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.

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Independent Totnes Cinema

How many High Streets in Great Britain can boast their very own independent art-house cinema?

Totnes Cinema CIC is a social enterprise, set up by a local couple, passionate about film and excited about Totnes. So far the project has been entirely funded by local donations and memberships and the success of its carefully chosen programme, and we still have plenty more to do!! All the bar staff, stewards, and musicians volunteer their time and are paid with the chance to watch the film. Totnes Cinema is located in the heart of Totnes, down a hidden passageway just off the High St. Our mission was to bring back the magic of cinema to our local town. We were inspired by a wonderful photograph, taken in the late 1940s of boys holding banners saying “Save our Cinema,” and in true Totnes style, they marched up the High St to make their feelings known. There had been a cinema in Totnes from the early days of film and the last remaining one, The Romany, closed its doors in 1964 due to falling audiences. The building became the well-loved Totnes Library until its expansion and relocation, and the building fell empty. As a local couple, film lovers and with teenage children, we took on the challenge of re-creating a cinema for our local town center to create a social and cultural hub in the town.

As you leave the hustle and bustle of the market day, you are taken into this unique and surprising space, more like a Berlin cabaret than a cinema, with subdued lighting, comfy sofas, bistro table and chairs and luxurious cinema seats on the balcony. We even have a baby grand piano!

As a truly independent cinema, we can offer a wide range of films, carefully chosen from all genres including classic black and white film noir, the best from musical theatre, and modern-day classics and Oscar winners. With a fully licensed bar which stretches the width of the building, beneath an enormous screen we encourage people to come early and enjoy cocktails, fine wines, and craft beers and to meet up with friends, often with live music and a showreel of classic adverts. There is always someone around afterward, to chat and discuss the film. On a Saturday you can pop in for excellent coffee and homemade cake, as our “mystic portal” opens up to daylight. We believe we add to the uniqueness of our wonderfully independent High St and complement all the many individual traders and businesses around us, bringing life to the evenings on the High St as well as the days. Jane Hughes, Director of Totnes Cinema

Dartington’s New Direction

Su Carroll looks at the changing focus on food at Dartington. In 1925, Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst bought the run-down Dartington Estate near Totnes. They were visionaries who began what they called the “Dartington Experiment” – bringing together other like-minded, creative people for education and inspiration. In the early days, the couple spearheaded changes to the estate – Schumacher College, Dartington Hall School and Dartington Tweed Mill were established, followed by Dartington Glass and The Shops at Dartington. Times change, and in 2015 Dartington Hall Trust held Open Space meetings following the arrival of CEO Rhodri Samuel to discuss proposals for the gardens, development, land use, food, arts, social justice and community of enterprises. One of the areas earmarked for expansion is food, with chef Oliver Rowe being appointed as Dartington Hall Trust’s Director of Food and Drink. It’s a good fit for the Dartington ethos – Oliver is the man whose trials in setting up a London restaurant with locally- sourced food was recorded in the BBC documentary, Urban Chef. Oliver’s appointment to the team signals “more joined-up thinking” he says. “Dartington is an amazing place. It offers a broad spectrum of the elements you need as a person to approach life and any given situation. It’s a holistic approach and I love that; it’s why I’m here. We look at everything from every angle.” Dartington is home to The White Hart Bar and Restaurant – holder of a Sustainable Restaurant Association star, The Roundhouse Café which offers drinks and light snacks, and a new space – The Green Table which has an informal atmosphere with big tables, a deli-style counter, an open- plan kitchen and a large terrace with tables and chairs. Oliver’s job is to advise and guide using everything he’s learned about sourcing locally and responsibly. He’s been working with The Green Table head chef Tara Vaughan- Hughes to develop an interesting menu in a space which is “quite a departure” for Dartington. “Sometimes you create an audience when you give people something they’re not expecting. The Green Table was like this for Dartington – a completely fresh approach.” He will also help to strengthen the links between tenant farmers on the Dartington estate who farm the land in innovative ways that benefit the community. As his experiences on Urban Chef will testify, it isn’t as easy as it looks. “It can be difficult to work with really small producers,” he admits. “Some of the ingredients that we need are hard to find in the volume we want. Then it’s about menu planning and discussing with the producers what we’re cooking and making sure they know what we’re about. We’re about great ingredients, locally sourced, being considerate to the environment and working with people in the area. We have respect for the produce, the animals and staff. That’s our food concept.” Oliver started cooking as a teenager, working in the kitchen of an art school in Tuscany, run by his cousin, the sculptor and art historian Nigel Konstam. He learned from Italian women how to make simple pasta dishes that owed a lot to the landscape surrounding him. At the age of 22, he wandered into the kitchens of Moro in London looking for work and found himself honing his craft there. Stints at restaurants in London and France followed before he opened a café in London and then a restaurant, Konstam (after his grandmother) at the Prince Albert – the focus of the Urban Chef series. “My mum was a very, very good cook, and so was my grandmother, and I definitely have a connection to that period in time. One of the great things about the chefs at Dartington is they’re not throwing anything away; there’s an appreciation for the ingredients – the way they’re cooked and presented. It’s about keeping it simple,” Oliver adds. London-based Oliver’s commitment to Dartington is three days a week but he says it’s no hardship to come to “a stunning” part of the world. “It’s not a million miles from London and it has a good vibe. There’s a real sense of community.” So, is Dartington going to be a deep-fat fryer free zone? Oliver laughs “We do have deep-fat fryers! You can’t knock a good chip and we do great ones at The White Hart. After all, everyone loves fish and chips, but we make sure we get potatoes that are sustainably sourced.”

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 www.transitionfilmfestival.org.uk and make it a date to come and join us!