Category: Blog

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 about totnes castle 

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!

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 shareshed

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”.

Proud2Be celebrates

Proud2Be celebrates after receiving £160,000 from the National Lottery to support LGBTQ+ young people in Devon Social enterprise, Proud2Be, is today celebrating after being awarded £160,000 in National Lottery funding to support its work with LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and/or questioning+) young people and their families in Devon. The organisation, based in Totnes, will use the money to run even more group and 121 support activities for local LGBTQ+ young people and to provide support sessions for their family members. The news comes exactly 9 years since identical twins Max and Maya Price founded the organisation in their Mum’s spare bedroom, by recording a video, explaining how they are both proud to be part of the LGBTQ+ community. Since then, Proud2Be has established itself as a well-respected social enterprise, facilitating well attended and inclusive peer support groups, the popular Totnes Pride and a fortnightly youth group and a young people’s 121 support service. Proud2Be also delivers interactive workshops to students and awareness training to organisations and schools across the county. This funding will allow Proud2Be to build on the work they currently do, working with over 200 people a year at their regular groups and a further 3500 through their awareness-raising work in local schools and youth groups. The new funding from The National Lottery Community Fund, which distributes money raised by National Lottery players for good causes and is the largest community funder in the UK, will see the expansion of the current Totnes-based youth group and 121 support service and the launch of an additional 2 weekly LGBTQ+ youth groups in Devon. At the same time, the group will be able to press on with plans to launch a monthly peer support group for the families of LGBTQ+ children and young people, who will be able to come together for mutual support.  Max and Maya Price, founders of Proud2Be, say: “We’re delighted that The National Lottery Community Fund has recognised our work in this way. Now, thanks to National Lottery players we will be able to press on with our plans to broaden the range of opportunities available to local LGBTQ+ young people and their family members. This is important because it helps both the young people and their family members to build relationships with others facing similar challenges and to create their own supportive circles of friends and peers.” Charlie, a volunteer at Proud2Be, says: “Before attending the Proud2Be youth group, I felt like I had to apologise for being trans. Since joining the group, I have met so many amazing people. It’s given me a fantastic support system. For me, it was really important to have this support at a time when I couldn’t find it elsewhere. I have also become involved in other things- like volunteering at Pride and giving young LGBTQ+ people a voice and a visible presence.” To find out more please visit: www.proud2be.org.uk

Award-winning Roly’s Fudge

Roly's Fudge are celebrating winning the Taste of the West "Sauces and Accompaniment" Champion Award for 2021, with their Roly's Salted Caramel Fudge Sauce.

The award is the most coveted food and drinks award in the South West for foods at the top of their category.

Roly's Fudge Sauce beat many other contenders for the Champion award.

It is the fourth Champion award for Roly's Fudge, which has previously won Champion Confectionery for Salted Maple & Pecan twice, as well as Champion Confectionery for Cherry Bakewell Fudge last year.

All of the fudge flavours and sauces entered were handmade with traditional ingredients in Roly's Fudge, which continues with the same recipes that the Totnes shop has used for more than 20 years.

rolys fudge 1

According to John Sheaves, Chief Executive of Taste of the West: “These awards underpin our core values and strengthen our regional brand, a brand which is attracting considerable interest from new markets – both nationally and internationally, and is now helping to attract more and more visitors to our region each year so playing a major part in our visitor economy. Our sincere congratulations to all the finalists and overall winners, and to all of our valued sponsors and partners who continue to support us.”

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  For more information on Devon please visit

New age fish shop opens in Totnes

Totnes has been selected as the launchpad for a new age fish shop, called Cormacks Seafood. Based in the food hub of Ticklemore Street, this fish shop promises its customers a new seafood experience.

Founder, Aarik Persaud, explains the premise of the business:

‘The Covid-19 crisis completely threw the UK seafood industry. Retailers couldn’t get their hands on fresh seafood, whilst most of our fishing fleet was tied to the docks because there wasn’t a direct supply chain and/or market for their fish or shellfish. It is a mad system, especially considering the quality of seafood that is landed locally. It is a real struggle to find fresh seafood from our coastlines.

We have been running as a seafood product-focused business since 2018. We have always really valued the importance of supporting our local fishing fleet - that’s why we only sell seafood that’s caught locally by small day boats. Fishermen are the backbone of many coastal communities and they treasure their small patch of sea like their lives depend on it because it does! The same can’t always be said for larger vessels that can travel wherever and whenever they want. So, for me, one of the most important things that I can do is to show my local community the abundance of fresh, delicious seasonal seafood that is landed right here in Devon. We need to eat locally and seasonally if we are to ever consider abolishing wasteful and environmentally damaging practices, such as exporting our food thousands of miles and overfishing popular species. I personally think our own seafood is far superior in taste to the most commonly consumed fish and shellfish products, like tuna, salmon, warm water prawns, anyway.’

Aarik’s passion for the seafood industry and strong ethos for the shop may have originally stemmed from his wife, Alison Freeman. Alison, who has a MRes degree in Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture, also works in the seafood industry for a fisheries charity that supports fishing livelihoods and champions sustainable fishing practices.

Aarik, on the other hand, has spent his career of over 20 years working as a chef. He has led kitchens across the world, such as Toronto, Sydney, Bali, Hong Kong, and London. In Asia, Aarik owned a series of butcheries, which operated on a nose-to-tail mantra of using the whole animal. Aarik is looking forward to bringing this experience and knowledge to the seafood industry and will be using his culinary experiences to transform the seafood into a range of ready to cook products. ‘There are some amazing parts of a fish which are often discarded, such as the cheeks, ribs, and head. I think the seafood industry does need a shake up. We’ve been eating plain battered white fish for too long. Don’t get me wrong, it is great, but where are the new seafood products?’

Cormacks Seafood started its life a few years back; canning day boat mackerel, marinated in international sauces, such as miso ginger, pastrami spice and puttanesca. Having the shop allows Aarik to build and develop a far more extensive product range. Two of the frozen food products Aarik will be making by hand for the shop are soy and yuzu infused katsu fillets, inspired from his many years of eating Japanese curry in small ‘mom and pop’ restaurants across Asia, as well as Fish’n’Chip fish fingers, first born in one of Aarik’s restaurants in Hong Kong. He also has a salt fridge which will be used to cure the seafood, some of which will end up as frozen ready to eat fillets. He will be using traditional Japanese methods to prepare a range of simple fillets. ‘I’m really excited to get started. Life is about to get very busy.’

cormacks 1

Aarik is available to chat at info@cormacksseafood.co.uk; 0748858106.

Cormacks Seafood opened on 28th July 2020 at Unit 11, The Plains Shopping Centre, Ticklemore Street, Devon.

The opening hours are Tuesday (12 – 5pm), Wednesday – Friday (9am – 5pm), Saturday (9am – 1pm)

www.cormacksseafood.co.uk info@cormacksseafood.co.uk

Sharpham people join The Eden Project’s Festival of Discovery

Representatives of the rewilding happening on the Sharpham Estate are taking part in a virtual Eden Project event alongside Sir David Attenborough, designer Wayne Hemingway and Eden Project founder Sir Tim Smit.

Julian Carnell, director of The Sharpham Trust, and Simon Roper, director of Sharpham-based nature conservation organisation Ambios are participating in the 2021 Festival of Discovery – a free, online event for everyone running from November 11-13.

This year’s event coincides with the end of the COP26 climate conference and the focus of this year’s Festival of Discovery is on climate change and the environment.

The festival includes talks and inspirational speakers, ideas on actions, case studies and success stories, creativity and children’s activities.

Simon and Julian are on the discussion panel Rewilding: Letting Nature Lead The Way, taking place on Friday 12 November at 11.30am as part of the Hot Topics in the Tropics talk sessions.

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Said Julian: “Quite rightly the airwaves are full of the hopes and fears associated with the climate crisis and the meeting of world leaders in Glasgow at COP26.”

“At Sharpham we believe that climate change cannot be separated from the myriad threats affecting biodiversity around the world or from the mental health crisis that has intensified during the pandemic,” said Julian. “These emergencies are in fact interrelated and we need to address them together if we are to affect real positive change.

“The heart of our work is trying to connect people to the natural world. It is only by accepting that we are all part of nature rather than separate to it that we will begin to tackle the crisis facing us.”

Julian Carnell Sharpham Trust Director
Julian Carnell Sharpham Trust Director

Affecting positive change at Sharpham

Both The Sharpham Trust and Ambios Ltd are partners in rewilding 50 acres of The Sharpham Estate, in a project named Wild for People that has been funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The project is in its second year and already increases in insects, birds, wildflowers and grasses have been monitored on the land, which runs alongside the River Dart 3 miles from Totnes, South Devon.

Said Simon, whose organisation trains people in nature conservation: “Rewilding is about all of us finding ways to create, live and work within healthy, flourishing ecosystems. The word ‘within’ is really important; we see ourselves as separate from nature at our peril. That's the clear message from COP26.”

“At Sharpham we are actively making space for nature while also training the next generation of wildlife professionals. Part of our task is to allow our trainees to explore the knowledge and skills they need to make the most of rewilding in whatever form that takes and it will be different in different places.

“There is a much-needed message of hope within the rewilding concept; an achievable vision of the future where people see themselves as part of a rich and diverse natural world which is our life support system. Rewilding will bring forward much needed positive actions to address the ecological emergency and climate crisis. We are a small part of that, and from each small acorn, great trees grow!"

Simon Roper Ambios Director
Simon Roper Ambios Director

More about the Festival of Discovery

The event is a free, three-day online festival where participants will “discuss COP26, debate ideas for a more sustainable future, share top tips and eco-activities you can do at home, and celebrate what’s great about life and this planet”.

Eden Communities, which is running the event, say: “From community projects making a difference to live music, from panel sessions and workshops to yoga and meditation sessions, there’s something for everyone as we explore what we can do together for the planet”.

Special guest speakers in the Hot Topics in the Tropics talk sessions include

• Esteemed TV ecologist Sir David Attenborough, influential biologist E. O. Wilson and Eden Project founder Sir Tim Smit, who will be in a session called How to Save The Natural World
• Designer Wayne Hemingway, in a panel called Slow Fashion: Quality over Quantity
• Actor Rosie Day, in a discussion called How Women Can Change The World

The panel Rewilding: Letting Nature Lead The Way also includes

• Derek Gow, farmer, nature conservationist, and author of Bringing Back the Beaver
• Helen Meech, Head of Movement Building at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
• Ivan de Klee, Rewilding Consultant at Knepp Wildland, a high-profile rewilding success story
• Peter Cairns, from SCOTLAND: The Big Picture, a charity that works to drive the recovery of nature across Scotland through rewilding

Last year the Festival of Discovery welcomed around 25,000 visitors and its content notched up more than 400,000 YouTube views.

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