Category: Blog

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.

Focus on Fitness!

Totnes Pavilion Leisure Centre has seen many changes in the last twenty months with these being extremely positive in the last six months. They are offering you a chance to register for a free day pass so that you can try the facilities for yourself and find out more about what they have to offer. Before the current management structure under Fusion Lifestyle was agreed in 2017 the site was being managed by two separate organisations. The Pool, Gym and Sauna by Totnes and District Swimming Pool Association (TADpool) and the Reception, Sports Hall, Dance Studio, Meeting Room, Tennis Courts and outdoor pitches by Tone Leisure Ltd. Even prior to 2006 the site had been under the control of TADpool and South Hams District Council. Despite the dual management arrangement having many positives over a number of years the flaws in the partnership started to show. A combined approach under the management of one organisation was the ultimate solution which has now enabled a longer-term business plan to be activated allowing some previously hard to come by investment. Fusion Lifestyle, a London based not for profit organisation with over 80 sites in their portfolio, were contracted to take on the management of the site and to draw up plans for updating the facilities. This has led to the following investments so far with the expectation of more to come in a phase two development (tbc). May 2018 o New pool filters and a circulation pump which has improved water quality, temperature and reliability issues o New Sauna installed and opened July/August 2018 o Main entrance/facade repainted o Fitness Class Studio extended and redecorated o New equipment added for fitness classes o Fitness suite redecorated and a completely new set of equipment installed September 2018 o New accessibility Hoist for the Swimming Pool installed To register for a free day pass and to find more information on the centre click here: www.fusion-lifestyle.com/centres/totnes-leisure-centre/  
 

The Bull Inn, Totnes

A radical new organic inn for Devon, squaring up to the seasonal veg hijackers and leading the way in doing business better. Is it possible for a pub to lead the way in sustainable food and ethical hospitality? It can, says organic publican Geetie Singh- Watson, provided fairness and authenticity as well as profit are at its heart. Geetie and the team behind the eight-bedroom organic inn aim to show through their actions that it’s possible to make choices based on decent values while being a serious player. Jump back 23 years when Geetie started out in the pub industry, ethical working practises weren’t even part of the industry agenda. Now, at least, the hospitality trade has woken up to the fact it needs to seriously shift its priorities. But there’s still far too much chat and not enough action. On the whole, it scores low when it comes to green thinking. Half-hearted requests to reuse towels aside, staggering water usage and eye-watering food waste are still the norm. In contrast The Bull Inn in Totnes, Devon will reopen its doors in early December 2019 after complete renovation, but this is not your usual we’ve-done-up-a-gastropub story. You will never see a generic foodservice delivery van outside, only farmers, co-ops and artisan producers making deliveries, and there will never be a packaged snack or bottled, transported water served at the bar. Instead this is an inn whose relationship with its community and its impact on the environment is as refreshingly engaged and honest and as you can hope to find. The inn aims to be sustainable to its core; with manager Phill Hughes and chef James Dodd at the helm the food served will be organic and the sourcing will be rooted in a logic that acknowledges the complexity of what we need to do to feed ourselves sustainably, but without being martyrs. This is a pub where you won’t find menu marketing greenwash. “The term ‘local, seasonal veg’ has been completely hi-jacked and is bandied around and abused so much that it now means nothing. A season for what? So often when you challenge places serving so called seasonal food it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. But we won’t be serving woody turnips in April when the UK crops run out; instead we will source beautiful veg from farmers we know further afield around the UK, Europe, alongside Fair Trade tropical fruit. But will never air freight and will never say we are something we are not,” explains Geetie. With no whiff of a theme or fairy light in sight the inn has been revived using upcycled, recycled and reinvigorated décor, from tables and curtains to radiators and doorknobs. The team is proving that new is not always best, that craftmanship should be valued above all instead of seeking homewares manufactured far away with cheap labour to feed the latest style trends. “We’ve got to find a way to live and enjoy life sustainably, and I believe that’s an exciting thing. We need to push ourselves out of the way we have always done things; Like all other business areas hospitality needs shaking up. Our aim with The Bull is to show that you can work with integrity and succeed,” Explains Geetie. The opening comes at a time of social and political upheaval in the UK, and the hope is that The Bull will be a beacon of togetherness and inclusivity for the Totnes community, visiting travellers and the team that works there. It will be a proper inn and a decent boozer, where brilliant food, ale and wine will jostle alongside a raft of community goings on. “I want to prove you can be radical, effective and have a positive impact on society and the environment while running a successful business too. It is not impossible!” continues Geetie. “We don’t claim we are perfect but we are trying our absolute best. You have to have hope that there is a better way.” This is Geetie’s fourth pub refurbishment, with the first being the iconic Duke of Cambridge in Islington. Organic since the beginning, Geetie was trailblazing sustainable business and thoughtful food in the 1990s, way before anyone gave a second thought to plastic straws and bottled water. Having said all that, The Bull is not a place steeped in worthiness; There will be plenty of fun there too. “By that I mean fun for all – the team, the suppliers, the customers. Fun should spread. It has always been a really strong motivator for me. Everything should always come back to doing things well and watching others getting fun out of it too.“ www.bullinntotnes.co.uk The Bull Inn will open its doors on 1st December 2019. Alongside amazing food and rooms, we have a beautiful on-site treatment space. Sharing the same sustainability values as The Bull, Sarah Carr and Jo Woolvett will be offering natural beauty treatments and holistic facials for men and women. Walking the walk: • Heat capture systems in the kitchen to create hot water downstairs • Solar capture on the roof to power heating in the bedrooms • 100% organic linens from Greenfibres in the eight bedrooms • Bedside lamps carved from Dartmoor wood by local craftsman Rodney Lomas • Ceramics by local artisan Pippi & Me • Mattresses from Naturalmat in Exeter About Geetie Singh-Watson MBE Geetie Singh-Watson is the founder of the first official organic pub in Britain, The Duke of Cambridge Organic Pub, in Islington, London. In 2009, she was awarded an MBE for ‘Services to the Organic Pub Trade’. An active campaigner and environmentalist, Geetie firmly believes that businesses must act responsibly and be led by their ethics and values. Her broadcast work includes presenting on BBC Back to the Land.

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

Totnes - 10 of the best small UK towns for winter breaks Once again, Totnes has been mentioned in the Guardian newspaper - listed as one of the '10 of the best small UK towns for winter breaks'. Easy to get to by mainline train, the article goes on to mention how Totnes has a glut of independent shops & cafes than any town of comparable size. You can read the article in full here.      
 

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.

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.