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.

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Focus on Fitness!

Totnes Pavilion Leisure Centre has seen many changes in the last twenty months with these being extremely positive in the last six months. They are offering you a chance to register for a free day pass so that you can try the facilities for yourself and find out more about what they have to offer. Before the current management structure under Fusion Lifestyle was agreed in 2017 the site was being managed by two separate organisations. The Pool, Gym and Sauna by Totnes and District Swimming Pool Association (TADpool) and the Reception, Sports Hall, Dance Studio, Meeting Room, Tennis Courts and outdoor pitches by Tone Leisure Ltd. Even prior to 2006 the site had been under the control of TADpool and South Hams District Council. Despite the dual management arrangement having many positives over a number of years the flaws in the partnership started to show. A combined approach under the management of one organisation was the ultimate solution which has now enabled a longer-term business plan to be activated allowing some previously hard to come by investment. Fusion Lifestyle, a London based not for profit organisation with over 80 sites in their portfolio, were contracted to take on the management of the site and to draw up plans for updating the facilities. This has led to the following investments so far with the expectation of more to come in a phase two development (tbc). May 2018 o New pool filters and a circulation pump which has improved water quality, temperature and reliability issues o New Sauna installed and opened July/August 2018 o Main entrance/facade repainted o Fitness Class Studio extended and redecorated o New equipment added for fitness classes o Fitness suite redecorated and a completely new set of equipment installed September 2018 o New accessibility Hoist for the Swimming Pool installed To register for a free day pass and to find more information on the centre click here

48 hours in Totnes

Set in the heart of South Devon, between the wilds of Dartmoor and the sparkling waters of Start Bay, lies the bohemian market town of Totnes.

Easily accessible by train in under three hours from London, and with no need for a car while you’re there, Totnes is the perfect spot for a weekend break spent exploring the town’s independent shops and restaurants, fascinating markets and vibrant culture and music scene.

What’s more, a self-catering holiday property in Totnes with Toad Hall Cottages gives you the freedom to discover the town at your own pace, and after a long day exploring, you can relax and unwind in your very own home from home.


Day one
Having arrived and settled into your holiday cottage the night before, it’s time to start exploring!

Retail Therapy
Shops and markets flourish in Totnes, which flies the flag for Fairtrade and ethical retail. You can easily lose a contented morning browsing the unique gift shops and galleries that line the steep high street, or exploring the regular Friday and Saturday markets in Civic Square for unusual gifts.

Café Scene
Having worked up an appetite you’ll be spoilt for choice for lunching spots in Totnes from its chic restaurants and bistros to its vibrant cafés and delicatessens, this really is a foodie’s heaven. Choose from authentic Italian at The Curator Café & Kitchen, inventive vegetarian dishes at Willow or Seeds 2, or a leisurely lunch overlooking the river at Waterside Bistro as well as many more fantastic independent cafés and eateries.

The High Street

Ghost Cats, Castles & Cromwell
A good place to start discovering the rich and colourful heritage of Totnes is at the Totnes Museum on Fore Street. Here you can take a tour around a medieval kitchen and climb the iconic spiral staircase carved from a ship’s mast. The museum is also said to be home to a feline ghost with visitors regularly reporting to have felt the tail of an invisible cat against their legs while viewing the exhibits here!

From the museum, head to the nearby Grade I listed 16th-century guildhall on Ramparts Walk, one of Totnes’ most historic buildings. Home of the town council for over 450 years, this Tudor building still houses the table where Oliver Cromwell sat in 1646 during the final throes of the English Civil War.
And what better way to end your afternoon of discovery than a visit to Totnes Castle.

Standing strategically at the top of town, with far-reaching views across the town and beautiful Dart Valley, Totnes Castle is an immaculately preserved example of a Norman motte-and-bailey fortress and well worth a visit.

Live Music
If you still have some energy left after your busy day exploring, Totnes has a thriving and varied live music scene. So if you’re partial to a live gig head out in the evening to The Barrel House, The Bay Horse Inn or The Dartmouth Inn which all hold regular music nights to suit all tastes.


Day two

Pygmy Goats, Eagle Owls and Steam Trains
After a lazy Sunday morning breakfast at your holiday property, head to Totnes Rare Breeds Farm; a family-owned attraction dedicated to the preservation of endangered farm animals. A very hands-on attraction, here you can cuddle a guinea pig, feed the goats or smooth the feathers of a huge eagle owl, and lots more!

Close by you’ll find the South Devon Steam Railway, where you can hop on a vintage steam train and take a trip along the beautiful River Dart valley.

Sunday Lunch – Decisions, Decisions
Back in town there are serious decisions to be made – which pub to choose for Sunday Lunch when there are so many great free houses to discover. The answer is they’re all pretty good but some favourites include The Steam Packet Inn with its riverside beer garden and the highly acclaimed gastro pub The Bull Inn, or why not break from tradition at Pie Street .

And then when you thought you’d made up your mind someone mentions the Totnes Good Food Sunday Market! Devon’s largest fine food farmers market held on the 3rd Sunday of each month. Here you can sample and buy a wide range of quality produce from local producers or grab a take away from one of the street food vendors to eat al fresco in the sunshine.

Boats at the edge of the pier

Messing about on the River
If working off lunch out on the water sounds like fun then Totnes is certainly the place.

Canoe Adventures offers adventure-filled experiences on the River Dart for all ages and abilities. But if that all sounds like too much effort, why not hop aboard the Totnes to Dartmouth river cruiser, and savour some of the region’s most enchanting waterways.

And just like that the weekend is all but over, but the beauty of Totnes is that there are always new things to discover, so on your journey home, you could spend the time planning your next visit to this unique and fascinating town.


Where to stay
Couples will love Riverside Loft, a romantic waterside apartment overlooking Vire Island and the River Dart. Wake up to views of Totnes’ Castle from 10 Castle Street tucked beneath the ancient castle walls or as a complete contrast take a look at The Sidings an ultra-modern eco-house in the centre of town. Or for dog owners, 2 North Castle Mews is a colourful and contemporary dog-friendly townhouse, just moments from Totnes’ high street

For further information on holiday properties in Totnes and beyond visit
www.toadhallcottages.co.uk or call 01548 202020

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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