Monday morning and off we went to Totnes. This historic town on the River Dart in South Devon, is one of our favourite towns in the area. There was a purpose to our visit but more of that in a moment. First, a little bit of history of the river at this point in its journey from where it rises on Dartmoor to where it exits into the sea at Dartmouth.
Totnes is the uppermost navigable part of the River Dart and until recent times cargo boats carrying timber – mainly softwood from countries bordering the Baltic Sea, such as Sweden and Finland (with some from Russia and Poland) – would come to Reeves Timber Yard which was in operation on the River Dart at Totnes from 1891 until 1995.
The River Dart wasn’t exactly wide at this point and one of the issues was the ability of ships to turn around in the port of Totnes. It says in my book on the history of Reeves Timber Yard, “As the ships got bigger … this led to the construction of a turning bay whereby a ‘slice of cake’ was carved out of the opposite bank by Steamer Quay [this is where tourists go aboard pleasure cruises for trips down the River Dart to Dartmouth]. The turning bay took three months to construct at the cost of £30,000 … the bay measured 260 feet across its mouth and enabled long ships to have room to swing around without going astern.”
I don’t have a good photo of the turning bay, but this (above) is close to it. Boats are still here but they are mainly for the yachting fraternity, not boats bringing timber to the UK.
The reason for our visit to Totnes was to buy a small deep freeze that we could house in our garage (“speculating”, i.e. spending money to “accumulate” food.) We do have a fridge/freezer in our kitchen but now that there are just the two of us at home I often batch cook – say three lasagnes at a time, or three cottage pies, or enough for three meals of soup – and our freezer in the kitchen isn’t really able to cope, especially if it’s already got a full complement of bread, frozen peas, some ice cream, cooked meats, a box of macarons, a home-made cake, fish, some chicken thighs, etc.
Rather than buying from the large electrical store which now seems to have something of a monopoly in the UK (it having put a lot of small retailers out of business in the process) we went to the lovely electrical shop in Totnes from where, earlier in the year, we bought our washing machine and, shortly after that, our tumble dryer. They deliver the goods, install them, and take away the packaging, and their after-sales service, if you require it, is excellent.
It took us no time at all to choose a small three-drawer freezer – strangely enough an elderly couple being served just ahead of us were looking for exactly the same thing so we just listened to what the salesman told them about the various types available. We chose one that is ice-free, so that will save us work, hacking away the ice when it would inevitably become iced-up. It is being delivered next Monday. I shall now have to buy extra plastic boxes in which to store soup, etc, and perhaps a few new dishes for lasagnes and cottage pies – we don’t have a microwave and so I doubt whether I will be buying throw-away foil containers (not very ‘green’ either if you have to throw them away after one usage.)
After that we walked to the Steam Packet Inn where we enjoyed coffee and a shared flapjack. We passed this attractive building on the way to the Steam Packet – it has been built to emulate in style the warehouse buildings along this stretch of the River Dart.
A cheerful sight on our table
The Steam Packet is right on the edge of the River Dart and the view from their courtyard is upstream to Vire Island (not technically an island as it is joined to Totnes by a small piece of land) and downstream towards Dartmouth, about 12 miles away. The lead photo above is upstream to Vire Island (Totnes is ‘twinned’ with Vire in Normandy, hence the name – it’s pronounced ‘veer’)
We didn’t sit outside today, although I took this photo, as there is a lot of construction work being carried out at the moment and views are restricted (the construction work is a flood-prevention scheme).
And if you were standing on the opposite bank of the River Dart, close to the turning bay for the boats from the Baltic, this would be your view of the Steam Packet Inn.
We then walked back to our car, parked in Totnes, passing these pretty town houses (below) on the way – they have been built in the last 20 or so years, but have a traditional look to them.
Many of them are in what I call ice-cream colours, pastel pinks, greens and creams.
Then on to the area known as The Plains (where, incidentally, my hairdresser has her salon) …
The junction of The Plains and Fore Street, Totnes, with The Royal Seven Stars Inn in the background
Then we made our way back to the car and drove home via the little village of Berry Pomeroy. This is a route we enjoy as it’s rather pretty.
It appears that the harvest has been brought in, the fields are no longer filled with various grain products, but it’s still a lovely journey through this area of the South Hams.
And now, we’re off to another garden centre for yet more spring bulbs.
Until next time.
PS: The cottage pie which I prepared yesterday … baked, for our supper last night.
Served with petits pois and a dash of HP sauce, totally yum!