Hot Spot: Totnes, Devon

Dozing on the bank of the Dart, tolerant Totnes is not so much sleepy as laid back - a haven for hippies, says Robert Liebman
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The Independent Online

Cloth in exchange for wine. Totnes started enjoying this commercial arrangement with France in the 16th century, and some locals have been high ever since.

Cloth in exchange for wine. Totnes started enjoying this commercial arrangement with France in the 16th century, and some locals have been high ever since.

Glastonbury commands the New Age headlines but Totnes is the real haven for hippies. "This is a very tolerant town, so people who prefer a less predictable lifestyle find it easy to settle here," says Stacks buying agent Nicola Oddy. "Totnes is known as a tourist destination, but it's also a great alternative place to live. For its size there's a lot going on, and it's easy to integrate and find a good social life. The town's layout means that all houses are near green space. Located at the top of the River Dart estuary, it also has great riverside charm."

Sue Saunders of estate agents Fulfords notes that the big property money gravitates toward the river: "Modern one-bedroom flats start at about £100,000 but luxury apartments on the riverfront sell for about £300,000. Houses with river views located on the edge of the town are in the half- million-plus range."

The area's schools cater for alternative lifestyles. "Education is a particular issue here, and Dartington Hall and the Rudolf Steiner School in particular attract many people to the town," adds Saunders.

Property values are buoyed by good transport links: "Plymouth is a half hour and Exeter is 45 minutes by car," Saunders says. "People are moving into Totnes and the South Hams because of the quality of life, the good roads and a national train service. Many villages just outside Totnes are popular, in particular Dartington, Stoke Gabriel, Ashprington and Tuckenhay."

THE LOW-DOWN

Getting there

Totnes is on the Paddington to Penzance main line. Road access via the A38 and the M5 at Exeter is good but extremely busy during the summer, with tourists heading for Salcombe, Kingsbridge, or Dartmouth.

Attractions

Ten miles south are beaches and coastline, and 10 miles north is Dartmoor National Park. The Totnes Show (29 July) features axe and chainsaw competitions, animal shows and contests, marching bands, mini-car stunt displays, demonstrations by blacksmiths, thatchers and other rural craftspeople, and stalls selling local produce. It claims to be the biggest one-day show in the country.

Oldies

Dartington Hall was built in the 14th century by Richard II's half-brother John Holand, Earl of Huntingdon, who was beheaded in 1400 after an unsuccessful rebellion against Henry IV. Dartington Hall School is part of a 1,000-acre complex that includes Dartington College of Arts, the Barn Theatre, model farms, a saw mill, a textile company and Dartington Glass. Totnes Guildhall dates from 1553 and was built on the ruins of a medieval priory.

Prices

A recently refurbished two-bed house in Totnes with conservatory, off-road parking and enclosed garden, £239,950 at Fulfords. A three-bed stone Georgian (possibly earlier) terrace plus converted attic with courtyard garden in Church Close overlooking St Mary's Church tower, £310,000 at Michelmore Hughes. A four-bed Victorian terrace with large fifth bedroom in the loft and a 75ft garden, £315,000 at Luscombe Maye.

Listed

A gothic Grade II listed four-bed detached cottage next to St Mary's Church, for about £315,000 at Luscombe Maye.

Locals only

A three-bed semi in Follaton with countryside views is £169,950, at Fulfords, but it can only be bought by people who have lived or worked in Devon for the past three years.

Luxury riverside

A top-floor flat offering 180-degree views in a purpose-built block with balcony, circa £325,000 at Luscombe Maye. A riverside quay is available via separate negotiation.

Villages

In Stoke Gabriel, Starlings is a three to four-bed bungalow with conservatory and views to the River Dart, £475,000, at Fulfords. A six-bed in South Downs, with indoor heated pool, double garage, conservatory, gardens and woodland on 3.5 acres, is seeking offers over £1m; at Fulfords and Jackson-Stops. A contemporary three-bed house overlooking the Dart with tennis court, is seeking offers over £1.2m, at Jackson-Stops. In Buckfastleigh.

Conversion

Two miles outside Totnes, Lower Longcombe Farm is a four-bed farmhouse with about five acres of organic pasture, including paddocks and a sand school for exercising horses, £675,000, at Marchand Petit.

Estate agents

Fulfords, 01392 667737; Luscombe Maye, 01803 863811; Marchand Petit, 01803 847979; Michelmore Hughes, 01803 865116. Buying agent: Stacks, 01208 850555.

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