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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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.

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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. 

World’s first mobile library of things is launching in Devon

The Share Shed is a library of things, where over 350 items are available for members of the project to borrow at a minimal fee. The library’s collection is versatile and includes things such as camping and gardening equipment, tools, musical instruments, household appliances, bicycles, sewing machines, things for when a baby comes to visit and much more.  Thanks to the support from the Network of Wellbeing (NOW), The School for Social Entrepreneurs, and a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund, the Share Shed is about to launch the world's first mobile library of things, supporting the nearby towns from July 2020 onwards. Having been in Totnes for over three years, the Share Shed will extend its services to Buckfastleigh, Ashburton and Buckfastleigh. This pioneering initiative hopes to inspire and support a more collaborative and sustainable way of being.  Mirella Ferraz, NOW’s Project Coordinator, says “it’s very rewarding to support people getting things done in an affordable way, whilst helping to reduce the amount of resources we use. With the mobile version of the project, we’re excited to make the Share Shed accessible for even more people.” Currently over 700 people have signed up as Share Shed members, benefitting from the opportunity to access things that they don’t require regularly, and consequently saving money, space and resources. Among the most popular items, you can find carpet cleaners, pressure washers, electric drills, strimmers, a dehydrator, projector and a sewing machine.  Share Shed Manager, Mark Jefferys, says, “Everybody we meet seems to understand the concept of ‘borrow, don’t buy’, and it’s a great feeling when we can help somebody out with the things they need to complete a task, be it putting up a shelf, or getting a house ready for a sale. Expanding this possibility to other towns, and facilitating even more sharing is a great and exciting next step for us.” In the UK, the Share Shed is one of 14 established projects facilitating this kind of sharing. Some projects, like the Edinburgh Tool Library, are solely focused on tools (in this case, with an impressive offer of over 1,500 tools), whilst others are all about baby-related items or simply toys.  The good news is that this is a growing global movement, which acknowledges the importance of a different way of being and consuming, whilst fulfilling the need of those who want to access things rather than own stuff. Such a shift is supporting people and communities to become more collaborative and sustainable. After all, why buy when you can borrow?
Mobile Share Shed 15th June 2020 cropped
People can become a member of the Share Shed by signing up online and paying a membership fee (sliding scale between £5 and £30). Once a member, people can also place reservations straight away. To see everything the library of things offers and for further information, visit www.shareshed.org.uk. For any enquiries, contact info@shareshed.org.uk.

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.

REGISTER FOR FREE HERE:

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
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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.

THE SUMMER SIX – 50% OFF!

Keeping the kids entertained for 6 weeks can be expensive… right?!

So, to survive the six week holiday without spending a fortune, we will be running a weekly offer in our Paint Your Own Ceramic Studio.

Starting from Saturday 24th of July, there will be a 'pick of the week' with a huge discount of 50%.

week one
WEEK 1 - Zebra 
ONLY £6.57
week two
WEEK 2 - Dragon
ONLY £6.57
week three
WEEK 3 - Cat Money Box
ONLY £5.07
week four
WEEK 4 - Dog Shaped Dish 
ONLY £4.57
week five
WEEK 5 - A Mug
ONLY £4.57
week six
WEEK 6 - Fairy Riding a Unicorn 
ONLY £7.57

Pricing includes all paints, firing and glazing!

Make memories to last a lifetime and Colour Me Happy at China Blue!

Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer.

You can reserve a table to paint by:
Calling - 01803 860 908
Email - pyo@china-blue.co.uk 

Direct message us on Instagram -  here

www.china-blue.co.uk

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