Rounding the corner on the beautiful Sharpham Estate the imposing Sharpham House comes into view.

Inside notices instructed you to take off your shoes.

Sure enough there were neat rows of footwear.

The Sharpham Trust, which manages the Estate, offers everything from meditation retreats, mindfulness courses, weddings and outdoor learning to natural burials.

Sharpham House
Sharpham House (Richard Harding)

Programme Manager Ben Ballard describes the scene: “We’re on a 500-acre estate in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, we’re on three miles of the River Dart and the estate goes nearly up to Totnes and just over the woods we’ve got Point Field which is a public campsite.

‘This is Sharpham House which is a Grade 1 listed mansion, built in 1760 by a Plymouth sea captain who captured a Spanish galleon in the Atlantic, full of precious gold and metals.

“He brought it back and was handsomely rewarded.

“People think the landscape is attributed to Capability Brown.”

The Sharpham Estate
The Sharpham Estate (Richard Harding)

Ben then described the activities taking place:

“Around the back of the house there are four retreat venues: Sharpham House itself, the Barn Retreat Centre, then a new building called The Coach House and in the summer months we have retreats up in the woods.

“On the other side of the estate are our partners are Ambios and they’re into nature conservation, they have adults with learning disabilities and they’re engaging them in small-scale farming and nature conservation activities and they also have trainees learning about the land and above that is a natural burial ground.

“The wine has now moved across the River to Stoke Gabriel and the area is now designated as a wildflower meadow.

“Over the last five to 10 years the Trust has really been taking seriously the land management and how we make more space for nature.

“If you walk down towards Totnes there are 60 acres dedicated to rewilding.”

Sheep on the Sharpham Estate
Sheep on the Sharpham Estate (Richard Harding)

Aside from the activities Sharpham House is closed to the public to make it more secluded.

A few weeks ago Sharpham was featured on BBC1’s Countryfile.

Ben explains:” It was really great opportunity to us to put our work out there nationally and they chose Sharpham as a base for that episode.

“It generated quite a lot of interest in our work which has been great for our charity.”

A view towards the River Dart
A view towards the River Dart (Richard Harding)

Finally Ben told us more about the Sharpham Trust itself: “There used to be a family here called Ruth and Morris Ash and Ruth was the daughter of the Elmhirsts in Dartington.

“They had been living here as a couple and a family and in 1982 they made the very generous decision to gift the whole estate to the charitable trust.

“Maurice was interested in alternative approaches to managing the land, he was a francophile hence starting the wine and cheese and was broadly interested in meditation and eastern wisdom traditions and saw that could be of benefit to society.

“Ruth was a lover of the Arts and Crafts movement and was a keen gardener so some of those threads continue in the trust today.

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