Tucked away down a siding of one of Devon’s beloved steam railways is a conservation project helping to reintroduce endangered species to the wild. The Dartmoor Otters and Buckfast Butterflies Sanctuary at Buckfastleigh is a small visitor attraction where you can learn about these beautiful creatures and the important work happening to protect them. We were invited to review the sanctuary by Visit Totnes.

This was our first mini-adventure of the summer holidays and the girls and I had roped in Tin Box Grandma and Grandpa for the experience. None of us had been to the sanctuary before despite riding the South Devon Railway between Buckfastleigh and Totnes on other occasions. Tickets are available to combine the train, otter sanctuary and Totnes Rare Breeds Farm at the other end of the track. Together they make a full family day out in South Devon. Read more . . .

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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.

A UK first in Totnes

Totnes has always attracted forward-thinking businesses with social responsibility at the core. Earth.Food.Love is the UK’s only, family-run, organic, bulk-buy, zero waste shop! Focusing on creating a better future, they decided to look back to the past, where eating real food with minimal packaging was normal practice. They believe returning to these simple ways will benefit not only our own health, but the planets too. The shop stocks a wide range of products such as grains, cereals, beans, legumes, flours, sugars, herbs, spices, loose leaf teas, nut butters, syrups, oils, vinegars, cleaning products and personal care products. Everything is self served and priced by weight, eliminating the toxic and wasteful packaging. Just take along any bottle, jar, tub or container; if it can be weighed, it can be used. Earth.Food.Love is located at 101 High St, to find out further information check out their website www.thezerowasteshop.co.uk. You can keep up to date by by liking their Facebook page.

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....