Category: Blog

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.  

Stagecoach South West are upgrading

Contactless payments available on all Stagecoach South West Services • Passengers can now pay for bus journeys using contactless credit or debit cards, Apple Pay or Android pay • Faster boarding, secure payments, no cash required • Events to showcase benefits of contactless payment held across the South West Bus customers across the South West are set to benefit from faster boarding thanks to the roll out of contactless technology. The new contactless payment system has been installed in over 380 Stagecoach South West buses, speeding up boarding times and taking away the need for customers to carry and pay with cash. Stagecoach South West is celebrating the launch of the contactless payment system with fun events across Devon and the chance to win an Amazon Echo Spot. A giant ‘loop game’ will be set up at a number of locations in the half-term holidays. The quickest ‘contactless contender’ will win the prize and be crowned ‘best in the south west champion’. There will be a chance to win prizes and find out more about contactless payment. Event locations: 23 October Torquay Harbour 10.00am – 2.00pm 24 October Princesshay 10.00am – 2.00pm 25 October Plymouth Armada Way 10.00am – 2.00pm 26 October Barnstaple High Street 10.00am – 2.00pm Managing Director, Bob Dennison, said: “With more cars than ever on the roads, congestion is a major problem in so many areas. We are continuing to work harder than ever to make bus travel as easy and stress free as possible. “The contactless payment system will help speed up journey times and make travelling by bus so much easier for our customers, we do hope that residents will come and join us at one of our fun events across the region and find out more. ”He added: “The new technology also works in tandem with the Stagecoach app, that allows passengers to track buses in real-time.” The contactless payment system allows customers to pay with their debit or credit card, or apple and android pay, securely and quickly at the start of the journey. Further information about the contactless payment system can be found at https://www.stagecoachbus.com/regional-help-and-contact/south-west/contactless

Totnes: Great British Breaks

The Devon market town has an eco outlook and vegan vibes

Why? This colourful Devonian market town is famed for its bohemian vibe, fierce independence and social innovation. But the pioneering Totnes Pound, which can only be spent in the town, is being taken out of circulation next Sunday, and the Lexus set are moving in. Locals say that times are a-changin’ — so visit now. You can read the article in full here.

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. READ MORE  

Transition Town Film Festival 18

Transition Town Film Festival 18 VISIONING THE FUTURE is our fourth film festival.
We have an amazing array of new or rarely seen films with real power and importance for our lives and communities - about climate change, our food, our politics, our environment, our wildlife - and our future. For the first time, the festival is being held over five days at three cinemas. At the Totnes Cinema there are three showings: Faces Places, Agnes Varda’s latest film and Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow, as well as a poetry, film and music event with Matt Harvey and jazz group Shadow Factory. Plus FREE cafe style screenings of short films by the Next Generation. The Barn Cinema at Dartington shows Bruce Parry’s Tawai as well as Albatross, revealing the effects of plastic on albatross chicks. At the Civic Hall The Worm is Turning charts the effects of chemical agriculture in India and In our Hands explores the idea of food sovereignty. Disturbing the Peace follows the transformation of Israeli and Palestinian fighters, from soldiers to peace activists. Power Trip highlights how media and lobby groups shape the public perception of fracking. Saturday evening honours the life of filmmaker & ocean conservationist Rob Stewart with Revolution followed by the UK PREMIERE of Sharkwater Extinction, which investigates the corruption of the pirate fishing industry. Just 37, Rob tragically died while making this film; his work highlights the environmental threats posed to the oceans & the world and the ways in which young people are helping to find solutions. In the centenary year of some women getting the vote in the UK over half our films are F-Rated: a classification for any film directed or written by a woman. What Tomorrow Brings observes one year at a girls’ school in an Afghan village. The Barefoot Artist chronicles Lily Yeh, a community artist in troubled areas. Nearer to home, 9 of our 13 shorts by young people carry the F rating. Most screenings offer discussion time with film-makers or local experts, including Rob Hopkins, Jacqi Hodgson and Guy Watson. Plus there are four free workshops for children and adults. We are very excited about our programme. Check out our website www.transitionfilmfestival.org.uk and make it a date to come and join us!      

Share Shed wins the People’s Projects

The Share Shed, Totnes’ library of things, has won £48,599 from the National Lottery Community Fund in this year’s Peoples Projects competition. Its success means it can now become the world’s first mobile sharing library.

Share Shed staff and volunteers were told the news, live on ITV, last Thursday, following a public vote in the first two weeks of April.

The Share Shed will now go mobile - extending its service beyond Totnes to Ashburton, Buckfastleigh, Dartington, South Brent and the villages around, supporting a more sustainable and collaborative lifestyle.

Mirella Ferraz, Share Shed Coordinator said: “We’re thrilled to have won the grant, especially in this case, which highlights how many people supported our project! We’re very grateful to every single person who voted for us”.

The Share Shed offers over 300 useful items for people to borrow. Its collection includes tools, camping gear, gardening equipment, cooking appliances, sewing machines and much more.

The Share Shed is at 16 High Street, Totnes, and is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2pm to 4pm, and on Saturdays from 10am to 1pm. To see everything the library of things offers, visit www.shareshed.org.uk.

Mirella adds “We’re overwhelmed by the support we’ve received – and we’d love to have even more volunteers involved with our project. Supporting the Share Shed is a great way to help people whilst saving a lot of natural resources. If you’d like to get involved, please get in touch via info@shareshed.org.uk”.

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.

Revamp of the Bull Inn

Article by Kate Philbin at the Totnes Times. As the planning application was submitted for the transformation of a historic town centre pub, the woman behind the plans has been speaking out about her extraordinary life. Geetie Singh-Watson, 48, known to many as the wife of Riverford entrepreneur Guy Watson, is the driving force behind the redevelopment of The Bull Inn in Totnes which aims to become an organic gastropub with letting rooms upstairs. However, it is not an extension of the Riverford empire but a project in its own right and it is hers and hers alone, Geetie insists. She says that people assume The Bull will be run by Riverford or is being financed by Riverford but actually it is neither. Raised on a commune in Herefordshire by a mother who was a builder, Geetie was no stranger to hands-on manual work from an early age. Her mother, Liz Singh, bought and restored a derelict cottage, installing everything from the sewage system to the windows. She was “a powerful role model” for Geetie as was her father, Gurmukh Singh, a Sikh entrepreneur who first came to the UK in the 1950s. He founded the first Indian restaurant in London that was owned by its staff. One of its backers was Salman Rushdie. Later, her mother remarried and her stepfather, Geoff Petty, an educationalist whose work is used to this day by schools such as Totnes Progressive School, also proved a great role model. At the age of 28, Geetie opened her first “values-driven gastropub”, The Duke of Cambridge in Islington. Inspired by her hardworking parents and the example set by women like Anita Roddick, Geetie was determined to create a thriving pub business that was both ethical and profitable, without compromising on staff welfare or the quality of ingredients. She needed £350,000 to build the business. “I asked everyone I knew if they would be interested in investing. No one gave anything they couldn’t afford to lose, it was a gamble but it was fun.” The pub broke even in its first year. Geetie admits she was “too young and cocky” and she “should have listened” to advice from Anita Roddick, who told steadily to build a stable and effective business. Instead, swept along by the dotcom boom, Geetie bought two more pubs in London. “As the business expanded the passion got lost. Within five years I sold off the two other pubs and just kept The Duke of Cambridge. Overall it was a positive experience but I felt bad for the investors.” Despite these knockbacks, Geetie believes the experience gave her a far greater understanding of business. “You don’t learn in business when you are being successful, you learn from your failures. If I were investing I would never invest with someone who hasn’t failed at least once because they know nothing.” Geetie sold The Duke of Cambridge to Guy Watson four years ago. At the time she was a trustee of the Soil Association and a founder member of the London Food Board with Ken Livingston. She was also working with schools in deprived areas to teach children about healthy cooking. When she met Guy it wasn’t exactly a match made in Heaven. She said: “I had known of him in the organic world for many years but he came to talk to me in 2007 about setting up a pub in London. I thought, what are you doing here on my patch? I was very frosty.” The pair met again some years later through the Soil Association and it was a very different meeting. “I realised our business values were completely aligned and that he was extraordinary.” They married in 2014. Geetie spent three years running The Riverford Field Kitchen but stopped to concentrate on developing The Bull.
She has always been fascinated by town centre pubs and looks out for any that are for sale in a town “in the way that other people look out for houses”. She said: “I love The Bull. It looks beautiful and it has great views and a big, corner site in front of an open square. It is slightly off the beaten track which I love as it means tourists have to put some effort into discovering it.” The pub is currently in a run-down condition and requires extensive restoration. Geetie has plans to turn it into an organic, values-driven gastropub but without losing its traditional heritage. Its name won’t change as she believes “pub names should be protected, they are part of our history”. The restoration work, which will cost in excess of half a million, is being funded by the sale of Geetie’s London flat. “I rather like the fact that property equity, which feels like an unfair distribution of wealth, is being used to bring a historic Totnes pub back to life.”
If all goes to plan, the pub will open in Summer 2019. Around 30 jobs will be created and it will use local, organic suppliers. Geetie said: “I grew up in a staunchly feminist household – my mum could strip down a car engine! The fact that people assume Guy is funding my business has opened up a new conversation in our household about feminism. It is great. Guy is a real feminist, he took my name when we got married. It is an exciting time.” The planning application for The Bull is available on the SHDC website, reference: 3376/18/LBC      

Devon 2nd Favourite Staycation Destination in UK

With the uncertainty of Brexit on the horizon, ‘staycations’ in the UK are set to increase* over 2019. For holidaymakers wishing to sidestep the unwanted worry of exchange rates and travel visas, it makes sense to choose a staycation in the UK this year over an exotic holiday abroad. But for those opting for a staycation for the first time, it can be difficult to know where to go. The Tourist Trail conducted a study** asking over 2,100 participants to choose their favourite destination for a UK staycation, and to explain the reasoning behind their choice. The results revealed that Cornwall was the most popular staycation destination, receiving 13.73% of the votes, with Devon a close second with 8.3%.  People cited the ‘laid back culture’, ‘relaxed lifestyle’ and ‘feeling like you’re abroad’ as the top reasons for choosing Devon.    Robin Williams, director of The Tourist Trail said: “I think it’s testament to UK tourism and the growing staycation industry that we have seen so many varied counties being voted for with such impassioned reasoning from the respondents.” To read the full article on the top 25 staycation destinations in the UK please visit: www.thetouristtrail.org/blog/research/the-uks-favourite-staycation-destination/ For more information on Devon please visit: https://www.thetouristtrail.org/guides/devon-guides/things-to-do-in-devon/

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.