Thrilling images of animals and birds have been caught on camera on the Sharpham Estate, near Totnes, South Devon.

Foxes, a tawny owl and a hedgehog are amongst the creatures caught unawares by hidden cameras on the Estate, around the site of the Sharpham Trust’s rewilding project which began earlier this year.

The Trust was awarded £177,400 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to make more space for wildlife and take action for nature in a three-year project called Sharpham Wild for People. The grant will help in turning the Sharpham Estate organic, re-wilding parts of its historic landscape and helping more people engage with the nature there – from members of the public to students of conservation learning to use camera traps.

“These first pictures of hedgehogs are amazing because as far as we know this is the first record of them being this far into the estate for over 20 years.” said Simon Roper, from Ambios Ltd, the nature conservation & education organisation which deployed the cameras via its trainees.

“Although our rewilding project has only just begun it is so encouraging to get this image of an animal likely to benefit from our future work in restoring nature.  Sharing these pictures is a step towards connecting people with nature,” he added.

Sharpham Trust Ambios camera trap pheasant
Sharpham Trust Ambios camera trap pheasant

Camera Trapping

The day- and night-time images show a variety of feathered and furred animals, from a Tawny Owl in a tree to a Blackcap by a pool.

There’s a fox, believed to be a nursing mum, a song thrush bathed in the sun’s rays, a crow close-up and a variety of songbirds beside a pond.

One of the happiest sights is a hedgehog, caught in a night-sight shot, snuffling in undergrowth.

“Hedgehogs have been in decline for many years,” said Jack Skuse, Director of Ambios Ltd, the nature conservation training organisation helping Sharpham Trust to deliver The National Lottery Heritage Fund project. “It was exciting to catch one on camera.  This is the mating season, so perhaps this one was looking for a mate.”

The images were collected by students on an Ambios course in camera trapping.  The hedgehog pictures were gathered by student whose place is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

Sharpham Trust Ambios camera trap fox 4
Sharpham Trust Ambios camera trap fox 4

Organic conversion for Sharpham farmland

An important aspect of the project Sharpham Wild for People is the exploration of organic farming techniques such as less-intensive grazing, in order to support biodiversity.

Ambios Ltd already operates Lower Sharpham Farm, an organic farm on the Sharpham Estate, and has just signed a tenancy to take over a further 50 acres of Sharpham parkland, which will be restored to parkland and wood pasture (a habitat with trees that would have characterised Sharpham parkland at the time of its design, in 1762). An additional 137 acres of land has been leased to farmer David Camp for organic conversion.

“A key mission for Sharpham is to care for wildlife and enable people to connect with our natural world,” said Trust Director Julian Carnell.

“Because of this project, almost all the estate land will be managed organically which has proven benefits for wildlife,” he said.

Sharpham Trust Ambios camera trap tawny owl
Sharpham Trust Ambios camera trap tawny owl

The effects of Covid-19

The project was to include school visits, public events, volunteering & training opportunities this summer and autumn, in order to enable a wider range of people to engage with and understand the land’s natural heritage.

The Coronavirus pandemic has meant that these have been postponed. However, the Trust hopes to start some of these in September, and is pressing ahead with other project goals such as introducing livestock, fencing and surveying wildlife. 

Sharpham Trust Ambios camera trap hedgehog
Sharpham Trust Ambios camera trap hedgehog

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Share Shed wins the People’s Projects

The Share Shed, Totnes’ library of things, has won £48,599 from the National Lottery Community Fund in this year’s Peoples Projects competition. Its success means it can now become the world’s first mobile sharing library.

Share Shed staff and volunteers were told the news, live on ITV, last Thursday, following a public vote in the first two weeks of April.

The Share Shed will now go mobile - extending its service beyond Totnes to Ashburton, Buckfastleigh, Dartington, South Brent and the villages around, supporting a more sustainable and collaborative lifestyle.

Mirella Ferraz, Share Shed Coordinator said: “We’re thrilled to have won the grant, especially in this case, which highlights how many people supported our project! We’re very grateful to every single person who voted for us”.

The Share Shed offers over 300 useful items for people to borrow. Its collection includes tools, camping gear, gardening equipment, cooking appliances, sewing machines and much more.

The Share Shed is at 16 High Street, Totnes, and is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2pm to 4pm, and on Saturdays from 10am to 1pm. To see everything the library of things offers, visit shareshed

Mirella adds “We’re overwhelmed by the support we’ve received – and we’d love to have even more volunteers involved with our project. Supporting the Share Shed is a great way to help people whilst saving a lot of natural resources. If you’d like to get involved, please get in touch via info@shareshed.org.uk”.

Why we love Totnes

Why We Love Totnes - by Blueriver Cottages.

One of the first things you might notice when you visit Totnes is the eclectic fashion and alternative attitude to life. Don’t be surprised to see festival dress or the occasional parrot on someone’s shoulder as you make your way to one  of the many cafés and coffee shops.

Totnes is the first transition town with a global reputation for its interest in environmental and sustainability issues. Take a trip over to Dartington Hall which has a programme of wonderful courses, talks, festivals and events set in beautiful surroundings.

Staying in the town centre, a visit to the Totnes Museum will give you a rich insight in to the history of this enchanting town. Right in the middle of the hubbub is Totnes Castle which offers super views of the town and surrounding area.

Totnes prides itself on its high percentage of independent shops, cafés and restaurants. Interestingly, in 2012, the town came together to protest against a large coffee chain opening locally and won. This is a town with heart and spirit.

Its narrow winding roads, hidden passages and half-timbered housing give Totnes a certain Harry Potter charm. It’s hard not to succumb to the magic of this quirky, friendly town.

The team at Blueriver Cottages are passionate about where they live. Gemma, local Property Recruiter and Quality Assessor shares what she loves about the town..


" Down the road from Dartington, this arty town has plenty to satisfy all senses from the food, to the entertainment, and the views.

TIPS FOR EATING OUT
Pie Street is a great place to visit if you are looking for great comfort foods.

BEST VIEW
Standing at the top of Totnes Castle looking out over the town.

DON'T MISS
The Totnes Elizabethan Market is unique. I also love the Christmas markets which are great to get a bargain."


You can take a look at Blueriver Cottages’ collection of holiday homes in Totnes and surrounding area by clicking here.


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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