The Sharpham Trust is one of 445 heritage organisations across the country set to receive a lifesaving financial boost from the government to help them through the coronavirus pandemic, thanks to the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.

445 organisations, including The Trust, will share £103 million, to help restart vital reconstruction work and maintenance on cherished heritage sites, keeping venues open and supporting those working in the sector.

The Sharpham Trust has been awarded £98,000, which will help the nature and mindfulness education charity continue to operate.

The Trust offers mindfulness retreats and courses, puts on nature-connection events, offers weddings and operates Sharpham Meadow Natural Burial Ground. Like many organisations and businesses, the Trust has been severely impacted by the restrictions imposed as a result of Coronavirus.

Julian Carnell, Trust Director, said: “We were forced to close back in March and although we managed to partially reopen in August we have been operating at a much-reduced capacity as a Covid-Secure venue.

“There is a huge demand for our courses and retreats in these difficult times and we are working hard to make sure we can keep offering people these experiences safely.

“This latest £98,000 grant from the government through the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage is very welcome. Despite losing around 50% of this year’s income I am proud that we have been able to keep all our staff employed and continue to support our users in the face of severe challenges.”

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Helping the Trust to stay open

This vital funding is from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritageand the Heritage Stimulus Fund – funded by Government and administered at arms-length by Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Both funds are part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund which is designed to secure the future of Britain’s museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues with emergency grants and loans.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said:“As a nation it is essential that we preserve our heritage and celebrate and learn from our past. This massive support package will protect our shared heritage for future generations, save jobs and help us prepare for a cultural bounceback post-Covid.”

Duncan Wilson, Historic England’s Chief Executive said: “It is heartening to see grants, both large and small, from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund helping heritage sites and organisations across the country which have been hit hard by the effects of Covid-19.

“These grants range from giving skilled craft workers the chance to keep their trades alive to helping heritage organisations pay the bills, and to kick-starting repair works at our best-loved historic sites. The funding is an essential lifeline for our heritage and the people who work tirelessly to conserve it for us all, so that we can hand it on to future generations.”

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund said:“It is absolutely right that investing in heritage should be a priority during this crisis and this support by Government is crucial.  Heritage creates jobs and economic prosperity, is a major driver for tourism and makes our towns, cities, and rural areas better places to live.  All of this is so important for our wellbeing and will be particularly vital when we start to emerge from this incredibly difficult time.

“Our heritage is still facing a perilous future – we are not out of the woods yet.  But this hugely welcome funding from Government, and the money we continue to invest from the National Lottery, has undoubtedly stopped heritage and the organisations that care for it being permanently lost.”

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Plans for St Mary’s Church

The idea for a giant map on the floor of St Mary’s came when we were discussing ideas around the exhibition space with Rev Steve and another trustee, Emily Price. We were full of ideas – we would have a giant screen, a huge wooden wish tree (I still love this idea), a free-standing, stained glass panel of modern Totnes (also still love this idea), but it was the giant map that really caught on. I’ve been stopped by quite a few visitors in town asking where this and that and the castle are. Most residents have. The town maps we do have displayed are lovely but worn and out of date. We’d been discussing as a council, how we would get new ones and so the idea was fresh in my mind. The original thought was to have a great slate floor with a map inscribed into it, but that, of course, turned out to be too costly and as we wanted it to be very detailed that was going to be tricky in slate. The exhibition designer suggested polished black linoleum, which sounded perfect. We as a trust, are trying to raise an enormous sum of money to repair St Mary’s. We don’t only want to repair it, we want to add a toilet and a kitchen and make it a wonderful resource in the centre of town. It should be, it’s a beautiful building and we lack community space in Totnes. I am not a church-goer myself, but I am fully behind restoring this gorgeous building and opening it up to the wider community. We are planning on making it an exhibition space, a theatre, a place for community gathering. This doesn’t mean it won’t continue as a church; of course, it will, we just want to really make it accessible as an asset to everyone. The map will contribute to this. It’ll be huge, 15 square meters and situated at the back of the church by the back door. It’ll stretch from St Johns in Bridgetown to the Bay Horse in Totnes. We have chosen an artist, Anna Ventura, whose details I was sent by someone on Facebook when I asked for suggestions. She runs a gallery in Kingsbridge, The Tidal Gallery and is expert at very detailed line drawings. She’d done a drawing on the High St a few years ago and the style was just what we wanted. How to pay for all this though? We are a charity, we were supposed to be making money, not spending it, so we decided to ask the shops lining the route of the map if they would like to be specially featured and if they decided to, then that meant their names would be added to the drawing and some details of their shops etc. In that way, we have managed to pay the artist. I wanted it to be a snapshot of Totnes in 2018/19, so we were going to add some extra details; Christopher McCabe fighting his way out of his freezer with a black pudding, Graham Walker selling his Scum Bags on the High Street, XR doing a die in on the market? We will be asking for ideas from everyone soon. Anna is displaying some of her preliminary drawings of the map in the church for the next two weeks, so it would be great if people could come and comment. I will also be photographing every building pretty much from St John’s to the Bay, so if you have any particular stories about any of the buildings, which you would like to let us know about then that would be wonderful.

The atmospheric town taken by the sea

Only 18 miles from Totnes the village of Hallsands near Kingsbridge in south Devon is the village that fell into the sea. To say the village is still there would be bending the truth slightly, however the remains (which are now closed) can still be seen from the safety of a viewing platform over the cliffs. No-one knows exactly when Hallsands was established although some say it was probably in about 1600 and growing in the 18th and 19th centuries. By 1891 it had 37 houses, the London Inn and a population of 159 with a very close community. Most residents owned their own homes and depended on fishing, mainly crab, for a living. It was a hazardous business with irregular earnings and frequent losses at sea. Everyone, including women and children, helped haul in the boats and nets. Everything was fine until the 1890s when the Admiralty decided that the naval dockyard at Keyham near Plymouth should be expanded which required hundreds of thousands of tons of concrete. In January 1896 the construction company Sir John Jackson Ltd was granted permission to dredge shingle from the coast between Hallsands and neighbouring Beesands. Many fishermen at the time, who knew the area offshore intimately, opposed the plans saying the dredging would alter the seabed as well as the beach and what was taken would certainly not be replaced. Despite the resident’s protestations dredging began in the spring of 1897 and during the next four years some 660,000 tonnes of material were removed. Activity was eventually paused when opposition from several fishing villages grew as they saw their shingle beaches being relentlessly carried away.  
It took 18 years from the start of the dredging to the final destruction of Hallsands village. It had been assumed that the removal of any shingle would be replaced naturally but we now know that the same shingle which protects the nearby villages of Beesands and Torcross was deposited thousands of years ago during the ice ages, and is not being replaced.
  An inquiry was established in response to protests from villagers who feared the dredging might threaten their beach and village, but dredging continued after it was decided that the activity was not likely to pose a significant threat. However by 1900 the level of the beach had started to fall and in the autumn storms that year, part of the sea wall was washed away. In November 1900, villagers petitioned their Member of Parliament, Frank Mildmay complaining of damage to their houses, and in March 1901 Kingsbridge Council wrote to the Board of Trade complaining of damage to the road. The Liberal MP for the area was extremely supportive of the residents of Hallsands and on more than one occasion offered his own money to help out the residents. In September 1901 a new Board of Trade inspector concluded that further severe storms could cause serious damage and recommended that dredging be stopped and on 8th January 1902 the dredging licence was revoked. On 26th January 1917 a combination of easterly gales and exceptionally high tides breached Hallsands' defences and the village fell into the sea! Miraculously no one was hurt but many families had to relocate to neighbouring villages having lost everything. Only one house was left standing after the destruction. The owner Elizabeth Prettyjohn stubbornly refused to leave and lived there with her chickens until her death in 1964. She acted as a guide to the visitors who came over the years curious to see the remains of the village. Today her house is used as a summer holiday home. Another famous Hallsands resident was Ella Trout together with her sisters Patience, Clara and Edith. When their fisherman father, William, became sick, Patience and then Ella gave up school and operated his boat which was the only source of income for the family. William died in 1910 when Ella was 15 years old. On 8th September 1917, after the Hallsands disaster, Ella was crab fishing with her 10 year old cousin William when they saw the SS Newholm struck by a naval mine one mile south of Start Point. With William Stone, another fisherman in the vicinity, they rowed to the scene and helped rescue nine men. In recognition of her bravery she received the Order of the British Empire. The sisters, with compensation for the destruction of their cottage at Hallsands plus some earnings, built Trout's Hotel on the cliff above the deserted village. The Trouts ran the hotel successfully until 1959. More recent owners moved down from London and attracted some of their well-known friends to stay including Danny La Rue and Larry Grayson, and for years their signed photographs hung on the walls of the dining room. The hotel has since been turned into apartments now called Prospect House. In more recent years the story of Hallsands has been turned into an opera called ‘Whirlwind’ commissioned by acclaimed company Streetwise Opera and written by Will Todd, one of the country’s leading young opera composers, and Ben Duwell, and has also featured in a book by Steve Melia called “Hallsands; A Village Betrayed”. You can walk to Hallsands from the villages of Beesands or Torcross following the South West Coast Path. Beesands, albeit a small village, has a café and toilets and free car parking. Torcross is bigger with a few cafes and a pub and more (charged) parking. Please note that you can no longer drive from Blackpool Sands to Slapton Sands and then on to Torcross because of the recent storms and road damage which in itself is somewhat ironic. Hallsands and Beesands are both walkable with a moderate degree of accessibility from Torcross, which has ample (paid) parking. Beesands however has free parking. If driving from Totnes head for Dartmouth, then Slapton and finally Torcross. If you want to travel by bus you can take the 164 to Kingsbridge or the X64 to Dartmouth and then catch the number 3 to Torcross. All routes joining the coastal villages are part of the South West Coast Path and therefore accessible at all times.

Totnes - 10 of the best small UK towns for winter breaks Once again, Totnes has been mentioned in the Guardian newspaper - listed as one of the '10 of the best small UK towns for winter breaks'. Easy to get to by mainline train, the article goes on to mention how Totnes has a glut of independent shops & cafes than any town of comparable size. You can read the article in full here.
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