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.

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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.

fish finger

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

Sharpham people join The Eden Project’s Festival of Discovery

Representatives of the rewilding happening on the Sharpham Estate are taking part in a virtual Eden Project event alongside Sir David Attenborough, designer Wayne Hemingway and Eden Project founder Sir Tim Smit.

Julian Carnell, director of The Sharpham Trust, and Simon Roper, director of Sharpham-based nature conservation organisation Ambios are participating in the 2021 Festival of Discovery – a free, online event for everyone running from November 11-13.

This year’s event coincides with the end of the COP26 climate conference and the focus of this year’s Festival of Discovery is on climate change and the environment.

The festival includes talks and inspirational speakers, ideas on actions, case studies and success stories, creativity and children’s activities.

Simon and Julian are on the discussion panel Rewilding: Letting Nature Lead The Way, taking place on Friday 12 November at 11.30am as part of the Hot Topics in the Tropics talk sessions.

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Said Julian: “Quite rightly the airwaves are full of the hopes and fears associated with the climate crisis and the meeting of world leaders in Glasgow at COP26.”

“At Sharpham we believe that climate change cannot be separated from the myriad threats affecting biodiversity around the world or from the mental health crisis that has intensified during the pandemic,” said Julian. “These emergencies are in fact interrelated and we need to address them together if we are to affect real positive change.

“The heart of our work is trying to connect people to the natural world. It is only by accepting that we are all part of nature rather than separate to it that we will begin to tackle the crisis facing us.”

Julian Carnell Sharpham Trust Director
Julian Carnell Sharpham Trust Director

Affecting positive change at Sharpham

Both The Sharpham Trust and Ambios Ltd are partners in rewilding 50 acres of The Sharpham Estate, in a project named Wild for People that has been funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The project is in its second year and already increases in insects, birds, wildflowers and grasses have been monitored on the land, which runs alongside the River Dart 3 miles from Totnes, South Devon.

Said Simon, whose organisation trains people in nature conservation: “Rewilding is about all of us finding ways to create, live and work within healthy, flourishing ecosystems. The word ‘within’ is really important; we see ourselves as separate from nature at our peril. That's the clear message from COP26.”

“At Sharpham we are actively making space for nature while also training the next generation of wildlife professionals. Part of our task is to allow our trainees to explore the knowledge and skills they need to make the most of rewilding in whatever form that takes and it will be different in different places.

“There is a much-needed message of hope within the rewilding concept; an achievable vision of the future where people see themselves as part of a rich and diverse natural world which is our life support system. Rewilding will bring forward much needed positive actions to address the ecological emergency and climate crisis. We are a small part of that, and from each small acorn, great trees grow!"

Simon Roper Ambios Director
Simon Roper Ambios Director

More about the Festival of Discovery

The event is a free, three-day online festival where participants will “discuss COP26, debate ideas for a more sustainable future, share top tips and eco-activities you can do at home, and celebrate what’s great about life and this planet”.

Eden Communities, which is running the event, say: “From community projects making a difference to live music, from panel sessions and workshops to yoga and meditation sessions, there’s something for everyone as we explore what we can do together for the planet”.

Special guest speakers in the Hot Topics in the Tropics talk sessions include

• Esteemed TV ecologist Sir David Attenborough, influential biologist E. O. Wilson and Eden Project founder Sir Tim Smit, who will be in a session called How to Save The Natural World
• Designer Wayne Hemingway, in a panel called Slow Fashion: Quality over Quantity
• Actor Rosie Day, in a discussion called How Women Can Change The World

The panel Rewilding: Letting Nature Lead The Way also includes

• Derek Gow, farmer, nature conservationist, and author of Bringing Back the Beaver
• Helen Meech, Head of Movement Building at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
• Ivan de Klee, Rewilding Consultant at Knepp Wildland, a high-profile rewilding success story
• Peter Cairns, from SCOTLAND: The Big Picture, a charity that works to drive the recovery of nature across Scotland through rewilding

Last year the Festival of Discovery welcomed around 25,000 visitors and its content notched up more than 400,000 YouTube views.

Sir Francis Drake and the Totnes Orange Race

Sir Francis Drake is famous for many things – he helped defeat the Spanish Armada, brought the potato to England, and when he wasn't messing round with spuds inadvertently started Totnes's famous orange race. On the third Tuesday of every August crowds gather to watch participants chase their juicy citrus fruits down the high street. And it all started when Drake didn't dodge a delivery boy.

A juicy legend

The story goes that Sir Francis Drake bumped into a delivery boy carrying a basket of oranges at the top of town, sending the citruses tumbling down the hill. Because oranges were an exotic and expensive fruit at the time all the town's children decided to chase after them and a legend was born. Another version of the story, which identifies the boy as John Hayman, says that Drake offered him an orange which he dropped (perhaps in surprise as he had not seen an orange before) and let roll down the hill. It wasn't until the 1970s however that the first modern race was held, organised by the Totnes Elizabethan society.

Orange Tuesdays

Although the origins of the race may be legendary, the one rule is very real - competitors cannot carry their orange. They can however kick, throw, or roll it to get ahead. And if you're wondering how judges tell the oranges apart they don't – the rule is simply that the first person to cross the finish line with an intact orange wins. The course runs for 450 metres from the Market Square and everyone is welcome to join. Younger participants race from the top of the high street and finish at the market square, for older ones the finish line is at the Seven Stars hotel. Winners get trophies and the satisfaction that they can run faster than a piece of fruit, and afterwards a charity auction is held. Of course oranges aren't quite as valuable now, and if you don't fancy running down the hill after one you can walk into one of the town's food shops and find a zesty treat.

Totnes Pride set to be bloomin’ marvellous!

proud 3

The historic market town of Totnes in Devon is set to host the sixth Totnes Pride on Saturday 1st September 2018.

Social enterprise Proud2Be is laying on a whole host of events, which will bring the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and/or asexual+ (LGBTQIA+) community together with their allies, to celebrate diversity in the town.

This year’s theme is ‘Marsha Was Her Name’. In a recent blog post, Proud2Be Co-founders Jae and Max Price revealed the meaning behind the theme:

‘Marsha P. Johnson is an important figure in LGBTQIA+ history. Too often the actions of Marsha and those like her are ignored, erased and hidden; not just from what we are taught at school but in how our history is spoken about, sometimes from even within our community. It’s for this reason that we are really excited to have the opportunity to honour Marsha and those like her at this year’s Totnes Pride.’

‘Marsha’s legacy reminds us of what Pride is truly about. It is a celebration of who we are. It is a reminder of where we have come from. It is a statement of where we are going. Marsha often wore flowers in her hair, so this year we invite everyone to hold, wear and/or decorate themselves in flowers!’

This year’s special guests are Human Rights Activist, Feminist and founder of African Rainbow Family Aderonke Apata and Film makers (My Genderation) and trans campaigners Fox and Owl.

proud

Fox and Owl

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Aderonke Apata

The day kicks off at 10.45am outside The Dartmouth Inn with a special performance from Spectrum Choir and opening speeches. The award-winning Samba ROC Band, will then lead a procession up Fore Street and High Street to Totnes Civic Hall at 11.30am. The road closure will be in place between 10.30am – 1pm at Ticklemore Street and from the bottom of Fore Street up to where the High Street meets Castle Street.

Community bus service Bob the Bus will be running a park and ride service from 10am at King Edward VI Community College (KEVICC) and will also be transporting wheelchair users and those with mobility issues up the procession at 11.15.

It is at the Civic Hall from midday, where visitors can enjoy workshops, talks and live music, community stalls, Dot’s Cafe, a youth space and a variety of family-friendly activities including art and craft, slime making, face painting and much more.

There will be a panel discussion from 3:00pm at Pie Street, where local and national activists will discuss the theme: ‘Can We Be Proud of Pride?’.

There will be registered British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters present to interpret the opening speeches and the panel discussion.

The fun continues into the evening at Totnes Pride After Party from 7.00pm at Totnes Civic Hall, which will be hosted by The Ambiguous A and feature live music from popular Disco Funk band Golddust and DJ sets from Mamma Boogie Oogie, Rhi Rhi Rhythm and Madame Souza.

Due to a successful bid to People’s Health Trust using money raised by HealthContact through The Health Lottery, entry to all daytime events are free. Tickets to the After Party are £10.00 (16 and over) and are available to purchase online and at Totnes Pride day event.

To mark the event Totnes Town Council will once again, raise the rainbow flag over Totnes Civic Hall. The flag raising ceremony will take place on Monday 27th August at 6.30pm, followed by a Totnes LGBTQIA+ History Tour led by local Writer, Historian and Publisher Bob Mann.

Inspired by their own experiences of bullying, discrimination and shame- identical twins Jae & Max Price set up Proud2Be in 2011 when they recorded the first Proud2Be video. Since then various public figures and members of the public have contributed to the campaign.

As well as campaigning and hosting Totnes Pride, Proud2Be facilitates various groups and events, including a social group, activity days, fundraiser discos and more. In 2014 Proud2Be launched its youth project which now includes a youth group and a counselling & mentoring service.

Proud2Be delivers workshops to school students and awareness training to organisations around the UK.

About this year’s event, Proud2Be co-founder Max said:

“The Pride Action Group have been working tirelessly for the past year to ensure that Totnes Pride continues to be an event that we can all be proud of. For us, Pride is both a celebration and a protest and we invite everyone to come and join us for the sixth Pride in the town.”

Proud2Be are looking for volunteers to help out on the day. If you would like to get involved, please email Jules & Dot at volunteer@proud2be.co.uk.

Proud2Be are also encouraging local businesses and residents to show their support by displaying rainbow flags during the week of Pride. These are available to buy for £7 from Proud2Be.

To find out more about Totnes Pride or to buy an After-Party ticket, please visit totnespride.co.uk or email info@proud2be.co.uk.

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