby is Berry Pomeroy Castle, rumoured to be one of the most haunted places in England, making the Castle and St Mary’s Church a great day out for film lovers and history buffs.

    Moving even further inland and thanks to the release of the popular film War Horse, co-produced and directed by Steven Spielberg, Dartmoor National Park is now a must see destination when coming for a holiday in South Devon.

    The box-office hit, released in the UK on 13th January 2012, focuses on the captivating story of a farm boy from Devon, Albert Narracott (played by Jeremy Irvine) who grows attached to his young horse, Joey. After a heavy downpour which destroys the family’s turnip crops, his father, is forced to sell the horse to the army so that he can pay his rent. The blockbuster takes the audience through a moving journey about how Albert joins the army in search for his horse Joey after he is shipped to France during the First World War. Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston have roles in the movie.

    Locations used included Haytor, Combestone Tor, Venford Reservoir, Meavy and Sheepstor. Spielberg praised the beauty of Dartmoor, saying “I have never before, in my long and eclectic career, been gifted with such an abundance of natural beauty as I experienced filming War Horse on Dartmoor.”

    Many of the locations used in War Horse are in rural areas on Dartmoor but are still within a short driving distance of Totnes.

     

     

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  • Discount to emergency services workers

    Bayards Kitchen is offering all those who work in emergency services 10 per cent off food and non-alcoholic beverages at its Dartington café to coincide with the launch of its new weekly pizza evenings.

    The café, which was taken over by Charlie and Zuzana Deuchar in November 2016, is a thriving hub for the local community and beyond, with safe play areas for toddlers indoors, and eclectic menus that includes vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.

    Now Charlie and Zuzana want to give back to the local emergency services by giving them a permanent discount off all food and non-alcoholic drink orders.

    Charlie said: “People who work in the emergency services spend their working lives looking out for others and saving lives.
    “This is just something very small that we can do to show how much we respect them. We’re very much community focused and its great to be able to thank those in our community who are devoted to helping others. This is just a tiny perk to let them know how much they are valued.”

    Those eligible for the discount include NHS workers, armed service personnel and those who hold a Blue Light Card, which provides a multitude of discounts for armed service personnel.

    The discount will be launched on May 18, at Bayards Kitchen’s inaugural pizza evening. “We’re really proud to be supporting the emergency services in this way, and we thought the perfect time to launch would be at the first of our Friday night pizza nights when everyone who comes along will be given a free glass of prosecco. Everyone loves pizza and we’ll be offering eat in and take out service,” said Charlie.

    To view the pizza menu visit www.bayardskitchen.co.uk

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  • Totnes to Sharpham walk

    By Coast & Country Cottages

    With the Totnes to Sharpham walk so picturesque, we just had to make a visual guide to show you the natural beauty of one of South Devons glorious walks.

    This moderately easy walk along along the Dart Valley trail takes you to Sharpham Vineyard, where you can sample locally-produced wine and cheese!

    The bustling ancient market town of Totnes is situated at head of the estuary of the River Dart, and is the starting point to The Dart Valley Trail. Read more.

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  • A new distillery in town

    British retailer and social enterprise, The Shops at Dartington, are to introduce a brand-new permanent distillery within their Food Hall, to launch at the start of May.
    In partnership with Devon Distillery, the new copper still will produce The Shops at Dartington’s signature bottle of Elmhirst Gin, and will also have the capability of producing other contract gins as well as other spirits at a later date. The distillery will also be running a boutique gin experience, enabling small classes to learn the process of making gin, while they can smell, taste and witness the entire process from start to finish.
    Cosmo Caddy, the founder of Devon Distillery, has alcohol production in his DNA, as his grandfather founded Sharpham Vineyard in the year Cosmo was born. Cosmo travelled the world in pursuit of wine and spirit production, before honing his craft in Italy with a 9th generation grappa distilling family. He then returned to South Devon and crafted Dappa – Devon’s version of grappa made from the skins of Sharpham Wine grapes, as well as launching the UK’s only mobile still known as ‘Still on the Move’ that makes bespoke gin anywhere in the country.
    With more than grape vines running through his veins, Cosmo’s roots also lead back to Dartington, as his great-grandparents, Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst were the pioneering entrepreneurs who founded the Dartington Hall project.
    When the Elmhirsts purchased the then neglected 14th century Dartington estate, they restored the estate buildings and set up a host of farming, forestry and educational products including Dartington Hall School, Dartington Tweed Mill and Dartington Glass.
    As innovative thinkers themselves, Dartington became a magnet for artists, architects, writers, philosophers and musicians from around the world.
    93 years later, the Elmhirst’s direct descendant, Cosmo Caddy intends to build on his predecessors’ legacy and will continue to instil the values of his ancestors in Devon Distillery at The Shops at Dartington.
    ‘Establishing Devon Distillery at The Shops at Dartington adds another chapter to my rich family heritage in this region.’ Says Cosmo. ‘Alcohol production is my absolute passion, and I’ve spent years learning, tasting and blending in pursuit of the best spirits to create exceptional quality products with integrity. I’m thrilled to have a permanent base at Dartington to continue this journey.’
    ‘This is a great coming together of two locally renowned families. Devon Distillery coming to The Shops at Dartington will fortify the fascinating history of the Dartington Estate,’ continues Barbara King, Managing Director of The Shops at Dartington. ‘With 60% of products within the Food Shop procured from Devon and a further 30% from the West Country, we couldn’t be more pleased that the footprint of our gin will be only a matter of yards.’
    Bringing the still into the Food Shop creates high visibility for this interesting process and visitors will be able to witness the process of distilling.
    The Shops at Dartington are situated on the grounds of the picturesque Dartington Estate and consists of 15 unique, independent shops in South Devon, near Totnes. The shops are based inside quirky buildings as this part of the estate was an old cider press. It’s a family destination, with parks and activities for young children.

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  • Totnes Castle

    Totnes Castle stands on a 17.5 meter high manmade motte, which looms over the historic medieval town of Totnes. From its battlements, it commands a splendid and picturesque view across the town below as well as offering scenic views of wild and rugged Dartmoor. Totnes Castle is steeped in a rich and varied history and is the one of the best surviving examples of a Norman motte and bailey castle. Both ‘motte’ and ‘bailey’ are old-French words, ‘motte’ meaning ‘hill’ or ‘mound’ while ‘bailey’ meaning ‘low yard’. Due to Totnes’s strategic position and close proximity to the River Dart, Totnes was a logical place to build a motte and bailey castle.

    Totnes was a well-known port town and had a reputation of being one the best places to harbour a boat; this was due to how far a ship could navigate inland. Evidence of this can be found in a book called “Historia Regum Britanniae” which was written in 1136 by Geoffrey of Monmouth. With a port, Totnes became a fairly wealthy town, as a result of this influx of prosperity, King Edward the Elder in 907 had the town fortified, this resulted in Totnes becoming one of the only fortified towns in the South West, which is evidence that Totnes started to become distinctly affluent. However later on in the town’s history, the mint in Totnes at the time of 1036 (thirty years before the Norman Conquest) had ceased minting, which was an indication that the importance of the town had started to dwindle. Totnes was accorded with a royal charter by King John in 1206, which transformed Totnes into a free town. This meant that Totnes was allowed to formulate its own laws. However Totnes grew to be once again a very prosperous town and in 1523 it was the second richest town in Devon and sixteenth richest town in the whole of England.

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  • Totnes is also a Fairtrade Town

    Situated at the head of the Dart Estuary and surrounded by beautiful countryside, renowned for its history, retail, eateries and alternative lifestyle, Totnes has become a destination town, for many reasons, for visitors and locals alike.

    But, did you know that Totnes is also a Fairtrade Town and has been so since 2011? The town is home to a range of small independent retailers selling ethical products, whole foods and, most importantly, fair trade goods.

    Totnes even has two award winning shops for fair trade. One for Fairtrade food and one for fair trade gifts and homewares. Each year businesses and organisations are invited to enter the Business Awards by Fairtrade South West. These awards are open to everyone from national chains to sole traders, universities to hotels, food retailers and cafés. More information on this can be found at www.bristolfairtrade.org.uk/south-west-fairtrade-business-award.

    At this point you may have noticed that the phrases Fair-trade  and fair trade have been used. To clarify, Fairtrade is a global movement with a strong and active presence in the UK, represented by the Fairtrade Foundation, and works with producers of foods, tea, coffee and cotton. Fair trade is when craft and artisan producers of gift and homewares in developing countries are paid a fair price for their work by people and businesses in developed countries. These businesses are certificated as a fair trade supplier by the British Association of Fair Trade Suppliers (BAFTS) and/or the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO).

    Key Principles of Fair Trade:
    • Trading practices are fair and not one-sided.
    • Prices paid are fair and sufficient for producers and workers to earn more than enough to meet their day-to-day needs.
    • Payments are often made in advance to ensure the supplier can fulfil orders.
    • The payment of premiums for producers and workers to use for infrastructure projects.
    • Producers and workers have a voice, whether organised into groups or involved in workplaces where there is freedom of association.
    • Safe working conditions, non-discrimination and welfare of children.

    The start of Totnes’ journey to become a recognised Fairtrade Town began September 2006 when a small steering group was established and they began with asking Totnes Town Council to use Fairtrade tea and coffee and to ascertain which shops sold Fairtrade products. In less than a month it was established that 5 independent businesses and two high street brands in Totnes were selling Fairtrade products. This number was to grow.

    Currently, there are 32 independent retailers in Totnes selling fair trade foods and homewares.

    Between 2007 and 2010 the Totnes Fairtrade Group began to investigate how the town was to become a recognised Fairtrade town- and consider how to meet the 5 goals as set by The Fairtrade Foundation:- 1.Local council to pass a resolution supporting Fairtrade and agrees to serve Fairtrade products. 2.A range of Fairtrade products are readily available in the area’s retail outlets and served in local cafes, restaurants and pubs. 3.Local workplaces and community organisations support Fairtrade and use Fairtrade products wherever possible. 4.Media coverage and events raise awareness and understanding of Fairtrade across the community. 5.A local Fairtrade steering group is convened to ensure the Fairtrade Town campaign continues to develop and gain new support.

    By July 2010, following a lot of hard work by the volunteer group, an application was made to the Fairtrade Foundation. And in April 2011 Totnes was granted Fairtrade Status. Every two years since the group have to reapply, showing planned actions, that objectives set 2 years previous had been achieved and then set a programme for the coming 2 years.

    In February 2007 the Totnes Fairtrade group promoted their first Fairtrade Fortnight, which is organised nationally by the Fairtrade Foundation and locally by volunteer groups. They approached schools, offering to take assemblies and explain what Fairtrade is. The local churches and church groups were approached and asked if they would consider using Fairtrade tea and coffee for their meetings, they were very supportive of the idea and soon all were using Fairtrade teas and coffees for their meetings and social functions.

    This celebration of Fairtrade runs from the final Monday in February for two weeks; and every year since 2007 the group go out to the schools and the businesses in Totnes, to increase awareness of Fairtrade products, whether that that be food, clothes, homewares or gifts.

    Over the years a number of growers from developing nations have been invited to Totnes to give talks on how Fairtrade has affected them. These visits are arranged by Devon Fairtrade and each local group. The Totnes Fairtrade group raise funds during the year to contribute to the speakers travel and visa costs (along with other South West Fairtrade Groups who will also hold an event).

    This year Victor Biwot, Operations Manager from Sereet Tea Corporation in the Nandi Hills, Kenya. He will give a power point presentation to local primary and secondary school pupils at a conference being facilitated by King Edward VI Community College, Totnes, so they can see where he lives, the tea plantation and factory in which he works and how Fairtrade has benefited his life.

    During this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight – 26th February to 11th March 2018 – many food and retail outlets across Totnes will have counter displays and leaflets explaining all about Fairtrade. This year’s theme is “Come on in” and meet the farmers and workers who grow our food, whose lives have been improved thanks to Fairtrade.

    The Totnes Fairtrade Group have used many novel ways to raise the awareness of Fairtrade and to raise funds. From being dressed as bananas for the local carnival to selling fruit smoothies, using Fairtrade fruit donated by local businesses, during a recent market event. This type of fundraising, along with coffee mornings, is now to have signs erected on the approaches to Totnes declaring that Totnes is a Fairtrade Town.

    Fairtrade changes the way trade works through better prices, decent working conditions and a fairer deal for farmers and workers in developing countries. It’s when the price we pay for products gives enough to producers for them to afford life’s essentials – like food, education and healthcare.

    So Totnes is a great place to live, visit, eat and shop. It is an ethical town, it is a Fairtrade Town – and proud of it.

     

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  • Treat your lovely mums in Totnes this Mother’s Day

    There are so many ways to say ‘I love you’ to the important lady in your life. Whether you’d like some quiet time relaxing with just you and your mum or a more raucous affair with the whole family, there’s something and somewhere to suit all lifestyles and budgets in and around Totnes.

    Renowned for having many cafes and restaurants offering delicious, local and ethically sourced food and drink, you’ll find everything from a three course lunch to coffee & cake both in and out of town, with TQ9 at The Royal Seven Stars, the Waterside Bistro and The White Hart at Dartington to name just a few.

    If you decide to treat your mum to a home cooked meal this year, why not pick up some fresh ingredients from one of the local delis or farm shops and prepare a tasty breakfast, lunch or dinner fit for a Queen.

    However much you want to spend, both Totnes High Street and the Shops at Dartington are full to brimming with perfect ways to show your lovely mums just how much they mean to you with some of the most unique gifts from a wide range of independent shops and retailers. From scented candles to wine, handmade fudge to pretty porcelain mugs, there’s something for all tastes and to suit all budgets. Visit Me and East, Firefly or Pagoda Interiors for something handmade and ethical, Timehouse for something retro, White Space or the Bowie Gallery for something arty, Colony for something funky or China Blue, Out of the Blue or the new Moon Stone Hare for something simply beautiful.

    If you’re looking for a fun day out for all the family why not visit Pennywell and mums will be treated to a complimentary cream tea, take a ride on the steam train at South Devon Railway or paint an ornament at China Blue.

    Or if you just want to spend some quality time together without any fuss then why not go for a walk along the River Dart, sit and relax on one of the benches and simply take the time to catch up with each other. Take a trip to the beautiful St. Mary’s Church to admire the architecture or visit one of the wonderful surrounding villages from Dittisham to Broadhempston or anywhere in between. Why not go ‘crabbing’ in Stoke Gabriel or walk around the stunning gardens on the Dartington Estate.

    Whatever you choose to do or however you show your appreciation you’ll be sure to find something truly magical here in Totnes.

    For more information please contact Samantha Branch on info@visittotnes.co.uk

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  • Romance in Totnes

    In the wise words of Ghandi, ‘Where there is love there is life’…well we believe that love is in the air all year round here in Totnes, but if you want to get particularly romantic around Valentine’s or just spend time with your family or friends during the school holidays we have lots of charming things to do.

    With the sentimental day itself falling into February Half Term there are many attractions open offering you the chance to spend a delightful day doing something a little bit different. I mean surely there’s nothing more romantic than taking a ride on an old steam train?! Running along the stunning valley of the River Dart between Buckfastleigh and Totnes, the South Devon Steam Railway is perfect for couples, families and friends and offers a great day out whatever the weather.

    If you want to get creative (and escape the rain if the weather doesn’t behave itself) you can visit China Blue and spend some time exploring the unique gift shop, treat yourself to a tempting treat in the cafe and of course paint your own ceramic souvenir or have a go at pot throwing. Alternatively on Valentine’s Day itself there is a 2 hour Evening Taster Class by Steve Robinson Glass at Coombe Park Craft Studios near Ashprington, where you can make a fused glass tealight panel to take home making the perfect experience and gift all in one. The class will run from 7 – 9.00 pm and costs £45 per person.

    You can’t beat the cinema for a few hours escapism and entertainment, and as one of the top dating destinations it’s a great place to take your Valentine or somewhere to meet up with friends. Totnes Cinema offers a unique and very romantic evening unlike any other. Playing films on a classic 35mm movie projector for authentic viewing and offering a fully licensed bar serving fine wine, local craft beer and themed cocktails within the cinema itself it offers a relaxed and intimate experience. The Valentine’s Day screening will be Baz Luhrmann’s passionate musical Moulin Rouge at 8.00 pm, or there is Romeo and Juliet on Sunday 11th February and Little Shop of Horrors on 16th if you prefer something more light-hearted.

    Alternatively, the quaint Barn Cinema sits in the stunning grounds of the Dartington Estate which will be playing A Woman’s Life at 8.00 pm on 14th February, a French tale of tormented love in 19th Century Normandy (subtitled). Why not combine this with a delicious meal at the White Hart Inn or one of the many other relaxed cafes, or take a walk around the beautiful gardens.

    There are many other pretty walks around Totnes if you’d like to take your loved one for a romantic stroll, with an interesting walk around the historic town or a gentle stroll along the banks of the River Dart, or if you’re feeling more adventurous there are longer routes to Sharpham or Dartington, all perfect for those hand-holding connections or view finding moments.

    For those who would like to be wined and dined, Totnes is full of interesting places to eat and drink. Whether you want the romance of a river view or the hustle of dining in the heart of the town there’s a wide range of dynamic cafes, intimate restaurants, cosy pubs and quirky bars to choose from for delicious meals, friendly drinks and family dining. Many places are offering special Valentine’s menus or have meals aimed at the little ones for the school holidays.

    Why not combine your trip with an overnight stay? There are plenty of places with rooms still available for the holidays or Valentine’s. And if you’re still looking for the perfect Valentine’s gift, Totnes is full of independent shops with unique, handmade items for that special someone.

    For more information please contact Samantha Branch on info@visittotnes.co.uk

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  • Dartmoor Otters and Buckfast Butterflies

    Tucked away down a siding of one of Devon’s beloved steam railways is a conservation project helping to reintroduce endangered species to the wild. The Dartmoor Otters and Buckfast Butterflies Sanctuary at Buckfastleigh is a small visitor attraction where you can learn about these beautiful creatures and the important work happening to protect them. We were invited to review the sanctuary by Visit Totnes.

    This was our first mini-adventure of the summer holidays and the girls and I had roped in Tin Box Grandma and Grandpa for the experience. None of us had been to the sanctuary before despite riding the South Devon Railway between Buckfastleigh and Totnes on other occasions. Tickets are available to combine the train, otter sanctuary and Totnes Rare Breeds Farm at the other end of the track. Together they make a full family day out in South Devon. Read more . . .

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  • Our visit to Totnes by Conversant Traveller

    It had been a day of dappled light and dragonflies. A day of strolling beside sun drenched vineyards, lazy meandering rivers and fragrant herb gardens alive with butterflies. As Hubbie and I sipped chilled glasses of sparkling wine and tucked into tranches of local cheese, we could be forgiven for thinking we were in the south of France, rather than southern England. We’d been exploring Devon, a county famous for it’s mysterious moors, sandy beaches, and national parks, yet it was a medieval market town that had our full attention today. It turns out there are plenty of fun things to do in Totnes, without a moor, beach or park in sight!

    Totnes has a colourful and legendary history, packed full of mythical kings, lords and rebels, and merchants and soldiers. Today it’s known more for its cultural scene, independent local shops and a rather unique cosmopolitan countryside vibe. The town sits on the picturesque River Dart, the sort of tranquil pastoral scene where you’d expect to encounter characters from Wind in the Willows. There are lots of things to do in Totnes, from castles and museums to steam trains and boat trips, but we had our eye on something a little different.

    Vineyards, ghosts and lettuce!

    Saxon in origin, Totnes has been known for both craft and industry, and was once an important and prosperous centre for trade. Although it is still a thriving market town, the Totnes of today is more popular with the artistic community and attracts visitors from near and far to enjoy the buzzing cultural scene and picturesque countryside. The focal point is Totnes castle, commanding a dominant position overlooking the town, and the intriguing range of independent shops, cafes and galleries are all within easy walking distance. There is also plenty to do in the surrounding area, so we spent a fun filled day checking out the best things to do in and around Totnes. Read more….

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  • The River Dart and Totnes – Trade and the Town

    As well as being a key feature of the town’s picturesque landscape the River Dart has been an important part of trade in Totnes for hundreds of years. Today Totnes is a tourist hotspot but up until the late 20th century it was an important trading post on a busy river.

    Wool and Wealth

    Totnes owes much of its Elizabethan charm to the River Dart, the trade it enabled making many merchants rich and allowing them to build luxurious houses that still stand to this day. In the 16th century Wool and tin were the main exports, and helped Totnes to become the second wealthiest community in the country.

    As Totnes failed to respond to new trends in cloth manufacturing, and tin production in Ashburton declined, the boom failed to last and trade on the river diminished. However, as of 1636 it was still rated the country’s fifth wealthiest community. As debris from the last of the tin mines made it difficult to navigate the river, traders started to go to Dartmouth instead.

    Plains Sailing

    It may not have recaptured the town’s Elizabethan heyday but the area of Totnes now known as The Plains was once a thriving district of factories exporting the goods they produced via The Dart. Notable businesses included cider makers Bentall, Lloyd and Co, and Symons and Co. Today upmarket residences can now be found where the factories once stood.

    Although the coming of the railway reduced the demand for traders on the river the Dart remains an important part of the town’s economy as a tourist attraction. Anyone visiting Totnes can make the most of the beautiful river, whether it’s by hiring a canoe, walking along its banks, or taking a cruise down to Dartmouth.

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  • Local Heroes of Totnes

    In addition to inspiring a few modern musicians Totnes has had its fair share of historic success stories. Whether it’s the early exploration of Australia, or a connection to the inventor of the computer, the town has been home to important pioneers in their field. Below are four famous local heroes who have either lived in or were born in Totnes.

    William John Wills
    Visitors to the town may notice the Monolith that stands at the bottom of Fore Street. This is a monument to the explorer William John Wills, born in Totnes, the son of a local doctor. In 1861 he was part of an expedition that became the first to reach the Gulf of Carpentaria and cross Australia from North to South.

    Mary Wesley
    Although she wasn’t born in Totnes the famous novelist Mary Wesley did call it her home, and while living in Totnes wrote ten bestsellers. During her lifetime she sold over three million copies of her books in total.

    Charles Babbage
    Although it’s debatable whether Babbage was born in Totnes the farther of modern computing is definitely linked to the town. Not only was his Grandfather Benjamin Babbage the mayor of Totnes in 1754 but Babbage attended the King Edward VI Grammar school as well.

    Dorothy Elmhirst
    Last but not least Dorothy Elmhirst will be remembered for co-founding the Dartington Hall project with her husband Leonard. After buying the hall in 1925 the Elmhirsts set about restoring the place and turned it into a project that promoted progressive education and rural reconstruction.

    As Totnes continues to be an inspiring place for artists, musicians, and innovators who knows what the future might hold for those born or living in the town today. Visitors can find out more about these local heroes by visiting Totnes museum, taking a stroll out to Dartington Hall or just walking around town.

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  • The Dart and Totnes – Bridges and Bridgetown

    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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  • 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.

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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.

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  • A UK first in Totnes

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

    Earth.Food.Love 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.

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  • 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.

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