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.

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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. 

The Bull Inn, Totnes

A radical new organic inn for Devon, squaring up to the seasonal veg hijackers and leading the way in doing business better. Is it possible for a pub to lead the way in sustainable food and ethical hospitality? It can, says organic publican Geetie Singh- Watson, provided fairness and authenticity as well as profit are at its heart. Geetie and the team behind the eight-bedroom organic inn aim to show through their actions that it’s possible to make choices based on decent values while being a serious player. Jump back 23 years when Geetie started out in the pub industry, ethical working practises weren’t even part of the industry agenda. Now, at least, the hospitality trade has woken up to the fact it needs to seriously shift its priorities. But there’s still far too much chat and not enough action. On the whole, it scores low when it comes to green thinking. Half-hearted requests to reuse towels aside, staggering water usage and eye-watering food waste are still the norm. In contrast The Bull Inn in Totnes, Devon will reopen its doors in early December 2019 after complete renovation, but this is not your usual we’ve-done-up-a-gastropub story. You will never see a generic foodservice delivery van outside, only farmers, co-ops and artisan producers making deliveries, and there will never be a packaged snack or bottled, transported water served at the bar. Instead this is an inn whose relationship with its community and its impact on the environment is as refreshingly engaged and honest and as you can hope to find. The inn aims to be sustainable to its core; with manager Phill Hughes and chef James Dodd at the helm the food served will be organic and the sourcing will be rooted in a logic that acknowledges the complexity of what we need to do to feed ourselves sustainably, but without being martyrs. This is a pub where you won’t find menu marketing greenwash. “The term ‘local, seasonal veg’ has been completely hi-jacked and is bandied around and abused so much that it now means nothing. A season for what? So often when you challenge places serving so called seasonal food it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. But we won’t be serving woody turnips in April when the UK crops run out; instead we will source beautiful veg from farmers we know further afield around the UK, Europe, alongside Fair Trade tropical fruit. But will never air freight and will never say we are something we are not,” explains Geetie. With no whiff of a theme or fairy light in sight the inn has been revived using upcycled, recycled and reinvigorated décor, from tables and curtains to radiators and doorknobs. The team is proving that new is not always best, that craftmanship should be valued above all instead of seeking homewares manufactured far away with cheap labour to feed the latest style trends. “We’ve got to find a way to live and enjoy life sustainably, and I believe that’s an exciting thing. We need to push ourselves out of the way we have always done things; Like all other business areas hospitality needs shaking up. Our aim with The Bull is to show that you can work with integrity and succeed,” Explains Geetie. The opening comes at a time of social and political upheaval in the UK, and the hope is that The Bull will be a beacon of togetherness and inclusivity for the Totnes community, visiting travellers and the team that works there. It will be a proper inn and a decent boozer, where brilliant food, ale and wine will jostle alongside a raft of community goings on. “I want to prove you can be radical, effective and have a positive impact on society and the environment while running a successful business too. It is not impossible!” continues Geetie. “We don’t claim we are perfect but we are trying our absolute best. You have to have hope that there is a better way.” This is Geetie’s fourth pub refurbishment, with the first being the iconic Duke of Cambridge in Islington. Organic since the beginning, Geetie was trailblazing sustainable business and thoughtful food in the 1990s, way before anyone gave a second thought to plastic straws and bottled water. Having said all that, The Bull is not a place steeped in worthiness; There will be plenty of fun there too. “By that I mean fun for all – the team, the suppliers, the customers. Fun should spread. It has always been a really strong motivator for me. Everything should always come back to doing things well and watching others getting fun out of it too.“ www.bullinntotnes.co.uk The Bull Inn will open its doors on 1st December 2019. Alongside amazing food and rooms, we have a beautiful on-site treatment space. Sharing the same sustainability values as The Bull, Sarah Carr and Jo Woolvett will be offering natural beauty treatments and holistic facials for men and women. Walking the walk: • Heat capture systems in the kitchen to create hot water downstairs • Solar capture on the roof to power heating in the bedrooms • 100% organic linens from Greenfibres in the eight bedrooms • Bedside lamps carved from Dartmoor wood by local craftsman Rodney Lomas • Ceramics by local artisan Pippi & Me • Mattresses from Naturalmat in Exeter About Geetie Singh-Watson MBE Geetie Singh-Watson is the founder of the first official organic pub in Britain, The Duke of Cambridge Organic Pub, in Islington, London. In 2009, she was awarded an MBE for ‘Services to the Organic Pub Trade’. An active campaigner and environmentalist, Geetie firmly believes that businesses must act responsibly and be led by their ethics and values. Her broadcast work includes presenting on BBC Back to the Land.

South Devon Rail secure £124,800 in funding

Congratulations to the South Devon Railway as they have just received confirmation of a significant National Lottery grant of £124,800 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. The organisation which operates steam trains from across the River Dart in Totnes, plans to spend the money on some exciting heritage projects and aim to re-open in December. Dick Wood, Public Relations Officer said, ‘The money be used for various maintenance projects and will provide immediate help with the costs of re-opening the line which has sadly been unable to run for over six months now. We plan to re-start with the 'Polar Express™' trains for the Christmas period.’  Part of the money will be used to upgrade the railway’s museum at the Buckfastleigh station, which is where the steam train takes visitors from Totnes via Staverton.  The South Devon Railway is the oldest heritage railway in the West Country having re-opened in 1969, which usually welcomes up to 100,000 visitors every year. It is a registered charity with a small number of paid staff and over 600 volunteers who run the railway every day from March to October, Christmas and New Year.

The Dart and Totnes – Bridges and Bridgetown

Flowing from two sources on Dartmoor, down to the sea at Dartmouth, Totnes is an important stop along the River Dart situated between the moors and the river's mouth. The town offers an excellent jumping off point for exploration of the river whether by foot, boat or canoe, and is the point where it becomes tidal. Even for those who just want to admire the river without getting their feet wet there are many ways to enjoy the Dart, and many things Totnes has to thank the river for – and the two bridges crossing it. Bridges and Bridgetown Totnes Bridge has the honour of being the last bridge to cross the Dart before it reaches open sea, as plans to build a railway bridge across the river mouth from Kingswear to Dartmouth in the late 1900s never came to fruition. There have been multiple bridges across the river in Totnes beginning with a river ford and evolving to the familiar stone bridge today. It was once a toll bridge that separated Bridgetown from Totnes until it was opened up on October 31st 1881 for everyone to cross. A second bridge was built in 1982 and although less picturesque than the older bridge was necessary for the increasing amounts of traffic passing through Totnes and across the Dart. It is named the Brutus Bridge after the legendary founder of the town. Whichever side of the bridge you're on there are many places to enjoy the river from. Vire Island is worth a visit for anyone looking for a nice spot to enjoy a picnic. Although not a proper island the 400m peninsula is named after the French town Totnes is twinned with (not Narnia) and is the perfect spot for contemplating the river from in the summer. And there are plenty of restaurants  and cafes to eat or enjoy a drink in, high tide or low, rain or shine.
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