After the South Devon Railway (SDR) stopped running Mince Pie trains after Christmas on Wednesday 1 January, work began in earnest on the winter track renewal plan between Staverton and Totnes where approximately 1/3 mile of old track will be re-laid with new flat bottom rail instead which will help ease future maintenance and cost considerably.

And, with the SDR needing to undertake such a large, on-going programme of important work on both the railway track and locos and rolling stock over the winter period and into 2020, a reluctant decision was made last year not to run any train services over the coming February half-term period.

That said, the SDR was well aware that a good number of visitors and local people will probably still arrive at the railway during the February school holiday and be expecting to see the line in Springtime despite there being no advertised services running. An SDR spokesman said:

“Many people will expect the SDR to be open for business in February simply because we always have been in recent years when they can enjoy the glorious display of early Spring  line-side flowers and open views of the river, so the SDR felt it’s important that something is provided for people to see and do rather than them simply finding that the railway was closed and then being disappointed.

“Whilst there was no way a normal pattern of train operation could be provided without causing serious disruption to the tight schedule of vital winter works, and following a series of detailed discussions with all of the departments involved, a plan has just been drawn up which will see a limited train service for visitors with just minimal disturbance of important winter works.

“As a result, diesel rail-car No.W55000, affectionately known as the ‘Bubblecar’ due to its great all-round visibility, will operate a limited shuttle service each day from Saturday 15th February to Sunday 23rd February between Buckfastleigh and Staverton only.

South Devon Railway


“Trains will be running every 45 minutes with the first one leaving Buckfastleigh at 10:30 and the last one departing at 15:25, with a slightly extended break at lunchtime. In addition, it’s planned to stable a static steam locomotive in the platform at Buckfastleigh where the loco’s footplate will be accessible for visitors to inspect.  Totnes station will remain closed however.

“This compromise solution will give some level of service to valued visitors and locals whilst minimizing the disruption to the winter work programmes for the SDR’s locomotive, carriage & wagon, and civil engineers. The Buckfastleigh café and shop will also be open and, subject to weather, the gardens will also be accessible and, in addition, it’s hoped that the museum can be opened too.”

Please check the SDR website for more details at: www.southdevonrailway.co.uk and some colour photos are attached for your use of the Bubblecar courtesy of Sarah Anne Harvey.


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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. 

Dartmoor Otters and Buckfast Butterflies

Tucked away down a siding of one of Devon’s beloved steam railways is a conservation project helping to reintroduce endangered species to the wild. The Dartmoor Otters and Buckfast Butterflies Sanctuary at Buckfastleigh is a small visitor attraction where you can learn about these beautiful creatures and the important work happening to protect them. We were invited to review the sanctuary by Visit Totnes. This was our first mini-adventure of the summer holidays and the girls and I had roped in Tin Box Grandma and Grandpa for the experience. None of us had been to the sanctuary before despite riding the South Devon Railway between Buckfastleigh and Totnes on other occasions. Tickets are available to combine the train, otter sanctuary and Totnes Rare Breeds Farm at the other end of the track. Together they make a full family day out in South Devon. Read more about Dartmoor Otters and Buckfast Butterflies 

A UK first in Totnes

Totnes has always attracted forward-thinking businesses with social responsibility at the core. Earth.Food.Love is the UK’s only, family-run, organic, bulk-buy, zero waste shop! Focusing on creating a better future, they decided to look back to the past, where eating real food with minimal packaging was normal practice. They believe returning to these simple ways will benefit not only our own health, but the planets too. The shop stocks a wide range of products such as grains, cereals, beans, legumes, flours, sugars, herbs, spices, loose leaf teas, nut butters, syrups, oils, vinegars, cleaning products and personal care products. Everything is self served and priced by weight, eliminating the toxic and wasteful packaging. Just take along any bottle, jar, tub or container; if it can be weighed, it can be used. Earth.Food.Love is located at 101 High St, to find out further information check out their website thezerowasteshop. You can keep up to date by by liking their The Zero Waste Shop Facebook page.

Celebrating English Wine Week

At Sharpham we are constantly working to improve and to consistently produce wine that shows off our unique vineyard site in South Devon. This means respecting the land in order to grow the best fruit and then to retain the quality with careful winemaking in the winery. As a result of this, we have just been awarded a gold medal at the Sommelier Wine Awards for our Dart Valley Reserve 2017.

This fruit driven white wine is a blend of predominantly Madeleine Angevine and a touch of Bacchus. It offers ripe fruit characteristics of peach and gooseberry and is well balanced with a soft acidity lending itself well to many of the great local seafood dishes. It is also a great pairing with our rich and full flavoured Jersey milk cheeses with that ripe acidity cutting through creamy flavours of the cheese.

A wine we’re so excited about is our new Pinot Noir red from 2018 which really does capture that amazing summer in the glass and shows a lot of promise for English red winemaking.


Harvesting the grapes at Sharpham Wine

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