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. 

Slowing down fast fashion for a worthy cause…

. . . .Over £500 raised at local charity event for Breast Cancer Now


South Hams ladies helped raise £543 for Breast Cancer Now in the space of three hours, at the first-ever Sustainable Shopping event of its kind, hosted in Totnes on Thursday 28th March.

Popping up between 6pm -  9pm at Coffee Couture in the town centre, the event took place as part of fundraising efforts by a local young woman. Laura Quick, from Totnes, will be attempting her first marathon in London this April on behalf of Breast Cancer Now.

Guests were able to delve into a selection of one-off finds, participate in a lucky dip with a medley of beauty gifts and have the chance to win a variety of raffle prizes – with live music provided by local musician and Laura’s brother, Harry Quick.

All proceeds from the event, both from sales of donated clothes and the raffle prize draw, will go directly to the charity ahead of the 26.2-mile challenge, which will take place one month after the charity fundraiser on the 28th April 2019.

The local bar and coffee shop was transformed for one night only in a vintage-esque clothes emporium, with all hands-on deck to help from friends and family. A flurry of clothes were donated for the event, after local women gave wardrobes an early spring clean.

Laura said: “We want to say a huge thank you to everyone that came to the event and to everyone that took the time to go through wardrobes and make it possible in the first place. We are so grateful to local businesses for all the donations to the raffle, as the amazing line up of prizes definitely helped spur on purchases!

“Training for the marathon has been much harder than I thought, but I feel very lucky to be able to run and in turn, do something towards helping raise some money for such a brilliant charity. The work that the Breast Cancer Now team do is so important, not just for women diagnosed, but for the families that are affected and to help fund vital research to prevent it. The charity believes that if we all act now, by 2050, no one will die from breast cancer - so every pound raised is truly appreciated to help us all play a part in that. Couldn't have done it without the massive help of my family, friends and most importantly, my wonderful mum!”

Organisers where overwhelmed with the support from local businesses who kindly donated prizes to the raffle, including – Eco Laundry, Dartmouth Ice Cream, Moved to Move, Dart Marina Hotel & Spa, Bayards Cove Inn, Lovely as It Seams, local artist Becky Bettesworth, Austin’s Department Store, Boots in Newton Abbot, Vincent Trading, Hill House Nurseries, Woolston Accounts, Gem Rose Hair, The Design Sheppard, Liten Hem, Food for Thought and London based designers Fee Greening and Luke Edward Hall.


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).

Watersports in Totnes

As we move into 2019, being active and healthy is top of the agenda for many people. It can be a struggle to get motivated during winter, as gyms can be expensive as well as overcrowded and temperatures outside plummet, making outdoor exercise very unappealing.

Weaving healthy activities into a weekend away is a great way to stay active whilst having fun. From canoeing in the Isle of Wight to hiking in the Lake District, last-minute holiday marketplace, Snaptrip has compiled the best spots in the UK to get some fresh air and stay active this January.

Watersports in Totnes

Totnes is bursting with outstanding natural beauty. Sitting at the head of the estuary of the River Dart, it’s the perfect location for watersport enthusiasts. There’s plenty of spots perfect for paddle boarding or exploring the river by inflatable SUP. The river winds its way through both Dartmouth and Totnes, so there’s a chance to explore both towns too. Paddle the river during the summer months and you’ll be welcomed by rolling hills and flourishing greenery.

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