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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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. 

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)

Transition Town Film Festival 18

Transition Town Film Festival 18 VISIONING THE FUTURE is our fourth film festival.
We have an amazing array of new or rarely seen films with real power and importance for our lives and communities - about climate change, our food, our politics, our environment, our wildlife - and our future. For the first time, the festival is being held over five days at three cinemas. At the Totnes Cinema there are three showings: Faces Places, Agnes Varda’s latest film and Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow, as well as a poetry, film and music event with Matt Harvey and jazz group Shadow Factory. Plus FREE cafe style screenings of short films by the Next Generation. The Barn Cinema at Dartington shows Bruce Parry’s Tawai as well as Albatross, revealing the effects of plastic on albatross chicks. At the Civic Hall The Worm is Turning charts the effects of chemical agriculture in India and In our Hands explores the idea of food sovereignty. Disturbing the Peace follows the transformation of Israeli and Palestinian fighters, from soldiers to peace activists. Power Trip highlights how media and lobby groups shape the public perception of fracking. Saturday evening honours the life of filmmaker & ocean conservationist Rob Stewart with Revolution followed by the UK PREMIERE of Sharkwater Extinction, which investigates the corruption of the pirate fishing industry. Just 37, Rob tragically died while making this film; his work highlights the environmental threats posed to the oceans & the world and the ways in which young people are helping to find solutions. In the centenary year of some women getting the vote in the UK over half our films are F-Rated: a classification for any film directed or written by a woman. What Tomorrow Brings observes one year at a girls’ school in an Afghan village. The Barefoot Artist chronicles Lily Yeh, a community artist in troubled areas. Nearer to home, 9 of our 13 shorts by young people carry the F rating. Most screenings offer discussion time with film-makers or local experts, including Rob Hopkins, Jacqi Hodgson and Guy Watson. Plus there are four free workshops for children and adults. We are very excited about our programme. Check out our website transitionfilmfestival and make it a date to come and join us!

The atmospheric town taken by the sea

Only 18 miles from Totnes the village of Hallsands near Kingsbridge in south Devon is the village that fell into the sea. To say the village is still there would be bending the truth slightly, however the remains (which are now closed) can still be seen from the safety of a viewing platform over the cliffs. No-one knows exactly when Hallsands was established although some say it was probably in about 1600 and growing in the 18th and 19th centuries. By 1891 it had 37 houses, the London Inn and a population of 159 with a very close community. Most residents owned their own homes and depended on fishing, mainly crab, for a living. It was a hazardous business with irregular earnings and frequent losses at sea. Everyone, including women and children, helped haul in the boats and nets. Everything was fine until the 1890s when the Admiralty decided that the naval dockyard at Keyham near Plymouth should be expanded which required hundreds of thousands of tons of concrete. In January 1896 the construction company Sir John Jackson Ltd was granted permission to dredge shingle from the coast between Hallsands and neighbouring Beesands. Many fishermen at the time, who knew the area offshore intimately, opposed the plans saying the dredging would alter the seabed as well as the beach and what was taken would certainly not be replaced. Despite the resident’s protestations dredging began in the spring of 1897 and during the next four years some 660,000 tonnes of material were removed. Activity was eventually paused when opposition from several fishing villages grew as they saw their shingle beaches being relentlessly carried away.  
It took 18 years from the start of the dredging to the final destruction of Hallsands village. It had been assumed that the removal of any shingle would be replaced naturally but we now know that the same shingle which protects the nearby villages of Beesands and Torcross was deposited thousands of years ago during the ice ages, and is not being replaced.
  An inquiry was established in response to protests from villagers who feared the dredging might threaten their beach and village, but dredging continued after it was decided that the activity was not likely to pose a significant threat. However by 1900 the level of the beach had started to fall and in the autumn storms that year, part of the sea wall was washed away. In November 1900, villagers petitioned their Member of Parliament, Frank Mildmay complaining of damage to their houses, and in March 1901 Kingsbridge Council wrote to the Board of Trade complaining of damage to the road. The Liberal MP for the area was extremely supportive of the residents of Hallsands and on more than one occasion offered his own money to help out the residents. In September 1901 a new Board of Trade inspector concluded that further severe storms could cause serious damage and recommended that dredging be stopped and on 8th January 1902 the dredging licence was revoked. On 26th January 1917 a combination of easterly gales and exceptionally high tides breached Hallsands' defences and the village fell into the sea! Miraculously no one was hurt but many families had to relocate to neighbouring villages having lost everything. Only one house was left standing after the destruction. The owner Elizabeth Prettyjohn stubbornly refused to leave and lived there with her chickens until her death in 1964. She acted as a guide to the visitors who came over the years curious to see the remains of the village. Today her house is used as a summer holiday home. Another famous Hallsands resident was Ella Trout together with her sisters Patience, Clara and Edith. When their fisherman father, William, became sick, Patience and then Ella gave up school and operated his boat which was the only source of income for the family. William died in 1910 when Ella was 15 years old. On 8th September 1917, after the Hallsands disaster, Ella was crab fishing with her 10 year old cousin William when they saw the SS Newholm struck by a naval mine one mile south of Start Point. With William Stone, another fisherman in the vicinity, they rowed to the scene and helped rescue nine men. In recognition of her bravery she received the Order of the British Empire. The sisters, with compensation for the destruction of their cottage at Hallsands plus some earnings, built Trout's Hotel on the cliff above the deserted village. The Trouts ran the hotel successfully until 1959. More recent owners moved down from London and attracted some of their well-known friends to stay including Danny La Rue and Larry Grayson, and for years their signed photographs hung on the walls of the dining room. The hotel has since been turned into apartments now called Prospect House. In more recent years the story of Hallsands has been turned into an opera called ‘Whirlwind’ commissioned by acclaimed company Streetwise Opera and written by Will Todd, one of the country’s leading young opera composers, and Ben Duwell, and has also featured in a book by Steve Melia called “Hallsands; A Village Betrayed”. You can walk to Hallsands from the villages of Beesands or Torcross following the South West Coast Path. Beesands, albeit a small village, has a café and toilets and free car parking. Torcross is bigger with a few cafes and a pub and more (charged) parking. Please note that you can no longer drive from Blackpool Sands to Slapton Sands and then on to Torcross because of the recent storms and road damage which in itself is somewhat ironic. Hallsands and Beesands are both walkable with a moderate degree of accessibility from Torcross, which has ample (paid) parking. Beesands however has free parking. If driving from Totnes head for Dartmouth, then Slapton and finally Torcross. If you want to travel by bus you can take the 164 to Kingsbridge or the X64 to Dartmouth and then catch the number 3 to Torcross. All routes joining the coastal villages are part of the South West Coast Path and therefore accessible at all times.
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