As well as being a key feature of the town’s picturesque landscape the River Dart has been an important part of trade in Totnes for hundreds of years. Today Totnes is a tourist hotspot but up until the late 20th century it was an important trading post on a busy river.

Wool and Wealth

Totnes owes much of its Elizabethan charm to the River Dart, the trade it enabled making many merchants rich and allowing them to build luxurious houses that still stand to this day. In the 16th century Wool and tin were the main exports, and helped Totnes to become the second wealthiest community in the country.

As Totnes failed to respond to new trends in cloth manufacturing, and tin production in Ashburton declined, the boom failed to last and trade on the river diminished. However, as of 1636 it was still rated the country’s fifth wealthiest community. As debris from the last of the tin mines made it difficult to navigate the river, traders started to go to Dartmouth instead.

Plains Sailing

It may not have recaptured the town’s Elizabethan heyday but the area of Totnes now known as The Plains was once a thriving district of factories exporting the goods they produced via The Dart. Notable businesses included cider makers Bentall, Lloyd and Co, and Symons and Co. Today upmarket residences can now be found where the factories once stood.

Although the coming of the railway reduced the demand for traders on the river the Dart remains an important part of the town’s economy as a tourist attraction. Anyone visiting Totnes can make the most of the beautiful river, whether it’s by hiring a canoe, walking along its banks, or taking a cruise down to Dartmouth.

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Totnes and surrounding area in the Spotlight . . .

Written by Jeremy Holloway, Visit Totnes Informtion Officer Totnes, and the surrounding South Devon area, has often had a starring role in films and television series. Churches, historic houses, ferries, even harpoon guns, carnivorous crabs and suicidal fish, they’ve all played their part. Down the River Dart from Totnes is “Lighthaven”, as featured in the television series The Coroner, a town better known as Dartmouth to locals of course. The hit daytime show stars Claire Goose as single mum Jane Kennedy who returns to her hometown to investigate murders alongside childhood sweetheart Detective Sergeant Davey Higgins. Producer Sandra MacIver says “We wanted to feature Dartmouth as a major location as it’s so beautiful and the view across to Kingswear is breath-taking. The way the light twinkles across the River Dart always makes it feel like summertime, even in February. The slogan we use for The Coroner is ‘summer holidays all day long every day’. "Dartmouth provided us with a town feel to our fictional Lighthaven,” says Sandra. “We’re made very welcome by the locals. They help us out a lot and we in turn we try and keep ourselves discreet and not get in the way of the busy town.” Amoungst other sites used in the filming of The Coroner are Blackpool Sands, Leonards Cove, Slapton Sands, Bellever Forest, Bonehill Rocks, Hound Tor and Salcome. And not forgetting the Dartington Estate of course as this features regularly throughout the series, and is where The Coroner’s production office was based. Dartmouth is not of course new to being featured on television as it was also used for the Onedin Line, a 1970s BBC shipping drama set in Liverpool. Bayards Fort, the scene of many TV series, was used in the series and is at the far end of Bayards Cove from whence to Pilgrim Fathers sailed a long, long time ago. Further along the coast at both Bigbury on Sea and Burgh Island Agatha Christie’s two famous sleuths and acclaimed crime-solvers Poirot and Miss Marple have been filmed, starring David Suchet and Geraldine McEwan respectively. The beach at Bigbury on Sea has also been seen in television shows such as the 1980s' classic Lovejoy and GMTV's slimming segment Inch Loss Island (starring Anton du Beke). As well as the setting for various adaptations of Christie's Evil Under The Sun, the location also featured in the 1965 film Catch Us If You Can, starring the British band The Dave Clark Five. Further along the coast is the port and seaside town of Teignmouth, used for The Mercy, the Donald Crowhurst Movie. Filmed in Teignmouth in June 2015 and starring Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz the film tells the story of the doomed yachtsman Donald Crowhurst. The film was released in February 2018. Moving inland as far as the parish of Marldon, in the small village of Compton, Compton Castle was used as the estate of one of the characters in the film Sense and Sensibility. Sense and Sensibility was a hit screenplay directed by Ang Lee and based on the Jane Austen novel. With an all-star cast, featuring Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet and Hugh Grant it managed to be nominated for seven Academy Awards with Emma Thompson scooping the Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, having written the script as well as staring in the film herself. St Mary's Church in Berry Pomeroy also makes an appearance in the final wedding scene of the film and is situated not far from Totnes. Built in the 1490's this historical building is still a large part of the community at Berry Pomeroy. Nearby is Berry Pomeroy Castle, rumoured to be one of the most haunted places in England, making the Castle and St Mary's Church a great day out for film lovers and history buffs. Moving even further inland and thanks to the release of the popular film War Horse, co-produced and directed by Steven Spielberg, Dartmoor National Park is now a must see destination when coming for a holiday in South Devon. The box-office hit, released in the UK on 13th January 2012, focuses on the captivating story of a farm boy from Devon, Albert Narracott (played by Jeremy Irvine) who grows attached to his young horse, Joey. After a heavy downpour which destroys the family’s turnip crops, his father, is forced to sell the horse to the army so that he can pay his rent. The blockbuster takes the audience through a moving journey about how Albert joins the army in search for his horse Joey after he is shipped to France during the First World War. Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston have roles in the movie. Locations used included Haytor, Combestone Tor, Venford Reservoir, Meavy and Sheepstor. Spielberg praised the beauty of Dartmoor, saying "I have never before, in my long and eclectic career, been gifted with such an abundance of natural beauty as I experienced filming War Horse on Dartmoor." Many of the locations used in War Horse are in rural areas on Dartmoor but are still within a short driving distance of Totnes.    

World Breastfeeding Week begins

Mums on a Mission… Totnes on its way to becoming UK’s most breastfeeding friendly town as World Breastfeeding Week begins As World Breastfeeding Week begins on Wednesday 1st August, two mumpreneurs from Devon are delighted to announce that they are on their way to making Totnes the UK’s most breastfeeding friendly town. On a mission to improve breastfeeding rates in the UK, which has according to UNICEF some of the lowest in the world, working mums Lisa Lessware and Philippa Doyle launched their ‘Breastfeed Here with Confidence’ scheme in March. Widely known for its unique vibe and independent spirit, nearly every cafe and eatery on Totnes high street is now displaying the latest breastfeeding friendly badge. Over 40 cafes, eateries and businesses have signed up to the ‘Breastfeed Here with Confidence’ scheme in Totnes alone, all highlighting their support of breastfeeding mums. Both the NHS and UNICEF list embarrassment at feeding in public as a major barrier to breastfeeding and Lisa and Philippa wanted to do more to minimise this, helping mums be safe in the knowledge that they can do so with confidence.   blog   Lisa and Philippa are welcoming nominations for new establishments to display the badge. Gathering with local mums in Totnes to celebrate putting Totnes on the map as the UK’s most breastfeeding friendly town, they said – “We want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been so supportive of the scheme, we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response and passion to show support to breastfeeding mums. The ‘Breastfeed Here with Confidence’ scheme is so important not just for mums, but to let all customers and diners that walk through the door to know that it is a breastfeeding friendly space. The more women who feel able to breastfeed confidently in public, the more normal it will become.”   blog 2     Lisa and Philippa celebrate putting Totnes on the map as one of the most breastfeeding friendly towns in the UK with local mums, ahead of World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August) The family friendly destination store, Dobbies Garden Centres, became the first official national retailer to sign up to the Bshirt ‘Breastfeed Here with Confidence’ scheme during National Breastfeeding Week in June, with the badge becoming a permanent fixture in all 34 centres throughout the UK. The scheme has been commended by leading breastfeeding specialist, trained nurse and midwife, Clare Byam-Cook. Author of the top breastfeeding guide 'What to Expect When You're Breastfeeding and What If You Can't?', Clare is a regular main speaker at The Baby Show and an expert on many sites including Annabel Karmel. Commenting on the launch of the latest scheme, Clare said: “It is well-documented that many mothers feel apprehensive about breastfeeding in public. I am delighted to support this initiative, which I hope will encourage more mothers to feel confident that, whenever they see this badge they can be assured that breastfeeding is encouraged and they will receive a warm welcome. I hope this idea takes off and that many businesses will display this badge.” blog 3 The ’Breastfeed Here with Confidence’ badge on display at Delphini's Gelato in Totnes Signups in Totnes range from cafes, restaurants, business and shops, including - Rumour, The Curator Cafe, Waterside Bistro, Hairy Barista, Maisie’s Cafe, Hill House, Mange Tout, Saveurs, South Hams Citizens Advice Bureau, The Old Bakery, Pie Street, Room 101, Seeds Bakery, The Cornish Pasty Co, Delphini's, Zero Waste, Woods Bistro, Rare Breeds Farm and Willow to name just a few. In and around the South Hams, the response has been equally positive with the likes of Riverford Field Kitchen and The Venus Company displaying the badge. blog 4   With the world spotlight on breastfeeding, the news follows the US announcement that it is now legal to breastfeed in public everywhere in the United States, following the passing of laws to legalise public breastfeeding in Idaho and Utah. Lisa and Philippa are looking forward to welcoming even more businesses to the scheme in the South Hams and beyond to help women in the UK breastfeed with confidence. To read more about the Bshirt’s ‘Breastfeed Here with Confidence’ scheme, register interest or nominate a venue to display the badge, visit breastfeedwithconfidence.org.uk. blog 5    

Swap bricks for canvas this summer

Did you know it’s National Camping Month? With the hustle and bustle of life and many of us relying so heavily on our phones and other electrical devices, what better way to switch off and relax than to take to the great outdoors and go camping or glamping. Put the phone down and listen to the birds sing, take away the ipads and build a den with the kids, and get away from the TV to gaze at the stars. With June being National Camping Month there’s no better time to try it - whether a first-timer or camping aficionado, there are many places in and around Totnes where you can escape to the country and get back to nature. Higher Broadgates Campsite is based in the beautiful village of Cornworthy, just 20 minutes from Totnes, where you can secure a pitch on their flat, working farmland for only £10 for 2 people. If you’d like all the joys of sleeping al fresco but you’re not ready to bunk in a sleeping bag, they also have 2 Bell Tents which offer many homely comforts including beds, fairy lights, BBQ, hamper and games costing £55 a night. The family run farm has a toilet and shower for visitors to use and is dog-friendly as well, offering the perfect excuse for a long, country walk. Just 3 miles from Totnes in the village of Littlehempston, Devon Yurts offers an excellent base for a short break or longer holidjay with their comfortably furnished traditional Mongolian yurts and beautifully rustic Shepherd’s Hut. Visitors will be able to cook a hot meal on site in the communal kitchen, toast marshmallows on a campfire or dine in one of the traditional, local pubs, while enjoying on site comforts including fully flushing toilets, hot showers and solar power. Prices start from £50 per night for 2 people in low season. If you’re camping on a budget and have all of your own equipment, Beara Farm is the perfect place to pitch up a tent or park your campervan. This 3.5 acre level meadow is only a 15 minute drive from Totnes just outside of Buckfastleigh, or if you’d prefer a more leisurely journey you can take an historic steam train from South Devon Railway which is a 30 minute walk or 5 minute drive from the campsite. At Camp Dartington just outside of Totnes you can wake up to views of Dartmoor, wander through 1,200 acres of stunning woodland and listed gardens, and enjoy many delicious treats at one of the onsite cafes and Shops at Dartington. The site also boasts a traditional 14th Century Barn Cinema and goat’s milk ice cream made fresh at Dartington Dairy! Other local sites include Steamer Quay Caravan in Totnes itself, Broadleigh Farm Caravan Park and Higher Well Farm & Holiday Park both near Stoke Gabriel. So consider swapping bricks for canvas this summer, breathe in the fresh Devonshire air and stomp your stresses away in the countryside.