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The Dart and Totnes – Bridges and Bridgetown
Flowing from two sources on Dartmoor, down to the sea at Dartmouth, Totnes is an important stop along the River Dart situated between the moors and the river’s mouth. The town offers an excellent jumping off point for exploration of the river whether by foot, boat or canoe, and is the point where it becomes tidal.
Even for those who just want to admire the river without getting their feet wet there are many ways to enjoy the Dart, and many things Totnes has to thank the river for – and the two bridges crossing it.
Bridges and Bridgetown
Totnes Bridge has the honour of being the last bridge to cross the Dart before it reaches open sea, as plans to build a railway bridge across the river mouth from Kingswear to Dartmouth in the late 1900s never came to fruition.
There have been multiple bridges across the river in Totnes beginning with a river ford and evolving to the familiar stone bridge today. It was once a toll bridge that separated Bridgetown from Totnes until it was opened up on October 31st 1881 for everyone to cross.
A second bridge was built in 1982 and although less picturesque than the older bridge was necessary for the increasing amounts of traffic passing through Totnes and across the Dart. It is named the Brutus Bridge after the legendary founder of the town.
Whichever side of the bridge you’re on there are many places to enjoy the river from. Vire Island is worth a visit for anyone looking for a nice spot to enjoy a picnic. Although not a proper island the 400m peninsula is named after the French town Totnes is twinned with (not Narnia) and is the perfect spot for contemplating the river from in the summer. And there are plenty of restaurants and cafes to eat or enjoy a drink in, high tide or low, rain or shine.
Charity invests £1.6million in a new retreat venue at Sharpham
The Sharpham Trust is investing £1.6 million to convert a stable yard behind Sharpham House to a new centre for mindfulness courses and retreats.
The charity, which works to connect people to nature and themselves, has begun the creation of The Coach House - which will feature a new meditation space and 18 en-suite rooms.
The current, disused stableyard is a Grade II-listed building, dating back to 1760 when Sharpham House was built for the naval sea captain Philemon Pownoll.
Now work has begun to develop the single-storey quadrangle directly behind Sharpham House into a new retreat centre where participants can stay, amid historic grounds thought to have been landscaped by Capability Brown.
The Trust runs an annual programme of courses and retreats featuring mindfulness meditation and nature connection on the wider Sharpham Estate and on the adjacent River Dart.
“Prior to the pandemic we were finding that our programme was fully booked with long waiting lists,” said Trust Director Julian Carnell.
“As a charity we want to help as many people as possible and so creating more accommodation became a priority. The stable yard had become rundown and so there was a fantastic opportunity to give the building a new lease of life and restore it as part of the Sharpham Estate’s important heritage,” he said.
Retreats in The Coach House
The Coach House will join the Trust’s other retreat venues Sharpham House, The Barn Retreat and Woodland Campsite and it will offer a weekly programme for those in need of developing and deepening their mindfulness practice, compassion and their connection to nature.
Participants staying there will be able to spend a week living in community surrounded by the amazing natural environment of the Sharpham Estate.
They will spend time volunteering in the 18th century Walled Garden – helping to grow food for the retreats at Sharpham – and conserving the heritage and wildlife of the wider estate.
Helping 1,000 more people a year
Chairman of Sharpham’s Trustees Daniel Stokes said: “Our mission is to connect people to nature and foster mindfulness and wellbeing. There is now a plethora of research showing the physical and mental health benefits of spending time in nature.
“This project will enable us to help another 1,000 people a year, giving them a chance to spend time slowing down and reflecting in a beautiful natural setting,” he said.
Using local construction companies
The Trust is using South Devon firm Carpenter Oak to build the frame for an eye-catching glass structure linked to The Coach House which will be the new centre’s meditation and dining space.
Classic Builders, a local South West-based construction company, has been awarded the contract to convert the Coach House and hopes to complete the works by January 2022.
“We are delighted to be working with The Sharpham Trust on this significant local project. The Coach House is an important listed building, not only in a sensitive location but also next to Sharpham House. We’re looking forward to drawing on our years of experience delivering comparable works in similar settings to make this project a success,” said Adam Brimacombe, Director at Classic Builders.
The Trust has been busy over the last ten years developing its charitable programmes and refurbishing the heritage of its listed landscape and properties. Every year, some 2,000 people attend retreats, courses and events on the Sharpham Estate.
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.
The takeaway is available every day from noon Tuesday to Saturday. We are located on Ticklemore Street in Totnes.
The Share Shed is a library of things, where over 350 items are available for members of the project to borrow at a minimal fee. The library’s collection is versatile and includes things such as camping and gardening equipment, tools, musical instruments, household appliances, bicycles, sewing machines, things for when a baby comes to visit and much more. Thanks to the support from the Network of Wellbeing (NOW), The School for Social Entrepreneurs, and a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund, the Share Shed is about to launch the world's first mobile library of things, supporting the nearby towns from July 2020 onwards. Having been in Totnes for over three years, the Share Shed will extend its services to Buckfastleigh, Ashburton and Buckfastleigh. This pioneering initiative hopes to inspire and support a more collaborative and sustainable way of being. Mirella Ferraz, NOW’s Project Coordinator, says “it’s very rewarding to support people getting things done in an affordable way, whilst helping to reduce the amount of resources we use. With the mobile version of the project, we’re excited to make the Share Shed accessible for even more people.”Currently over 700 people have signed up as Share Shed members, benefitting from the opportunity to access things that they don’t require regularly, and consequently saving money, space and resources. Among the most popular items, you can find carpet cleaners, pressure washers, electric drills, strimmers, a dehydrator, projector and a sewing machine. Share Shed Manager, Mark Jefferys, says, “Everybody we meet seems to understand the concept of ‘borrow, don’t buy’, and it’s a great feeling when we can help somebody out with the things they need to complete a task, be it putting up a shelf, or getting a house ready for a sale. Expanding this possibility to other towns, and facilitating even more sharing is a great and exciting next step for us.”In the UK, the Share Shed is one of 14 established projects facilitating this kind of sharing. Some projects, like the Edinburgh Tool Library, are solely focused on tools (in this case, with an impressive offer of over 1,500 tools), whilst others are all about baby-related items or simply toys. The good news is that this is a growing global movement, which acknowledges the importance of a different way of being and consuming, whilst fulfilling the need of those who want to access things rather than own stuff. Such a shift is supporting people and communities to become more collaborative and sustainable. After all, why buy when you can borrow?People can become a member of the Share Shed by signing up online and paying a membership fee (sliding scale between £5 and £30). Once a member, people can also place reservations straight away. To see everything the library of things offers and for further information, visit www.shareshed.org.uk. For any enquiries, contact email@example.com.
Local Hero beer created using hops from Totnes community at Lion BreweryThe 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 15kgof 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.’If you haven't harvested before and you’re interested in getting involved next year, contact the Lion Brewery for tips and advice.