By Coast & Country CottagesSerene, beautiful, unspoilt: The meandering River Dart weaves its way through rolling countryside, its banks lined with undulating fields and woodland, interspersed with copious picturesque beauty spots. Whether you are hoping to enjoy long riverside walks, planning on spotting rare wildlife, or simply looking for a peaceful place to rest, the ‘Dart’ is a fabulous South Devon destination. That’s why the team of holiday experts at Coast & Country Cottages have put together a helpful guide to finding the perfect holiday cottage by the River Dart. From cosy cottages with wood burning stoves, to grand houses accommodating all the family, here are five tips to finding the ultimate retreat.  

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The River Dart

Enjoy the view!
When holidaying by the River Dart, the views are nothing short of exceptional. Whether it is from your property itself, or from the nearby coast path, the landscape in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is second to none. Wildlife lovers will be in their element, particularly around Dittisham, where it is not unusual to see seals bobbing in the water or basking in the sunshine. These beautiful marine mammals are more commonly spotted on the quieter stretch of the river, between Dittisham and Totnes, whilst dolphins can sometimes be seen playing in the Dart further downstream in Dartmouth

Many of the holiday cottages in Dartmouth and Kingswear boast sea and river views, allowing guests the opportunity to watch life on the water, without even having to leave their balcony or living room. These properties might be particularly of interest to history buffs, as the port of Dartmouth is where The Mayflower set off from on its voyage to the ‘new world’! With 2020 marking the 400th anniversary of this momentous event, there has never been a better time to holiday by the River Dart.  

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Oliveta House

Relish in both coast and countryside
One of the wonderful things about holidaying in South Devon is it combines both stunning coastline and picturesque countryside. This means, choosing a holiday property on the river’s edge, or nestled in the heart of the countryside, doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t enjoy both! 

Gitcombe Estate is a collection of nine luxury holiday homes, sleeping 4-13, complete with an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, tennis court and children’s play area. Why not book a large property or multiple cottages, and encourage parents, grandparents, siblings and cousins to join you? Situated near the village of Cornworthy, the estate is surrounded by countryside but the River Dart remains easily accessible, via the Dart Valley Trail. This is an impressive rural bolt hole for family holidays, offering guests the best of both worlds! 

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32 Dart Marina

A special location for a special occasion
Whether it’s a special anniversary, a milestone birthday or a family celebration, the River Dart is a memorable backdrop for an extra special getaway. At Coast & Country Cottages we have properties ranging from luxury homes sleeping 16, to romantic boltholes for two. No matter what the occasion, we have holiday properties where you can make memories that will last a lifetime.  

Why not book a retreat with your loved one at the luxurious Dart Marina apartments. Offering stylish accommodation overlooking the River Dart, guests at many of these state-of-the-art properties can enjoy complimentary use of the Dart Marina Spa too. Or for a larger group looking for a truly ‘WOW’ property, Oliveta House is unbeatable. Situated in a charming valley just outside of Dartmouth, this mesmerising home offers the ultimate in luxury, with everything from a cinema room, to swimming pools (indoor and outdoor) , and a hot tub

Whatever you are planning to celebrate, book your River Dart holiday cottage today. 

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Vantage Point, Hillfield Village

Stay during an event by the Dart
The towns and villages surrounding the River Dart host many events throughout the year, especially Dartmouth and Totnes. Why not combine your trip to explore the River Dart with one of the area’s many festivities?

With events including Dartmouth Royal Regatta, Dartmouth Food Festival and Dart Music Festival to name a few, there’s no shortage of unforgettable experiences! 

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Berry Cottage

Making the most of the water
Want to sail, go crabbing, or enjoy a spot of kayaking and paddleboarding? There’s so many ways to enjoy the River Dart! Home to arguably the best place to go crabbing, Dittisham, our properties located on the waterfront are superb for making the most of this! The riverside retreat Berry Cottage is particularly well positioned for an afternoon crabbing on the quay. 

For keen sailors or kayakers, Kingswear and Dartmouth are great places to find accommodation, as they offer easy access to the river. Why not book Armorel House, or the Moorings? If you are looking to try surfing instead, choose a property closer to Blackpool Sands and the Start Bay coastline, like those at Hillfield Village.   

With so many holiday cottage options by the River Dart, perfect for any occasion, you are sure to find the ideal base for your waterside getaway. Book your break with award-winning holiday letting agency Coast & Country Cottages today. 

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New retreat venue at Sharpham

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.

The Coach House behind Sharpham House INSIDE April 2021 LO RES
The Coach House

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.

See our events here: www.sharphamtrust.org/Calendar  

A new fish finger takeaway in town

Cormack's Seafood recently launched a takeaway lunch menu from our fish shop. We sell a range of four sandwiches, featuring our handmade products. On offer at the moment is:

Classic Fish Finger Sandwich  £8
shoestring fries, tartar sauce, iceberg

Nashville Hot Fish Finger Sandwich £8
fish fingers, hot chilli dust, pickles, Cajun mayo

Plaice Katsu Curry Sandwich £9
Curry mayo, pickles, cabbage

Brixham Crab & Avocado Sandwich £10
Coconut, lime and chilli mayo, smashed avocado, crispy fried onions

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.

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The takeaway is available every day from noon Tuesday to Saturday. We are located on Ticklemore Street in Totnes. 

Totnes Pride 2020

Due to the uncertainty around how long the current COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and/or social distancing measures will be in place, and with the risk of a second wave of the virus towards the end of the year, we have taken the difficult decision to cancel this year’s Totnes pride as it stands, and instead, host an online event in its place.

This has been a difficult decision, as for us, some of the highlights of the previous events centre around people coming together in person, and celebrating and protesting together.

We are, however, extremely excited to take all that is fabulous about Totnes Pride and create an online event that reaches even more people, including those who, for whatever reason, haven’t been able to attend the event in the past.

More details to follow!

All our love and respect,

The Totnes Pride Action Group (TPAG)

Re-opening at last and ‘on the rails to recovery’

After being closed for exactly one full year next Wednesday (17th March) as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the scenic South Devon Railway (SDR) has just announced its outline programme today for a Spring re-opening of the seven-mile heritage line running from Buckfastleigh to Totnes.

The last SDR steam trains ran virtually empty on Tuesday 17 March 2020 after visitors deserted Devon just ahead of the first lockdown the following weekend. This dramatic change came  straight after a very popular weekend SDR steam gala event featuring former branch favourite loco No. 4555 as the star visitor. What a contrast!

It’s now the longest period that the quintessential former GWR branch line has been closed in its 52-year history after re-opening as a tourist railway in 1969 following closure by British Railways in 1962.

Now, the SDR says it will re-open to visitors  in phases starting with the large Buckfastleigh site first on Monday 12 April when national CV-19 restrictions are set to ease significantly for attractions.

The site ‘Open Days’ will follow a similar format to those successfully staged last summer and autumn. Opening up the site was very popular with SDR visitors last year, and includes the gardens, workshop viewing, riverside picnic area, children’s playground, Lee Moor Tramway museum, north signal box, and the gift & model shop will be open too. 

Many of the SDR’s steam and diesel locomotives and historic coaches will be on display and, on selected days, both the miniature railway and the garden railway will be in operation too.

The SDR site will be open all of the week commencing 12th April for the half-term holiday, then on every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday until 16th May. Entrance is free, but the SDR does ask for a donation at the gate. There is plenty of free car parking at Buckfastleigh station too. 

And, at long last, the really good news is that SDR trains are set to start steaming down the picturesque valley of the River Dart once more from Monday 17 May, and the fantastic sight, sound and smell of them are now almost as much a natural part of the landscape as the trees, green fields, cattle and Devon’s rolling hills. 

Not surprisingly, SDR staff can’t wait to welcome visitors back to the railway. A timetable of four steam trains per day will be in operation, leaving Buckfastleigh at 10.30, 12.10, 2.15 and 4.00, and arriving back about one and quarter hours later.

Revamp of the Bull Inn

Article by Kate Philbin at the Totnes Times. As the planning application was submitted for the transformation of a historic town centre pub, the woman behind the plans has been speaking out about her extraordinary life. Geetie Singh-Watson, 48, known to many as the wife of Riverford entrepreneur Guy Watson, is the driving force behind the redevelopment of The Bull Inn in Totnes which aims to become an organic gastropub with letting rooms upstairs. However, it is not an extension of the Riverford empire but a project in its own right and it is hers and hers alone, Geetie insists. She says that people assume The Bull will be run by Riverford or is being financed by Riverford but actually it is neither. Raised on a commune in Herefordshire by a mother who was a builder, Geetie was no stranger to hands-on manual work from an early age. Her mother, Liz Singh, bought and restored a derelict cottage, installing everything from the sewage system to the windows. She was “a powerful role model” for Geetie as was her father, Gurmukh Singh, a Sikh entrepreneur who first came to the UK in the 1950s. He founded the first Indian restaurant in London that was owned by its staff. One of its backers was Salman Rushdie. Later, her mother remarried and her stepfather, Geoff Petty, an educationalist whose work is used to this day by schools such as Totnes Progressive School, also proved a great role model. At the age of 28, Geetie opened her first “values-driven gastropub”, The Duke of Cambridge in Islington. Inspired by her hardworking parents and the example set by women like Anita Roddick, Geetie was determined to create a thriving pub business that was both ethical and profitable, without compromising on staff welfare or the quality of ingredients. She needed £350,000 to build the business. “I asked everyone I knew if they would be interested in investing. No one gave anything they couldn’t afford to lose, it was a gamble but it was fun.” The pub broke even in its first year. Geetie admits she was “too young and cocky” and she “should have listened” to advice from Anita Roddick, who told steadily to build a stable and effective business. Instead, swept along by the dotcom boom, Geetie bought two more pubs in London. “As the business expanded the passion got lost. Within five years I sold off the two other pubs and just kept The Duke of Cambridge. Overall it was a positive experience but I felt bad for the investors.” Despite these knockbacks, Geetie believes the experience gave her a far greater understanding of business. “You don’t learn in business when you are being successful, you learn from your failures. If I were investing I would never invest with someone who hasn’t failed at least once because they know nothing.” Geetie sold The Duke of Cambridge to Guy Watson four years ago. At the time she was a trustee of the Soil Association and a founder member of the London Food Board with Ken Livingston. She was also working with schools in deprived areas to teach children about healthy cooking. When she met Guy it wasn’t exactly a match made in Heaven. She said: “I had known of him in the organic world for many years but he came to talk to me in 2007 about setting up a pub in London. I thought, what are you doing here on my patch? I was very frosty.” The pair met again some years later through the Soil Association and it was a very different meeting. “I realised our business values were completely aligned and that he was extraordinary.” They married in 2014. Geetie spent three years running The Riverford Field Kitchen but stopped to concentrate on developing The Bull.
She has always been fascinated by town centre pubs and looks out for any that are for sale in a town “in the way that other people look out for houses”. She said: “I love The Bull. It looks beautiful and it has great views and a big, corner site in front of an open square. It is slightly off the beaten track which I love as it means tourists have to put some effort into discovering it.” The pub is currently in a run-down condition and requires extensive restoration. Geetie has plans to turn it into an organic, values-driven gastropub but without losing its traditional heritage. Its name won’t change as she believes “pub names should be protected, they are part of our history”. The restoration work, which will cost in excess of half a million, is being funded by the sale of Geetie’s London flat. “I rather like the fact that property equity, which feels like an unfair distribution of wealth, is being used to bring a historic Totnes pub back to life.”
If all goes to plan, the pub will open in Summer 2019. Around 30 jobs will be created and it will use local, organic suppliers. Geetie said: “I grew up in a staunchly feminist household – my mum could strip down a car engine! The fact that people assume Guy is funding my business has opened up a new conversation in our household about feminism. It is great. Guy is a real feminist, he took my name when we got married. It is an exciting time.” The planning application for The Bull is available on the SHDC website, reference: 3376/18/LBC      
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