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

You may be interested in...

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.

fish finger

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

Get out with Totnes Ramblers

Totnes Ramblers have launched the Franklin Trail information board they have installed on the Plains in Totnes, so local people and visitors to the town can find out more and look at a map of the trail.

The Franklin Trail is a circular walk around Totnes which came to life as part of a legacy bequest from a member of the Totnes Ramblers, Mr Edward Franklin. It is a 6¾ mile, waymarked, circular walk, starting on the Plains in the centre of Totnes, with several points of interest along the way including

Totnes Riverside Station and Fishchowter’s Lane. Totnes Ramblers launched the Trail in 2017 and this year made improvements including the information board, benches and additional fingerposts. The new features have been installed thanks to the efforts of committee members, including Chairman Andrew Chadwick, Footpath Officer Trevor Walker, Chris Leigh and Anna Lunk.

Two benches have been installed, the first is above the Follaton Oaks development and has views across to Haytor on Dartmoor. The second bench is on Fishchowter’s Lane and as well as good views over the town it provides a welcome rest as you walk up the hill. To guide walkers around the Trail five new finger posts were installed on Fishchowter’s Lane, Copland Lane, Barrack Hill, Riverside near Brutus Bridge and near the Hydropower scheme on the River Dart.

Totnes Ramblers Chairman Andrew Chadwick said: “We are delighted to launch the new information board and encourage locals and visitors alike to come and look at it and try the Franklin Trail for themselves.”

More information about the Franklin Trail and a downloadable map can be found on the Totnes Ramblers website ramblers. The website also includes details of the group’s walks programme. Totnes Ramblers welcome newcomers to join them for a walk in the beautiful countryside of South Devon.


Members of Totnes Ramblers join Chairman Andrew Chadwick (third from
left) to launch the Franklin Trail information board on the Plains, Totnes (photo credit, Alan
Fuller).

Patio Season Is Here

Now that the seasons are shifting and the days are getting sunnier, there is no better time to enjoy drinks and nibbles in our very own private patio!

Being only one of a few establishments with outside seating areas in Totnes, we wanted to make sure that everything is set up for you and loved ones to safely enjoy those long overdue catch ups. We have put all the necessary measures in place so that we are COVID safe, with social distancing measures being followed at all times. 

Our patio can safely seat nearly 60 guests, so there is plenty of space for everyone to relax and soak up the sun for a light brunch or lunch, freshly brewed coffee and one of our delicious homemade sweet treats made by Tori, China Blue's very own pastry chef.

china blue

You can enjoy outdoor dining with us Monday-Saturday 9-4.30pm, Sunday 10.30-4pm. There is no need to book in advance as we have plenty of spaces available, but if you have any questions please do give us a call on 01803 860906, or drop us an email at wildthyme@china-blue.co.uk

Being only one of a few establishments with outside seating areas in Totnes, we wanted to make sure that everything is set up for you and your loved ones to safely enjoy those long-overdue catch-ups. We have put all the necessary measures in place so that we are COVID safe, with social distancing measures being followed at all times. 

Our patio can safely seat nearly 60 guests, so there is plenty of space for everyone to relax and soak up the sun for a light brunch or lunch, freshly brewed coffee and one of our delicious homemade sweet treats made by Tori, China Blue's very own pastry chef.

china blue banner2

You can enjoy outdoor dining with us Monday-Saturday 9-4.30pm, Sunday 10.30-4pm. There is no need to book in advance as we have plenty of spaces available, but if you have any questions please do give us a call on 01803 860906, or drop us an email at wildthyme@china-blue.co.uk

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      
Skip to content