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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Totnes Museum re-opens this spring

The Totnes Elizabethan House & Museum is due to re-open for the season on Monday 8th April with some interesting exhibitions appealing to all ages scheduled for the year. From opening day until 25th June, the Totnes Women’s Voices exhibition will celebrate 100 years since at least some women won the hard fought for the right to vote in a general election. This exhibition features the audio/ visual presentation “Totnes Women’s Voices 1918-2018”. In it, you will hear local women and girls from age 3 to 92 give their views on politics and voting, how life has changed and what they feel still needs to change. You will also learn about local women activists from Totnes and Devon who were involved in the suffrage movement and there will be an opportunity to share your views. From 3rd July - 1st October the exhibition will switch from political to technological when the public is invited to meet “Eric”, a mini replica of the first ever British Robot constructed in 1928 by Captain WH Richards from Totnes. This replica has been specially built for Totnes Museum. In 1928 at the Royal Horticultural Hall London, to great astonishment instead of the anticipated Duke of York, the original Eric rose to its feet and gave a four-minute address to open an exhibition. In the 1930s Captain Richards built another robot, this one called George. They toured the world where George gave speeches in several languages. Totnes Museum is very pleased to have won a Place of Science award from the Royal Society to put on this exhibition about WH Richards and his pioneering work. Alongside the exhibition, Plymouth University Robotics department will be offering workshops for our schools and the museum will be hosting a discussion on the ethics of artificial intelligence.

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.

Eat al fresco in and around Totnes

There are many ways to enjoy eating al fresco in and around Totnes with delicious menus at riverside restaurants, pretty pub gardens and high street tables, but why not take your open air eating to another level and have a picnic in a unique location with far reaching views of the countryside. With July being National Picnic Month what better time to do so. When it comes to deciding where to kick off your shoes and lay your blanket we have many beautiful locations for you to try. Why not explore the River Dart and neighbouring coast from a whole new perspective with Canoe Adventures and Sea Kayak Devon and choose a secluded spot along the way to stop for lunch. Or with the Dart running through Totnes you can sit along the bank of the river and watch the boats go by while enjoying your plate of nibbles. There are also many natural and leafy parks and gardens in and around town and on Dartington Estate where you can stop and relax, enjoy your food at leisure and watch the children play. You could combine your picnic with a short walk or cycle from Totnes to Sharpham Cheese and Wine, Dartington Estate or the Shops at Dartington where you can stock up on more local food and drink, have a wander and soak up the superb views of each location. Take a steam train to Buckfastleigh with South Devon Railway where you can walk (or take a bus) to Buckfast Abbey and enjoy your food in the stunning grounds, or walk along the river while listening to the birds sing. Climb to the top of Totnes Castle and gaze at the wonderful views of Totnes and beyond or visit Berry Pomeroy Castle, both offering the perfect location to enjoy your refreshments. When it comes to deciding what to pack for your picnic the wide variety of delis, cafes, independent shops, farmer’s markets and bakeries in Totnes, Dartington and Sharpham mean you can ditch the soggy sandwiches and create a fresh, local and seasonal feast fit for all. If you fancy some Devon Blue or Sharpham Rustic cheese to go with your crusty bread, visit Sharpham Wine and Cheese or Country Cheeses and Saveurs, The Old Bakery or Flour & Rice for the loaf. For some fresh fruit and the all important salad grown locally in Devonshire soil try Annie’s or The Happy Apple, or if you’re feeling more Mediterranean why not grab some olives, charcuterie or continental cheeses from Mangetout, Jano or Amalie’s Deli. And no picnic is complete without a slice of homemade cake so stop off at Waterside Bistro or one of the many cafes or bakeries in and around town for some tasty treats. Most cafes and independent food outlets in town will also supply take away drinks from the likes of Luscombe to keep you hydrated on those balmy summer days...or why not sample a bottle of something fizzy or fruity from the Totnes Wine Company, the only shop in town to stock the entire range of Sharpham wine. For those who’d like all the pleasure of eating in nature but don’t have time to prepare the food, The Kitchen Table specialises in outside catering and sources all of their key ingredients from within 30 miles of Totnes, so you will get quality, local food without any of the hassle. Don’t forget to pack your sun cream or raincoat for those unpredictable days but most of all, stop, relax and enjoy your day being at one with the world.