Category: Blog

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.

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.

Plastic Pollution: The Problem

Plastic pollution is a global problem that is growing exponentially due to both an increase in consumerism and an increase in the number of plastics used to manufacture the things we use on a daily basis. Many of these items are single-use items, which are used once and then tossed in the trash. But what happens to this plastic once the trash can gets emptied? It doesn’t simply disappear into thin air. It usually ends up in the environment in some manner or form, with a great deal of it eventually ending up in the ocean Arguably one of the most pressing environmental challenges that we are faced with today is marine plastic debris. The two common sources marine debris originates from are:
  1. land-based, which includes litter from beach-goers, as well as debris that has either blown into the ocean or been washed in with stormwater runoff; and
  2. ocean-based, which includes garbage disposed at sea by ships and boats, as well as fishing debris, such as plastic strapping from bait boxes, discarded fishing line or nets, and derelict fishing gear. . While discarded fishing gear takes its toll on the marine environment by entangling marine life and destroying coral reefs, it only comprises an estimated 20% of all marine debris – a staggering 80% of all marine debris stems from land-based sources. This is not that surprising, considering that around 50% of all plastics are used to manufacture sing-use items which are discarded soon after they are first used.

How Can We Solve Plastic Pollution?

We need to tackle the problem of marine debris head on. It’s not just an issue for environmentally conscious, it is an issue that ultimately affects human health. Man is a top predator that feeds on a variety of ocean fish, shellfish, and other marine species. We face the same risks as the killer whale and polar bear. While any plastic or polystyrene pellets that may have been clogging the gut of the fish that is nicely presented on our dinner plate have been long removed, the toxic contaminants originating from that debris remain stored in the flesh we are about to eat. Food for thought indeed. To read more click here.

Watersports in Totnes

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

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

Watersports in Totnes

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

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.

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

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      

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 transitionfilmfestival and make it a date to come and join us!

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

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.’ Screen Shot 2018-09-18 at 13.38.11
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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