Totnes, environment and inspiration

Totnes, environment and inspiration

Totnes – Alternative is the new Normal

You do not have to travel far to experience beautiful and inspirational places. As I was having difficulties being cooped up in my house during the awful rainy days of February, I decided to head for Totnes, only 1.5 hour drive away. . The town of Totnes is located in Devon on the river Dart, not far from the coast (about 25 minutes) and not far from the amazing Dartmoor. The explorer in me always loves to see new areas and I heard good things about Totnes from my friends who compare it to Glastonbury, same alternative vibe. I always smile when I hear the word ‘alternative’, what does that mean? Alternative to what? If it is alternative to the norm of everyday society, then I understand, but sometimes I get the feeling that the word alternative is not always looked at in a positive way. Anyway, in this case alternative means: environmental, organic, healthy foods and simply a more conscious way of looking at life and earth. Totnes is a Transition Town and basically that means that they try to reduce their environmental impact on our planet. Nothing wrong with that! They should call this alternative way of living, the new normal.

Anyway, I booked an Airbnb room in Totnes with Suzanne Uren, who happened to be a specialist in guiding people with fasts. She organises Water fasting  and so it was no coincidence that I was going stay with her, because I had just gone on a strict diet myself for health reasons. Always follow your gut feeling!

Totnes town centre

Arriving in Totnes feeling shitty but glad that I escaped my bubble, I first went into Totnes to visit the Friday market which is supposed to be very nice. I noticed that it was very busy in Totnes: lots of cars and people about and it was difficult finding a parking spot. Be prepared to climb hills as the streets of Tones go up and down, not flat walking there. The high street of Totnes is a nice mix of different houses and shops with some character, alternative and what you call normal. I have to give the quirky shop called Narnia  a mention also known as the Time Travellers Shop. The market had some stalls with organic street food and general food, and there were people selling vintage items. The market was a bit smaller than I expected but it was nice enough.

The next stop was the big wholefood store Greenlife  right there on the market square that offers all kinds of organic and healthy options: my heaven! You cannot go wrong food wise in Totnes if you follow a more healthy life path. I could see that there is indeed an alternative crowd there – very recognisable in their more hippish outfits and there was a lot of hugging going on. I could feel a gentle vibe as we have in Glastonbury but still the energy was very different here. I do not feel the space and nature so much in Totnes, it is a bigger town than Glastonbury and so the steep and small streets make me feel somewhat claustrophobic. I assume this is a town that can grow on you, but you have to stay here for a longer period of time to get into the community.

Totnes is an old town and has a lot of history which is evident in some of the historical sites that are there: Totnes Castle, a 11thcentury keep that you can still visit, the Guild Hall and the sacred Leech Wells.


Dartington Hall

The next day I decided to visit Dartington Hall . This is a special place: a 1200 acres estate, home to the Dartington Hall Trust – an educational charity that supports learning in ecology, the arts, social enterprise and within the wider community. It also has an amazing history, going back to the 14thCentury. It is a beautiful building surrounded by very lovely gardens and you can feel really good energy there. There are several different initiatives located here who do amazing work with the purpose of bringing about change for the better in the world. This all evolved from the time that the so called The Dartington Experiment began in 1925, when Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst bought the estate with the intention to bring great minds, artists and other change makers together for the good of the planet.

I am especially intrigued by the Schumacher College an international college for ecological studies aimed at innovative and social change. While I was looking around in the visitor’s centre, one particular book caught my eye: ‘Earth Pilgrim’ by Satish Kumar, the originator and co-founder of Schumacher College. This former monk and peace and environmental activist has an impressive record of walking the talk. He also did some amazing walking pilgrimages that he wrote about (“No Destination”) and which have inspired people all around the world. When I came back to the Airbnb and started to read his book, I was completely blown away by the fact that he has worded so wonderfully our purpose here on earth and he asked a very good question: Are you a tourist or are you a pilgrim? In other words: are you using the planet for your gratification or do you see the sacredness of the earth? It made me think about what I am doing and I will keep this question in the back of my mind everywhere I travel. Life is a pilgrimage and the earth is a sacred site! (also from the book!).

“Earth is a manifestation of the divine spiriting a physical form. The divine is present in any moment and in everything.”

Satish Kumar









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