The unique character of Totnes and Salcombe

Totnes is a market town that sits at the head of the Dart estuary. It has prospered since medieval times and has grown a reputation for alternative therapies. Totnes is its main street, lined with a huge range of independent traders including butchers, bakers, fudge-makers, cheese producers, cafes, bistros, ethnic bags and bangles and banjolelesl. The iconic clock tower spans the street around the half-way mark.

This plaque is particularly interesting, coming from Oxford as I do.

Salcombe is a bit further west on the Kingsbridge Estuary. It has a long and rich history as a centre for fishing and as a trade port importing particularly fruit from Spain , the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.

Ship building took place in the town and many small workshops still remain. In the past the town could boast sail makers, blockers, blacksmiths and sawyers.

The first holiday home was built here in the 1700s.

As ship building and trade declined so the town developed its recreational side and it became a bustling resort town with many holiday lets and a busy ferry to take holiday makers over the estuary to the beaches opposite.

All these Devon towns are worth a visit but I have learned a couple of things about them. Firstly parking is a nightmare and it usually takes several circuits of the car parks and streets before a space is spotted. Warning: 9 times out of 10, in order to park will require you to carry out parallel parking  maneuvers (when’s the last time you did that?). Secondly, any space is usually at the top of a hill, requiring a quick descent to places of interest but a laboured accent at the end of the day to rejoin your vehicle. Park & Ride schemes are sign-posted but all seem to be seasonal and none ran after October.

My one tip to you: park on the other side of the estuary to these tourist towns. In most cases at least one passenger ferry dashes about from A to B to C. Although a bit chilly on the water, it beats being stuck in queues in town. Check on-line before you travel.


And then there is Dittisham

And then there is Dittisham. This picturesque village lies on the estuary of the River Dart. It has a population off around 420 and is a couple of kilometres upstream from Dartmouth. It has two pubs, one of which trebles up as a shop and a post office and the seasonal Anchorstone Cafe which serves excellent local seafood lunches. Other than that, it is a sleepy place with lots of holiday lets and a rather affluent feel. But don’t get me wrong. It has a charm and an attraction which makes it a relaxing place to chill out on holiday, although I expect the character might well change in the high season as boats and visitors are drawn to the estuary.

The narrow main street, called The Levels, is the only level surface in the village. It is cut into the scarp of the hills that line the estuary providing wonderful views of the estuary from houses on both sides, above and below the road. Sight of the water can also be grasped though gaps in hedges and over walls.

The approach to the estuary is always steeply downhill. A fact that fills the heart with dread as the minute the gradient starts to increase, you know that the return journey will require a massive effort for muscles and lungs alike.

Two passenger ferries serve the village from the small beach by The Ferry Boat Inn, a small cosy pub right beside the water, and the new pontoon which also acts as a crabbing hotspot.

One runs to and fro between here and Dartmouth, bringing visitors upstream to frequent the pub itself or wander the quiet lanes or as part of a circular amble along the estuary.The other plies across the narrow stretch of water to Greenway House. This is now owned by the National Trust and was once the home of Agatha Christie. Greenway Quay mirrors the pontoon on the west bank. A bell can be rung to summon the boat.