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the font, the only surviving relic of the original Norman church which stood on this site. Tuckenhay did not evolve over centuries like most Devon villages. It was established in 1806 by one Abraham Tucker as an industrial centre. The old paper mill can still be seen - look back up


to the left near to where the path emerges on to the road. The distinctive clock on the building was brought from Totnes Parish Church. The mill processed rags, which were ‘thrashed’ into fibres, bleached, boiled and finally hand - made into paper. The mill was once a very successful enterprise, producing the highest quality paper, used for artist’s paper and bank notes the world over. Aside from the mill, Tuckenhay also had a cider factory, lime kilns and bustling quays. These days the creeks have silted up and the mills, quays and warehouses have been converted. Ashprington developed as an estate village for Sharpham House. It is because of this that many of the stone built houses are in such a similar architectural style, with their diamond shaped window panes. The 19th century squire, Richard Durant, had such influence that in 1871 he began to impose fines for swearing in public places. Penalties ranged from one shilling for a labourer to five shillings for a gentleman! The ruined building on the exposed hill across the river, seen as you walk along the river between Sharpham and the wharf at Totnes, was called appropriately Windwhistle Cottage. The last owner of this atmospheric ruin is recorded as having nineteen children. As you leave the wharf you enter ‘Little


Totnes’, one of the oldest parts of the town. Originally a tidal marsh, the area around the Steam Packet Inn was in Victorian times an elegant ‘pleasure ground’, complete with bowling green. The quay itself is much older and was once the site of the 11th Century St Peter’s Chapel, used by monks from Totnes Priory. The broad street of The Plains where the


Woodland path at Sharpahm


Jumping salmon


walk ends was reclaimed from marshland in the 15th century. The shops and residential properties here were once warehouses storing grain, apples, bacon, cider and ale. Even the old Methodist chapel on the right became a cider store after it closed its doors to worshippers in 1901.


Wildlife The river is rich in birdlife, including heron, swan, mallard and the white, orange and black shelduck. The Canada goose is found here, with its distinctive black head and neck and white ‘chinstrap’ in between. You may also see the large, black, ungainly- looking shapes of cormorants, sitting low in the water or flying low


over the water. Unusually, cormorants do not have naturally waterproof feathers, and so you may also see them perched on branches or rocks with their wings hung out to dry by their sides. The brilliantly vivid kingfisher is most often seen as a tiny whirring flash of blue and orange. As well as being perhaps our most spectacularly colourful bird, the kingfisher also has a reputation as one of the smelliest. Its nest holes in particular are said to have a strong pong of rotting fish. Atlantic salmon are still caught commercially on the river Dart, although these days in strictly limited quantities. Small boats catch the fish using netting techniques that have changed little for centuries. Salmon hatched from eggs in the upper reaches of the Dart and its


tributary streams head off to their feeding grounds off the coast of Greenland. Incredibly, they later find their way back across the vastness of the ocean to spawn in the very same spot where they first hatched. The woodland through which you walk after


branching off the Sharpham drive is carpeted with bluebells and primroses in spring. Along with mixed broadleaved trees are larches, Britain’s only deciduous conifer. Its tufted needles turn a beautiful golden colour in the autumn and its heartwood makes dense and durable timber. Reed warblers breed in the reedbeds you pass on


the river south of Totnes. Small brown birds with white throats and sharp slim beaks, reed warblers weave nests suspended from several reed stems.


Jumping salmoncc © Walter Baxter - geograph.org.uk/p/3191873


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