Category: Blog

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 Ben Howard Keep Your Head Up 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 Ryan Keen Twitter  or listen to Ryan Keen's 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.

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.

Go plastic free with Ben’s Beeswax wraps

Ben’s Farm Shops are always on the lookout for solutions to tackle the single-use plastic issue and here's another one that they hope is going to prove popular with customers. If you're looking for an environmentally sustainable alternative to clingfilm without the bulkiness of Tupperware, then these organic cotton and beeswax food wraps will be right up your street. These colourful little numbers come from Cambridge based supplier Bee Bee wraps. Bee Bee is the brainchild of Kath Austin,who, inspired by a conversation with a friend (and the fact that cotton and beeswax has been used as a food wrapping tool for centuries) started experimenting in her kitchen with various formulas until she hit upon the perfect one...and the Bee Bee wrap was born. The wraps are ethical and sustainable from cotton grower to production, with the company working closely with their beekeeping communities to perpetuate the pollinating population and they aim to be zero waste in everything that they do. Simply made from organic cotton, beeswax, tree resin and organic jojoba oil, the wraps are completely compostable but if cared for properly, each wrap will last at least a year. They are breathable and won't cause food to 'sweat', therefore increasing the shelf life and cutting food wastage to boot. Bee Bee uses low impact dyes and is confident that, whilst the wraps have a beautiful 'beeswaxy' scent, this does not taint food at all and does fade with use. To care for your wrap and get the very best from it, hand wash in cold water and ensure any food to be covered is cold before doing so. Bee bee wraps are not suitable for use in microwaves, dishwashers or washing machines and you should avoid wrapping raw meat and fish in them. They are very malleable when warm so use warm hands to mould them and create a breathable seal around your food - once they have cooled down they will hold their shape. The wraps are available from any Ben’s Farm Shops.

Rotherfold Artisan Market #4

 

The Rotherfold Artisan Market was created by The Kitchen Table, a small outside catering business based in Totnes and Me & East, a small shop selling crafts made by British artisans. We wanted to bring artisanal handmade gifts, home wares, food and drink to central Totnes, based in an under-used but lovely square at the top of town.

The crafts for sale will be made by hand-picked local makers and small businesses, there will be ready-to-eat food and drink as well as live music on our buskers stage.

Read more Rotherfold Artisan Market


Rotherfold Artisan Market Poster


Great news for the music scene in Totnes

The Barrel House Ballroom & The Black Bird Collective, through Arts council funding have curated a series of 8 video sessions to be released bi-weekly.

Anyone who has attended the Black Bird Open mic nights knows that Christian Murison brings so many great artists out of the woodwork and into the warm setting of the Totnes Brewing Company.

https://youtu.be/R95D0TzHNVg

With this in mind they have created something that feels in keeping with the open mic, a series of video sessions showcasing a diverse and eclectic mix of musical talent.

The first session featured one of the finest contemporary folk bands in the land - Harbottle & Jonas Trio - which premiered on Tuesday 2nd February 2021 to a truly appreciative audience on The Barrel House YouTube channel.

This exciting series will continue with the following sessions lined up and ready to roll...

Tuesday 16th February 2021
DANIEL MARCUS CLARK

Tuesday 2nd March 2021
LILAH BOWDEN

Tuesday 16th March 2021
JEWEL IN THE JACKDAW

Tuesday 30th March 2021
LILY

Tuesday 13th April 2021
FIONN COX-DAVIES

Tuesday 27th April 2021
KERRY LAYTON

Tuesday 11th May 2021
KUKI & THE BARD

These sessions have been made possible thanks to the determination, love and enthusiasm of the hard-working team at The Barrel House Ballroom, Sorting Room Studios, The Black Bird Collective and funded by Arts Council England.

daniel
Daniel Marcus Clark and Sam Walker

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.

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.

Sharpham’s new event co-ordinator

More South Hams schoolchildren and families will get to experience the special environment of The Sharpham Estate, now that there is a new Education and Events Coordinator at The Sharpham Trust.
Nature events with Lisa Carnell at The Sharpham Trust
Lisa Carnell will be encouraging Totnes and Torbay primary schools to visit the Estate and learn about its rich wildlife and habitats. And as a biologist, botanist and trained teacher, she'll be sharing her own extensive science and environmental knowledge by leading some of the activities on the visits. Prior to this role, she was Education Ranger at the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust for 17 years, coordinating schools' visits. "I love plants, wildflowers and trees and I did my degree in biology, so this role is perfect for me to be able to be spreading awareness of the natural world amongst young people," said Lisa. "I really like birds as well so it's great to be able to pass on some of my love of the local wildlife." Her post has been funded for a year by the Ernest Cook Trust, a charity promoting learning from the land. In that year, Lisa will be putting on 10 nature days for local schools.

Creating memories that last a lifetime

For a fun and memorable experience that you can take away with you, China Blue’s Ceramic Studio has been designed with you in mind. The largest of its kind in the South West, Paint Your Own offers a fantastic range of pottery for the whole family to decorate. Simply pop in, choose your ceramic, and get painting!

There are three children, one boy and two girls. She raises her hand.


The wide range of activities that we offer include:

Pottery painting – Simply pop in, choose your ceramic and get painting! We will then glaze your masterpiece ready for collection in person or to be sent straight to your address.
Paint & Go – Don’t want to wait to have your finished piece? Decorate your chosen ceramic with poster paints and you can take it away with you  the very same day! (Please note: these ceramics arenot food safe or waterproof).
Hand and foot casts – Looking for a special memento of your little one? We can help you create a unique hand or foot cast to treasure forever.
• Pot throwing – If you like the idea of making something from scratch, our friendly and helpful staff offer pot throwing sessions, which are also available as a gift voucher.
• Parties and events – we can accommodate birthday parties, hen/stag do’s, school visits, creative workshops and team building events with a private studio and WiFi.

To find out more or to book an event, call us on 01803 860908 or email pyo@china-blue.co.uk


The fun doesn’t end once you’ve finished your masterpiece. Browse China Blue’s lifestyle store for a great selection of fun and contemporary gifts from exclusive brands, including:
• Tableware and decorations
• Lights and lamps
• Vases and glassware
• Soft furnishing
• Beauty and toiletries
• Food and drink

All that creativity and shopping can be tiring, so why not take a break in China Blue’s tempting café? Delicious savouries and sweets are freshly made daily, perfect with a cup of tea or freshly brewed bespoke coffee. Relax indoors or outside in our lavish patio area, perfect for those warm summer days.

Just some of the treats available include:
• Cooked breakfasts
• Brunches
• Croissants, cakes and cream teas
• Jacket potatoes
• Ciabattas and sandwiches
• Soups and salads
• Pastries, quiches and pies

We also have a wide range of vegetarian and vegan options available.

For more information, call us on 01803 860906 or email cafe@china-blue.co.uk


A new fish finger takeaway in town

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

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

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

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

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

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

fish finger

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

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