The ancient town of Totnes stands on the west bank of the Dart overlooked by its Norman castle. It is the second oldest borough in England and has a prominent place in English history. Its charming streets and alleyways show signs of Norman, Medieval and Tudor architecture and a walk through the town will uncover many architectural gems.

The steep main street of Totnes is a haven for the discerning shopper as Totnes is home to many individual independent shops. Walk from the Plains up to The Narrows and you will find butchers, bakers, greengrocers and whole food shops many offering locally produced food and drink. Totnes is well known for its antique and second hand bookshops but also for its crafts, handmade shoes and clothes, and galleries. Explore the small alleyways to find complementary therapists and alternative health shops. The town will not disappoint the shopper looking for that special something whether it is jewellery, clothing or gifts. The twice-weekly market is run on Friday and Saturday throughout the year and during the summer months the local Elizabethan society hosts a Tuesday market where you will find the stallholders in Elizabethan dress.

Totnes is a friendly and welcoming place to shop at any time of the year but Christmas is its speciality. During December the town is brightly lit and decorated and has a festive air. Late night shopping on the three Tuesdays before Christmas offer music and street entertainment with all the traders entering into the towns vibrant atmosphere. This is the place to do your Christmas shopping knowing that you will find just the right gift for that special person.

Totnes has a wide selection of cafes, restaurants and pubs, something for every taste and pocket. You will love the flavour of fresh, local Devonshire food served and promoted throughout the town. As a Transition town Totnes is committed to locally produced food and its cafes and restaurants reflect this. A short drive from the town is the Riverford field kitchen; an award-winning restaurant on Riverford Organic Farm where you will be served freshly picked mouth-watering organic food. Riverford was the winner of the Best Ethical restaurant award in 2009 and is a must for the dedicated foodie.

Totnes is a busy bustling town as it offers a wide variety of activities, exhibitions and cultural events throughout the year. The museum houses regular exhibitions as well as covering the history of the town. One exhibit always on show is a history of early computers and of their inventor Charles Babbage. Babbage is known as the father of the modern computer and has close links with the town as he spent the early part of his life in Totnes and was a pupil at King Edward VI grammar school. The exhibition has an especial fascination for children. Exhibitions of painting are regularly on show at Birdwood House and in the many galleries around the town. The main cultural event of the year is Totnes Festival held over ten days in early September. The festival exists to showcase the many talents, interests and passions of local people and is a rich and diverse display of the unique talent of this small town. Exhibitions of painting, film and photography, dance, theatre and storytelling including many workshops are all on offer during this festival. For a small town the range and quality of work on display is truly amazing.

Totnes is a short distance from that well-known centre of the arts Dartington Hall. Regular theatre and film showings take place at the Barn Theatre and in the great hall itself. The gardens are open to the public throughout the year and the Cider Press Centre is a wonderful collection of 11 small quality shops set in a village atmosphere and offering pottery, jewellery, stationery, kitchen ware, books and toys. The centre also offers an excellent range of food in its whole food cafes.

No stay in Totnes is complete without a trip on the river Dart down to Dartmouth on one of the river cruisers. These leave from Steamer Quay on the Bridgtown side of the river. The Dart is tidal as far as Totnes and cruises are dependent on the tides. From Dartmouth take the steam train to Paignton and return to Totnes by bus or spend some time in Dartmouth and return by boat. A journey down the Dart offers a view of the area, which is not possible by car and many places can be seen from a new and different perspective. On a journey down the Dart you will view Sharpham House and Vineyard, Stoke Gabriel, Sandridge House, Dittisham, Greenway House the home of the celebrated crime writer Agatha Christie and a variety of wildlife. Grey herons line the riverbanks, fish can be seen jumping in the creeks and sometimes a Seal may be seen. The best way to see the wildlife of the river is by small boat as it is during times of peace and quiet that the river is seen at its best. A fleet of twelve seat canoes run from the Maltsters Arms at Tuckenhay and offer trips to families and groups up and down the Dart exploring the places that larger vessels cannot reach. Have a picnic on the riverbank, learn to light a fire without matches and give your children a real adventure on this beautiful river.

Totnes history goes back over one thousand years. As the gateway to the South Hams it has been a place of commercial and historical importance. The castle is of Norman origin and of the Motte and Bailey design, but Saxon coins minted at Totnes were found during excavations of the castle showing that a previous settlement was on this site. As coins were only minted in fortified towns, Totnes, during the tenth century was likely to have already been a small town surrounded by earthen ramparts, later replaced by stone walls. Totnes is one of only five Devonshire towns mentioned in the Domesday Book. In Medieval times it was one of the wealthiest towns in Devon. Its wealth was built upon the export of wool and tin from Dartmoor and slate from the local quarries. These would have been despatched from St. Peterís Quay onto vessels heading for the continent. By walking up the main street you can see the history of Totnes by its architecture. The East Gate Arch is Tudor and many examples of sixteenth and seventeenth century merchantís houses are visible around the town. The Butterwalk and Poultry Walk are of especial interest. These are covered pavement arcades with stone pillars carrying the overhanging stories of the houses that once sheltered markets. Dartmouth and Kingsbridge also have fine Butterwalks. The Parish Church dedicated to St. Mary is built of red Sandstone and is on the site of an earlier church mentioned in a charter of 1088. It is well known locally for having a fine example of a fifteenth century roods screen carved from stone quarried at Beer in East Devon.

Totnes is a town for all seasons. Whether you wish to shop, explore, eat good food or drink local wine Totnes has something for everyone.

 

South Devon

Timestep Electronics Ltd
PO Box 2001  Dartmouth Devon  TQ6 9QN
Tel: 01803 833366  Fax: 01803 839498   e-mail click here

19 January 2010