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Speculating to Accumulate

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!

About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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  1. simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

    What a lovely day out, I am so pleased you made the decision to buy another freezer, we have had our second freezer for only a few weeks and I have already filled it with home cooked meals, great when you have a day out and you know you don’t have to cook, just take something out the night before, I love cooking but batch cooking is certainly the way to go, saves time and money. Hope you found what you where looking for at the garden centre, we will be off to one hopefully this week sometime.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      We have chosen a Blomberg freezer (frost free), Marlene. We’d not heard of this make but apparently they are German, part of the Beko group. I asked why they were so much more expensive than other freezers and we were told it is because if the external temp falls below 10C most freezers cut out, but this one won’t. We were told it was a bit like a Toyota and a Lexus, Toyota being the ‘ordinary’ car and Lexus the more ‘luxury’ car. Anyway, we shall see whether it is worth the extra £s!
      I also enjoy batch cooking, perhaps no more than three of the same dish at once so one can be eaten on the day of cooking and two are for the freezer. And yes, thank you, we found what we were looking for at the garden centre this afternoon.

  2. Your freezer talk makes me think about how badly I need to sort out our freezer! Both the one in the fridge and the freestanding one in the basement. Every time I clean and organize them I think, “never again will I let this become such a jumble”. And then it happens again. I just don’t know what is lost in those two freezers. Probably all kinds of stuff!

    • Margaret Powling

      Maybe I will be as guilty as yourself, in time, Jeannine, having a freezer (i.e. out of sight, out of mind!) in the garage! I hope not. It’s my plan to have a list of what I put in it in the kitchen and cross the things off as I use them or put them on the list as I add to them. Well, that’s the plan and we all know about plans!!!

  3. There was the same problem with turning narrowboats on the canals, most canals are 20ft wide or less, so the canals were built with winding holes. These are of various sizes, some only big enough to turn a forty foot boat some are big enough to turn a seventy footer.
    The winding hole is pronounced wind like the weather and not wind like a clock.
    This is because when the boats were horse drawn the nose of the boat was pointed in to the winding hole and then the wind would blow the back around until the boat was facing the other way.

    • Margaret Powling

      Well, I’ve learned something this morning, Sue, so thank you for that! “Winding hole” as in wind (as in weather). And the winding holes were built long before engine power, when all canal boats were towed by horses, and relied on wind assistance to turn them. I love to learn things like this, Sue, so thank you for mentioning that.

  4. Oh I have freezer envy Margaret, currently I just have the three drawers in our FF which quickly get filled up and would dearly love another but being a smallish cottage we just don’t have the space. We don’t have a garage just a large parking bay so the only other place would be the shed but that is some way away from the house and we will need to run electricity out there.
    Most of the time it’s just the two of us so it makes sense to batch cook, especially things like soups and stews, but it takes careful freezer management, first world problems I know but I do take pride in running our household as efficiently as I can.
    Love the fact that you try to buy from smaller, independent retailers where possible.

    • Margaret Powling

      Would a freezer fit into another room, perhaps, other than the kitchen. The shed wouldn’t be suitable, I don’t think, as it would be very cold out there in the winter and most freezers cut out when the external temperature is under 10C (the one we have bought was a more expensive one that doesn’t cut out like this, or so we were told. Only time and the weather will tell!) It seems funny waiting all these years to buy an extra freezer, but when we had the children here I would cook a meal and everything would be used up. But now I can cook a large pan of soup and have sufficient for three meals, ditto mince for lasagne and cottage pie and chilli. It seemed daft not to get one. But I must use it sensibly and have days that I set aside for batch cooking.
      Yes, we love to buy locally from independent retailers, keeping money in the local economy and often getting better service than from the larger stores. And this particular store has a very good selection of items, too.

      • The only other possibility is the smallest bedroom which my beloved uses as an office, perhaps I will cook his favourite supper and broach the subject ☺️

        • Margaret Powling

          If there is space, Elaine, this could be a possibility. Explain to your beloved how freezer in there would help you, so that you could batch bake and that would save time and even perhaps money.

  5. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    You are being very prolific In your writing this week Margaret! A lovely post. We didn’t get to Totnes on our recent Devon visit and it is a few years since we last visited. So it is top of the list for next time. I had no idea of the reasons behind the turning bay on the river. I never fail to learn something from your posts.
    I no longer use plastic dishes and instead use glass Pyrex type dishes with plastic lids for freezing. These save decanting the contents into another dish to cook. At first I bought actual Pyrex but then discovered that Asda sell their own for a third of the price. I have been building up a collection and now have about 25 of them.

    • Margaret Powling

      This is one of the things I love about writing, Eloise. I can pass on what I have always thought of as “my useless bits of information” but which, in fact, might be interesting to others. Perhaps I’m a teacher manqué!
      I love Totnes, but it’s a steep climb from the River Dart to the top of the town, but worthwhile as all the buildings and little shops are lovely. There are very few chains, there’s a W H Smith and a Superdrug and a Fat Face and a Crew Clothing, but few others. And there’s the most wonderful perfume shop selling nothing only perfume and just one small stand of Elizabeth Arden (if I remember correctly) cosmetics.
      Right, I must look for these dishes in Asda. Do the plastic tops come with them? I’d not heard of a Pyrex-type dish with a plastic top, but that would be ideal. I don’t want to use foil containers, I don’t want my meals looking like they’ve come courtesy of a takeaway, ha ha!

  6. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    Yes, lids included. Have sent you a link via email.
    I think they are brilliant.
    I hate foil for cooking as I am always sure that I can taste it.

    • Margaret Powling

      Wowzer, Pyrex or similar-to-Pyrex with lids, what more could a batch-cooking lass want! I will be off to Asda ASAP for these. All I need to do is find out where in the kitchen I can store them until I start to batch cook. Just think, ready made casseroles, stews, lasagnes, chilli, spag bol sauce, cottage pie … and the occasional cake, too!

  7. Once again reading your post has me thinking about food ha ha. All those comments about freezing yummy meals and what type of containers to be use. Like Eloise, I have a set of three round Pyrex containers (of varying sizes) with their matching red plastic lids. I bought them in Aldi (your version of Lidl, I think) a few years ago so can’t remember what i paid but I’m sure it was a bargain, as is most of their weekly specials 🙂

    Thank you for taking us on your lovely day out. It felt like a real treat for us all – more exciting than merely going out to buy a freezer and straight home again. And good on you for supporting the local independent stores. We try to do same in our household. The next town about 25 km from our home has an excellent Electrical goods store which has been there for decades. We have bought various items – washing machine, toaster, kettles, DVD player then later bluray player (that does everything except wash up !) – for our household or on behalf of my mother or parents-in-law. Their service is top knotch and I’m keen to employ local businesses.

    I’m intrigued by the photo of your morning tea of coffee and a ‘flapjack’. I admit I was expecting to see a pikelet as that’s what Americans mean by flapjacks but yours looks nothing like a pikelet. I will definitely google to see what it is 🙂

    Those pastel coloured townhouses are so cutesy. Very pretty indeed.

    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Lara. We have both Aldi and Lidl and although I’ve only been in Aldi twice, it’s a much newer store than Lidl in our area, we actually prefer Lidl, but both are good for bargains (I bought lovely macarons in Lidl last time we were there, and a fraction the price of some I’ve seen online!)
      Yes, we combined buying a freezer, not the most exciting thing to do, with a cup of coffee in a local pub overlooking the River Dart. Yes, it’s great when you find an independent local store with a good selection of items and also good service.
      A flapjack (and the one on my plate I had attempted to cut in half so I could give some to my husband) is mainly made of oats and golden syrup, quite heavy and sticky, and has fruit and nuts in it. Everyone has his or her own recipe, and the one I use – if I make them – has coconut in it, too. They are tray-baked and cut into squares or oblongs.

  8. Okay, I have googled ‘flapjacks’. We call them muesli bars in Australia. I love learning what everyday things are called in other countries 🙂

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, muesli bars is a good alternative name for flapjacks, but muesli only ‘arrived’ I this country in the 1960s as a breakfast cereal (the first was Alpen) but flapjacks had been around for many years before that. I don’t know how they got their name flapjack, though!

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