“Here I stand and here I rest, and this good town shall be called Totnes”.
These are the words with which Totnes is said to have been founded by Brutus the Trojan while standing on Fore Street’s easily missed granite attraction – The Brutus Stone.

Brutus in Britain

According to the legend of the Brutus Stone the origins of Totnes stretch all the way back to ancient Troy. After accidentally killing his father Brutus set off to Greece with his army of followers, where he defeated the king Pendrasu. The king gave Brutus his daughter to marry, and 324 well-stocked ships, at least one of which ended up on the River Dart.

Following the advice of the oracle Diana, who suggested the Trojans should travel to an island in the Western Seas that was possessed by Giants, Brutus set sail for Great Britain – at the time called Albion.

It was on the Brutus stone that he made his proclamation after landing on Britain’s shores, undeterred by the giants and attracted to Totnes by its location and fish-filled rivers. Not only was Totnes named by Brutus, but it’s said he named Britain after himself.

Ice Age to New Age

The Brutus legend is recorded in several ancient books, though there’s little evidence to suggest any of it is true. The stone itself probably settled in its location during the great Ice Age, and may have been called several things which sounded similar to ‘Brutus’.

More recently, when Fore Street was widened in 1810, the stone was reduced in height from 18 inches above ground to the level of the pavement. Whether or not Brutus stood on the stone it’s a town custom that royal proclamations should be read there by the mayor.

No matter how true they are, the legends surrounding Brutus and the stone persist and are enjoyed to this day. Visitors to Totnes can see the stone in the pavement on their right-hand side when walking up Fore Street next to number 51.

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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 . . .

Revamp of the Bull Inn

Article by Kate Philbin at the Totnes Times. As the planning application was submitted for the transformation of a historic town centre pub, the woman behind the plans has been speaking out about her extraordinary life. Geetie Singh-Watson, 48, known to many as the wife of Riverford entrepreneur Guy Watson, is the driving force behind the redevelopment of The Bull Inn in Totnes which aims to become an organic gastropub with letting rooms upstairs. However, it is not an extension of the Riverford empire but a project in its own right and it is hers and hers alone, Geetie insists. She says that people assume The Bull will be run by Riverford or is being financed by Riverford but actually it is neither. Raised on a commune in Herefordshire by a mother who was a builder, Geetie was no stranger to hands-on manual work from an early age. Her mother, Liz Singh, bought and restored a derelict cottage, installing everything from the sewage system to the windows. She was “a powerful role model” for Geetie as was her father, Gurmukh Singh, a Sikh entrepreneur who first came to the UK in the 1950s. He founded the first Indian restaurant in London that was owned by its staff. One of its backers was Salman Rushdie. Later, her mother remarried and her stepfather, Geoff Petty, an educationalist whose work is used to this day by schools such as Totnes Progressive School, also proved a great role model. At the age of 28, Geetie opened her first “values-driven gastropub”, The Duke of Cambridge in Islington. Inspired by her hardworking parents and the example set by women like Anita Roddick, Geetie was determined to create a thriving pub business that was both ethical and profitable, without compromising on staff welfare or the quality of ingredients. She needed £350,000 to build the business. “I asked everyone I knew if they would be interested in investing. No one gave anything they couldn’t afford to lose, it was a gamble but it was fun.” The pub broke even in its first year. Geetie admits she was “too young and cocky” and she “should have listened” to advice from Anita Roddick, who told steadily to build a stable and effective business. Instead, swept along by the dotcom boom, Geetie bought two more pubs in London. “As the business expanded the passion got lost. Within five years I sold off the two other pubs and just kept The Duke of Cambridge. Overall it was a positive experience but I felt bad for the investors.” Despite these knockbacks, Geetie believes the experience gave her a far greater understanding of business. “You don’t learn in business when you are being successful, you learn from your failures. If I were investing I would never invest with someone who hasn’t failed at least once because they know nothing.” Geetie sold The Duke of Cambridge to Guy Watson four years ago. At the time she was a trustee of the Soil Association and a founder member of the London Food Board with Ken Livingston. She was also working with schools in deprived areas to teach children about healthy cooking. When she met Guy it wasn’t exactly a match made in Heaven. She said: “I had known of him in the organic world for many years but he came to talk to me in 2007 about setting up a pub in London. I thought, what are you doing here on my patch? I was very frosty.” The pair met again some years later through the Soil Association and it was a very different meeting. “I realised our business values were completely aligned and that he was extraordinary.” They married in 2014. Geetie spent three years running The Riverford Field Kitchen but stopped to concentrate on developing The Bull.
She has always been fascinated by town centre pubs and looks out for any that are for sale in a town “in the way that other people look out for houses”. She said: “I love The Bull. It looks beautiful and it has great views and a big, corner site in front of an open square. It is slightly off the beaten track which I love as it means tourists have to put some effort into discovering it.” The pub is currently in a run-down condition and requires extensive restoration. Geetie has plans to turn it into an organic, values-driven gastropub but without losing its traditional heritage. Its name won’t change as she believes “pub names should be protected, they are part of our history”. The restoration work, which will cost in excess of half a million, is being funded by the sale of Geetie’s London flat. “I rather like the fact that property equity, which feels like an unfair distribution of wealth, is being used to bring a historic Totnes pub back to life.”
If all goes to plan, the pub will open in Summer 2019. Around 30 jobs will be created and it will use local, organic suppliers. Geetie said: “I grew up in a staunchly feminist household – my mum could strip down a car engine! The fact that people assume Guy is funding my business has opened up a new conversation in our household about feminism. It is great. Guy is a real feminist, he took my name when we got married. It is an exciting time.” The planning application for The Bull is available on the SHDC website, reference: 3376/18/LBC      

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