Down by the Riverside

by Margaret Powling-

      The River Dart at Totnes

If you have read some of my recent posts, you will know that our washing machine died and we had to buy a new one.   We chose a Whirlpool machine this time, quite an up-market model – we have been assured that it senses the load and adjusts the amount of water required to do the wash.  There are more programmes than I can shake a stick at, even one for Sport (let’s not mince words: I think this is a euphemism for Sweaty) and one for Baby Items.  Why not a cycle for “Old Codgers Clothes” (OK, that’s a euphemism for smelling of wee-wee) for we’re old codgers far longer than we are babies!  Sorry, I’m being frivolous, it’s a lovely machine but, sadly, not a thing of great beauty.  It is white when I wanted black, but the porthole door is black, as is the control panel.  So we’re halfway there.  My Bosch dishwasher, by comparison (and a fraction the price) is truly elegant.  They face each other across the kitchen.  Flying into the realms of fantasy they might even pull faces at each other when my back is turned.

But I digress …

I happened to mention to the gentleman who installed the washing machine that we had a Hotpoint tumble dryer.  I knew there had been problems with some Hotpoint machines catching alight and Hotpoint were working as hard and as fast as they could to modify the machines that had been sold.  “I phoned Hotpoint,” I explained to him, “and they said our machine wasn’t one of those affected.”  His response was that they had added to the list of affected machines and I should re-check online.  So I did. And our machine was one of the affected ones and it advised owners to unplug them and not use them until they had been modified.  Which was any time between now and forever.

Our decision then was to buy a new machine.  We’d had the old one at least ten years (I hasten to add without any problem) and so that was why we fetched up in Totnes this morning. With me so far?

Right.  Popped along to the shop from where we bought our washing machine only a week ago and bought a new top-of-the-range silly-price tumble dryer, again by Whirlpool.  It will arrive in a week’s time. So far this year we have bought:  a new computer (for me), a new dishwasher (Bosch), a new washing machine (Whirlpool), a new vacuum (Dyson rollerball), a new bed for grandson, and now a tumble dryer (Whirlpool).  Ouch!

The purchase having been made, we left the shop and walked the short distance to the River Dart, passing the rather attractive houses (above) which have been built in the last 20 years, and ending up at the Steam Packet Inn on the banks of the River Dart where we had had breakfast a couple of weekend’s ago. 

We only wanted coffee and perhaps a toasted tea cake, but they didn’t have tea cakes (well, it is an inn, not a café) and the very friendly proprietor suggested we had toast and marmalade.  When it came it was a feast – two lovely large slices of real bread, lightly toasted, marmalade and butter, and a cafetierre of coffee and hot milk. 

It is an attractive inn, and one we would not hesitate to visit again for coffee or a light lunch. Below is the view from our table, through the window.  The River Dart ‘splits’ here, the curved area is known as Vire Island  (for Totnes is ‘twinned’ with Vire in Normandy) although it’s not a proper island as it’s attached to Totnes upstream, on the right is the River Dart, and on the left, a little ‘cut’ beside which are old warehouses which have been renovated and made into apartments.

As we sat there we said that this year, unlike in previous years, we really must make an effort to have a steamer cruise down the River Dart to Dartmouth and back again.  The journey takes about 50 minutes to an hour and is really pleasant – along this lovely stretch of the River Dart you pass the summer home of the late Dame Agatha Christie at Greenway, and that is another National Trust house that we must visit this year. 

And as we mentioned that we must have a cruise to Dartmouth from Totnes, one of the lovely riverboats arrived, up from Dartmouth and turned around ready for the return journey, downstream.

However, we couldn’t sit and sip coffee all morning, much as we’d have liked to, so we made our way back to the car, popped into the supermarket for some flowers (my one weakness … yes, as well as books, scent, magazines …) and made our way home.  Having coffee and toast soothed us and softened the blow of yet another expensive purchase.  

Back again soon!


Margaret Powling


  1. Elaine

    Ouch! An expensive year.
    Toast, marmalade and a view like that – I would be happy, too.
    Beautiful photographs, but I particularly like the final one. The Tourist Board should be paying you for showing the world this wonderful area of the country.

    05 . Apr . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      That would be wonderful, wouldn’t it, to be paid to promote our lovely area! But I do it for fun. Coincidentally, many years ago (the mid-1970s) when our children were young, I did a season in Tourist Information in our town and I absolutely loved it. I did all the unsocial hours so that husband could look after the children – some evenings, weekends, and Bank Holidays. Not many hours a week, but it was fun. Glad you like my choice of photos, I took several this morning but I think I chose the ones that showed this part of the upper reaches of the Dart to advantage, the little ‘cut’ off the main river (the Dart is only navigable as far as Totnes if travelling upstream from Dartmouth.)
      But yes, an expensive year!

      05 . Apr . 2017
  2. Maria

    Wonderful pictures, I agree with Elaine. A treat for the eyes. Thank you for sharing. I look forward to seeing Dame Agatha Christie’s house. She is one of my favourite writers, I also love the screen versions of her novels, have seen them numerous times and never get tired of them :).

    05 . Apr . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      I confess to never having read an Agatha Christie novel! What an admission! But I have been inside her house, and before the National Trust renovated it. It was soon after the NT took it over after the death of Dame Agatha’s daughter, and I was shown around by the then Property Manager – it was strange sitting in the kitchen among all the things that Rosalind Hicks and Dame Agatha might’ve used – the half empty bottles of Dubonet and the well-thumbed cookery books, and sitting at her kitchen table. I think going back to see it cleaned, renovated and arranged by the Trust will be something of a disappointment in a way as I remember it as it was just as the family had left.

      05 . Apr . 2017
  3. Sarah

    Looking forward to your visit to Greenaway, possibly the only NT house in the West Country I haven’t visited. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the house presented today as if Agatha had just left the room. The NT quite like creating that lived-in look. For example at Polesden we have whisky and cigars in the billiard room where you can sit on the sofa and read facsimile newspapers from the 1930s, play gramophone records and even pot a few balls. When I was a child we spent many happy holidays staying in one of the gate houses to Saltram and I have lots of memories of messing about on the river Dart and sailing around Newton Ferrers. I hope I’m not confusing my locations here – it was a long time ago. I’m glad to hear you did not choose Neff products. Nuff said I think!

    05 . Apr . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, the NT appear to like to choose a certain period in which to display a property now, and in some places you are permitted to sit on some of the sofas and chairs, rather than finding they’d put a piece of holly on them indicating you are not allowed to sit! Yes, Newton Ferrers is fairly close to Saltram, you aren’t wrong. How lovely to have stayed in the gate houses at Saltram!
      As for Neff, we have had a Neff oven for 17 years and it’s been wonderful, ditto the gas Neff hob, but I know they’ve not always had a good name. Perhaps we struck lucky? Indeed, since 1976 we’ve had only three Neff ovens … one in our previous home and two here, the first lasted us from 1985 to 2000 and we’re on the replacement for that one we bought in 2000.

      06 . Apr . 2017
  4. Eloise

    Isn’t it always the way…..one big unexpected expense is inevitably followed by another soon after. We are having a new boiler fitted next week so I wonder what else will be needed! I have asked my friend to come in and swoon over the boiler next time she is here – all that money and no-one will notice! I discovered how disappointing this is when we had extensive roof repairs some years ago.

    Great photos again. It is such a pretty area. I used to take engineering apprentices to the River Dart centre for Outward Bound type activity holidays which included swimming in the river in winter. I hasten to add that I was there in a supervisory capacity only!

    06 . Apr . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      We had a new boiler about three years ago and also installed one in what was then our other house (inherited from my late mother) and which we have since ‘given’ away to family, so we didn’t have one, but two boilers to buy. As you say, all that expense and no one notices! Not like having your garden designed or the house painted, is it?
      I don’t think the Outward Bound School is there any more, but the River Dart is still used for all kinds of water sports activities. We seldom go to Dartmoor, I prefer the coast to the moorland, although I concede it is very pretty, especially in late summer when the gorse is a lovely golden yellow, and the heather begins to flower, too.

      06 . Apr . 2017
  5. Eloise

    Yes, the Outward Bound centre sold out to River Dart Adventures (I think it was called) some years ago and later still was changed into holiday accommodation. I have some very happy memories of those times, though being responsible for up to sixteen teenage boys was not without its headaches!!
    I also prefer the coast but I do think that moorland has an attractiveness of its own. I think I prefer Exmoor to Dartmoor. It is a similar situation in the Lake District where I love being beside the lakes but also find myself drawn to the bleaker areas like Eskdale (more Outward Bound memories ). I had a Neff oven in a previous home and was pleased with mine too.

    06 . Apr . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, Exmoor is beautiful, too. We are lucky that in Devon we have two coastlines and two moors. I can’t imagine the stress of looking after sixteen teenage boys, or the responsibility! But fun at times, too, I would think, and rewarding when they enjoyed themselves and achieved things they thought they might not achieve.

      06 . Apr . 2017
  6. Lara

    I will have to google ‘vire’.
    I’m sorry to hear of your continuing expenses. I think life often goes thru periods such as these – I have just spent $AU860 for mechanical repairs to my car but as I live in an area with only one bus that comes twice a day and am several kilometres from our main shops I didn’t fancy having to walk or hitchhike to get the groceries 🙂
    I did a double take at the photo of the row of houses when you wrote they were only 20 years old as I had assumed they were much older. It’s lovely they are in the older style.
    Must go – it’s 6:06am here and my cat is demanding her breakfast. She loves her food (her main reason for living, a bit like me) but hubbie and I must ration it as she tends to overeat and get chubby (again, a bit like me:)). She knows her breakfast time is 6am and I swear she can tell the time. No alarm clock needed in this house – you can rely on a furry, cranky, four legged creature to have you out of bed at 6am sharp. Mind you, after reading the last four of your posts with photos of toast with marmalade, scrambled eggs with salmon and cheese scones my tummy is rumbling too !

    08 . Apr . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Vire is a town in Normandy, France, Lara. I have not been, but our younger son has when he was at school – he stayed with a French family and then their son came to stay with us. It is pronounced “veer” not “vire” to rhyme with “inspire”.
      I’m sorry to hear about your car expenses and such expenses but where you live a car is a necessity not a luxury.
      Yes, those pretty houses are part of a fairly new (well, I think 20 years is new!) development along by the river in Totnes. However, older buildings, such as the riverside warehouses, have been transformed and are now apartments.
      My goodness, a cat dictating breakfast! She has you wrapped around her little paws, does she not! But how lovely that your cat actually enjoys her food, so many cats are all fusspots and turn their little noses up at the very best cat food! But, oh dear, I must cease posting photos of food if it makes readers hungry!

      08 . Apr . 2017
  7. Christie

    I enjoy reading and seeing pictures of your visits to inns, cafes, restaurants, etc., especially for morning coffee. Such a nice custom! Lovely photos of the river; I’ve been saving some of them to my Pinterest board. Christie

    09 . Apr . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Christie, and how lovely that you like my photos sufficiently well enough to save them on your Pinterest board. I’ve not done Pinterest of Instagram, that’s something I might try in the future. The River Dart at Totnes is really pretty. It is a navigable river up as far as Totnes, about 12 miles upstream from Dartmouth, but not navigable for large craft beyond Totnes.

      09 . Apr . 2017

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