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….

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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.

Totnes is also a Fairtrade Town

Situated at the head of the Dart Estuary and surrounded by beautiful countryside, renowned for its history, retail, eateries and alternative lifestyle, Totnes has become a destination town, for many reasons, for visitors and locals alike. But, did you know that Totnes is also a Fairtrade Town and has been so since 2011? The town is home to a range of small independent retailers selling ethical products, whole foods and, most importantly, fair trade goods. Totnes even has two award winning shops for fair trade. One for Fairtrade food and one for fair trade gifts and homewares. Each year businesses and organisations are invited to enter the Business Awards by Fairtrade South West. These awards are open to everyone from national chains to sole traders, universities to hotels, food retailers and cafés. More information on this can be found at www.bristolfairtrade.org.uk/south-west-fairtrade-business-award. At this point you may have noticed that the phrases Fair-trade  and fair trade have been used. To clarify, Fairtrade is a global movement with a strong and active presence in the UK, represented by the Fairtrade Foundation, and works with producers of foods, tea, coffee and cotton. Fair trade is when craft and artisan producers of gift and homewares in developing countries are paid a fair price for their work by people and businesses in developed countries. These businesses are certificated as a fair trade supplier by the British Association of Fair Trade Suppliers (BAFTS) and/or the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO). Key Principles of Fair Trade: • Trading practices are fair and not one-sided. • Prices paid are fair and sufficient for producers and workers to earn more than enough to meet their day-to-day needs. • Payments are often made in advance to ensure the supplier can fulfil orders. • The payment of premiums for producers and workers to use for infrastructure projects. • Producers and workers have a voice, whether organised into groups or involved in workplaces where there is freedom of association. • Safe working conditions, non-discrimination and welfare of children. The start of Totnes’ journey to become a recognised Fairtrade Town began September 2006 when a small steering group was established and they began with asking Totnes Town Council to use Fairtrade tea and coffee and to ascertain which shops sold Fairtrade products. In less than a month it was established that 5 independent businesses and two high street brands in Totnes were selling Fairtrade products. This number was to grow. Currently, there are 32 independent retailers in Totnes selling fair trade foods and homewares. Between 2007 and 2010 the Totnes Fairtrade Group began to investigate how the town was to become a recognised Fairtrade town- and consider how to meet the 5 goals as set by The Fairtrade Foundation:- 1.Local council to pass a resolution supporting Fairtrade and agrees to serve Fairtrade products. 2.A range of Fairtrade products are readily available in the area's retail outlets and served in local cafes, restaurants and pubs. 3.Local workplaces and community organisations support Fairtrade and use Fairtrade products wherever possible. 4.Media coverage and events raise awareness and understanding of Fairtrade across the community. 5.A local Fairtrade steering group is convened to ensure the Fairtrade Town campaign continues to develop and gain new support. By July 2010, following a lot of hard work by the volunteer group, an application was made to the Fairtrade Foundation. And in April 2011 Totnes was granted Fairtrade Status. Every two years since the group have to reapply, showing planned actions, that objectives set 2 years previous had been achieved and then set a programme for the coming 2 years. In February 2007 the Totnes Fairtrade group promoted their first Fairtrade Fortnight, which is organised nationally by the Fairtrade Foundation and locally by volunteer groups. They approached schools, offering to take assemblies and explain what Fairtrade is. The local churches and church groups were approached and asked if they would consider using Fairtrade tea and coffee for their meetings, they were very supportive of the idea and soon all were using Fairtrade teas and coffees for their meetings and social functions. This celebration of Fairtrade runs from the final Monday in February for two weeks; and every year since 2007 the group go out to the schools and the businesses in Totnes, to increase awareness of Fairtrade products, whether that that be food, clothes, homewares or gifts. Over the years a number of growers from developing nations have been invited to Totnes to give talks on how Fairtrade has affected them. These visits are arranged by Devon Fairtrade and each local group. The Totnes Fairtrade group raise funds during the year to contribute to the speakers travel and visa costs (along with other South West Fairtrade Groups who will also hold an event). This year Victor Biwot, Operations Manager from Sereet Tea Corporation in the Nandi Hills, Kenya. He will give a power point presentation to local primary and secondary school pupils at a conference being facilitated by King Edward VI Community College, Totnes, so they can see where he lives, the tea plantation and factory in which he works and how Fairtrade has benefited his life. During this year's Fairtrade Fortnight - 26th February to 11th March 2018 - many food and retail outlets across Totnes will have counter displays and leaflets explaining all about Fairtrade. This year's theme is "Come on in" and meet the farmers and workers who grow our food, whose lives have been improved thanks to Fairtrade. The Totnes Fairtrade Group have used many novel ways to raise the awareness of Fairtrade and to raise funds. From being dressed as bananas for the local carnival to selling fruit smoothies, using Fairtrade fruit donated by local businesses, during a recent market event. This type of fundraising, along with coffee mornings, is now to have signs erected on the approaches to Totnes declaring that Totnes is a Fairtrade Town. Fairtrade changes the way trade works through better prices, decent working conditions and a fairer deal for farmers and workers in developing countries. It's when the price we pay for products gives enough to producers for them to afford life's essentials - like food, education and healthcare. So Totnes is a great place to live, visit, eat and shop. It is an ethical town, it is a Fairtrade Town – and proud of it.  

Sharpham’s new event co-ordinator

More South Hams schoolchildren and families will get to experience the special environment of The Sharpham Estate, now that there is a new Education and Events Coordinator at The Sharpham Trust.
Nature events with Lisa Carnell at The Sharpham Trust
Lisa Carnell will be encouraging Totnes and Torbay primary schools to visit the Estate and learn about its rich wildlife and habitats. And as a biologist, botanist and trained teacher, she'll be sharing her own extensive science and environmental knowledge by leading some of the activities on the visits. Prior to this role, she was Education Ranger at the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust for 17 years, coordinating schools' visits. "I love plants, wildflowers and trees and I did my degree in biology, so this role is perfect for me to be able to be spreading awareness of the natural world amongst young people," said Lisa. "I really like birds as well so it's great to be able to pass on some of my love of the local wildlife." Her post has been funded for a year by the Ernest Cook Trust, a charity promoting learning from the land. In that year, Lisa will be putting on 10 nature days for local schools.