The idea for a giant map on the floor of St Mary’s came when we were discussing ideas around the exhibition space with Rev Steve and another trustee, Emily Price. We were full of ideas – we would have a giant screen, a huge wooden wish tree (I still love this idea), a free-standing, stained glass panel of modern Totnes (also still love this idea), but it was the giant map that really caught on.

I’ve been stopped by quite a few visitors in town asking where this and that and the castle are. Most residents have. The town maps we do have displayed are lovely but worn and out of date. We’d been discussing as a council, how we would get new ones and so the idea was fresh in my mind. The original thought was to have a great slate floor with a map inscribed into it, but that, of course, turned out to be too costly and as we wanted it to be very detailed that was going to be tricky in slate. The exhibition designer suggested polished black linoleum, which sounded perfect.

We as a trust, are trying to raise an enormous sum of money to repair St Mary’s. We don’t only want to repair it, we want to add a toilet and a kitchen and make it a wonderful resource in the centre of town. It should be, it’s a beautiful building and we lack community space in Totnes. I am not a church-goer myself, but I am fully behind restoring this gorgeous building and opening it up to the wider community. We are planning on making it an exhibition space, a theatre, a place for community gathering. This doesn’t mean it won’t continue as a church; of course, it will, we just want to really make it accessible as an asset to everyone.

The map will contribute to this. It’ll be huge, 15 square meters and situated at the back of the church by the back door. It’ll stretch from St Johns in Bridgetown to the Bay Horse in Totnes. We have chosen an artist, Anna Ventura, whose details I was sent by someone on Facebook when I asked for suggestions. She runs a gallery in Kingsbridge, The Tidal Gallery and is expert at very detailed line drawings. She’d done a drawing on the High St a few years ago and the style was just what we wanted. How to pay for all this though?

We are a charity, we were supposed to be making money, not spending it, so we decided to ask the shops lining the route of the map if they would like to be specially featured and if they decided to, then that meant their names would be added to the drawing and some details of their shops etc. In that way, we have managed to pay the artist. I wanted it to be a snapshot of Totnes in 2018/19, so we were going to add some extra details; Christopher McCabe fighting his way out of his freezer with a black pudding, Graham Walker selling his Scum Bags on the High Street, XR doing a die in on the market? We will be asking for ideas from everyone soon.

Anna is displaying some of her preliminary drawings of the map in the church for the next two weeks, so it would be great if people could come and comment. I will also be photographing every building pretty much from St John’s to the Bay, so if you have any particular stories about any of the buildings, which you would like to let us know about then that would be wonderful.

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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.

Our visit to Totnes by Conversant Traveller

It had been a day of dappled light and dragonflies. A day of strolling beside sun drenched vineyards, lazy meandering rivers and fragrant herb gardens alive with butterflies. As Hubbie and I sipped chilled glasses of sparkling wine and tucked into tranches of local cheese, we could be forgiven for thinking we were in the south of France, rather than southern England. We’d been exploring Devon, a county famous for it’s mysterious moors, sandy beaches, and national parks, yet it was a medieval market town that had our full attention today. It turns out there are plenty of fun things to do in Totnes, without a moor, beach or park in sight! Totnes has a colourful and legendary history, packed full of mythical kings, lords and rebels, and merchants and soldiers. Today it’s known more for its cultural scene, independent local shops and a rather unique cosmopolitan countryside vibe. The town sits on the picturesque River Dart, the sort of tranquil pastoral scene where you’d expect to encounter characters from Wind in the Willows. There are lots of things to do in Totnes, from castles and museums to steam trains and boat trips, but we had our eye on something a little different. Vineyards, ghosts and lettuce! Saxon in origin, Totnes has been known for both craft and industry, and was once an important and prosperous centre for trade. Although it is still a thriving market town, the Totnes of today is more popular with the artistic community and attracts visitors from near and far to enjoy the buzzing cultural scene and picturesque countryside. The focal point is Totnes castle, commanding a dominant position overlooking the town, and the intriguing range of independent shops, cafes and galleries are all within easy walking distance. There is also plenty to do in the surrounding area, so we spent a fun filled day checking out the best things to do in and around Totnes. Read more....

The River Dart and Totnes – Trade and the Town

As well as being a key feature of the town's picturesque landscape the River Dart has been an important part of trade in Totnes for hundreds of years. Today Totnes is a tourist hotspot but up until the late 20th century it was an important trading post on a busy river. Wool and Wealth Totnes owes much of its Elizabethan charm to the River Dart, the trade it enabled making many merchants rich and allowing them to build luxurious houses that still stand to this day. In the 16th century Wool and tin were the main exports, and helped Totnes to become the second wealthiest community in the country. As Totnes failed to respond to new trends in cloth manufacturing, and tin production in Ashburton declined, the boom failed to last and trade on the river diminished. However, as of 1636 it was still rated the country's fifth wealthiest community. As debris from the last of the tin mines made it difficult to navigate the river, traders started to go to Dartmouth instead. Plains Sailing It may not have recaptured the town's Elizabethan heyday but the area of Totnes now known as The Plains was once a thriving district of factories exporting the goods they produced via The Dart. Notable businesses included cider makers Bentall, Lloyd and Co, and Symons and Co. Today upmarket residences can now be found where the factories once stood. Although the coming of the railway reduced the demand for traders on the river the Dart remains an important part of the town's economy as a tourist attraction. Anyone visiting Totnes can make the most of the beautiful river, whether it's by hiring a canoe, walking along its banks, or taking a cruise down to Dartmouth.