The very essence of an English village, Dittisham lies in an area of Devon known as the South Hams. A place of rolling hills and river valleys, small villages and farmland, The South Hams is an area of outstanding natural beauty. Dittisham is a jewel in this area. Sitting on the western bank of the river Dart and at its widest part Dittisham is only three miles up river from Dartmouth. It is a place of peace and tranquillity, a place to sit and watch the boats bob quietly on the water, a place to relax.

Dittisham was once famous for its plum orchards and indeed Dittisham plums are still in demand and used by a local firm in its plum liqueur. Today the village is better known as a holiday retreat and for it’s sailing though it still has a busy community with a host of events and activities. A walk up from the river will reveal narrow lanes with stone built thatched cottages, two busy pubs and a quiet café overlooking the water. One pub now houses the village shop and post office; the other is situated on the waterfront overlooking the river. An ideal spot for a quiet drink while your children play safely on the foreshore turning over stones in search of crabs. Dittisham is an ideal place for a family holiday whether messing about in boats, picnicking in the park or exploring the lanes.

During the summer months the sailing club holds regular events and welcomes visiting members. There are also visitor’s moorings for larger boats. At high tide the Dart stretches for over a mile to Galmpton creek providing a large clear area for sailing. If you do not bring your own boat it is possible to hire one in the village and obtain information on winds and tides. Places to visit by boat include Stoke Gabriel, Bow Creek and Totnes.

In August Dittisham holds its annual regatta in which the whole village takes part. Events include sailing, whalers, crabbing and a raft race plus stalls and a barbecue.
One mile from Dittisham lies the hamlet of Coombe. In this hidden valley you will find a small community comprising of a Hotel and restaurant, art studios and gallery. Coombe Farm Gallery is known for promoting new talent alongside internationally acclaimed artists and is open throughout the year.

Just across the water by ferry is Greenway House, former holiday home of the famous crime writer Agatha Christie and now owned by the National Trust. This beautiful Georgian house and its fascinating garden and bathhouse are open to the public. It has undergone extensive restoration and contains many interesting and valuable collections some of which are still in the process of restoration and repair. The garden is of particular interest as it contains many rare plants and is the product of years of hard work and collecting by true garden enthusiasts.

Dittisham has a history dating from Saxon times when Dida or Deeda founded a settlement beside the Dart after the Saxon invasion of Devon. The Domesday Book records the name Diddisham but by 1557 it was known as Dytsham and has evolved over the years to its present spelling. The Saxon influence is all around the area with settlements at Totnes and Halwell. It was they who founded the first church in the village under the Bishop of Exeter. A Norman church replaced this, which, by 1328 was a ruin. The church was restored and reconstructed between 1328 and 1333 when Bishop Grandisson dedicated it to St. George.

The area has three famous sons, men who were to change the course of history; Sir Humphrey Gilbert, born at Greenway became a navigator who led an expedition, which founded the colony of Newfoundland while searching for the North West Passage. He was lost at sea near the Azores while on the return journey to England. His half brother Sir Walter Raleigh, possibly better known, became one of the first explorers of the new world, establishing the first English colony in North America. In 1595 he led an expedition to South America, returning with tobacco. In later years he become embroiled in politics, was imprisoned in the tower and eventually beheaded.
John Davis of Sandridge became a navigator and Arctic explorer. He carried out an expedition in search of the North West Passage, which he discovered and gave his name in 1587. The Davis Strait lies between Greenland and Canada. In 1592 he led an expedition to the South Atlantic and discovered the Falkland Islands. These worthies, along with their contemporaries Drake, Hawkins and Grenville, all Devon men, altered the course of history and put England very firmly on the map.
The Civil War touched the village when Fairfax and his soldiers visited the church and defaced the figures on the screen and burnt the rectory. This would have been when Dartmouth fell to the Parliamentary forces in 1646.

Looking around the village one sees houses of varying ages and it is obvious that Dittisham has evolved slowly into the picturesque place it is today. Lady Rosalind Northcote in her 1920 guide to Devon referred to the village as ‘made for a picture’. It has changed in the intervening years but its unhurried atmosphere is still there for the visitor in search of peace and tranquillity.


South Devon

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PO Box 2001  Dartmouth Devon  TQ6 9QN
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15 January 2010