Totnes, Devon

Photo credit: Manfred Heyde
Photo credit: Manfred Heyde

Having lived in Totnes, Devon, for six months, I know its laneways, meadows, hills, smells, its taverns and even some of its residents rather well. When my dad came to visit, he described the place as being like something out of a Charles Dickens’ novel.

Perhaps it was because we lived at the top of town, and when you gazed out our kitchen window you were confronted with a castle built in 907 AD. Then, when you turned towards the living room, the ceiling bulged tremendously – as if an obscenely corpulent lodger were reclining in the attic – as our little bucolic townhouse was hundreds of years old.

Situated at the head of the estuary of the River Dart, in Devon, Southern England, Totnes oozes charm from its stone crevices. Flanked by a river, lush rolling hills and housing a succession of first-class pubs, it’s the sort of place where six months can feel like a few weeks.

Besides its country comeliness, the town has a thriving arts scene going for it. Here you’ll find varied music, theatre and alternative health in abundance. It even has its own currency, as since 2008, residents have steadily been using it to support the town.

Photo credit: Clive Darra
Photo credit: Clive Darra

In 2008, British Airways magazine Highlife declared Totnes one of the world’s top ten funky towns. Well, I thought it was funky, quaint and just interesting – very much worth a visit. It’s the sort of place that fills you with optimism, that you’re spending your time wisely now.

Saying that, I spent most of my weekends working as a chef in arguably the busiest restaurant in town, as I was saving to go to south-east Asia. During the week I would step on a country train and speed 40 km north-east to Exeter, my day job. Nevertheless, being one of the town’s cooks I got a feel for Totnes’ atmosphere and its people.

If you like English meadows, long riverside meanders, historic buildings and pints of beer in beguiling pubs – all while highland dancers jig on one side of the street and folk talk sustainability and social justice on the other, then Totnes, Devon, could be just your thing.

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