Celebrating 25 years

We were so delighted earlier this year when we got the news that 2016 marks 25 years since Children’s Hospice South West was founded. We have been fundraising for this incredible charity for the last three years with a running total donated so far of over £6,200. We have loved being able to support such a worthwhile charity and have seen it go from strength to strength over the years. This year, under the slogan ‘celebrating the past…looking to the future’, they have been holding special events to celebrate this special anniversary and have been encouraging their supporters to hold ‘silver’ parties to mark the occasion. Additionally, they are also one of the chosen charities for this year’s Great West Run in Exeter. As part of this partnership, they have some running spaces available…check out http://www.chsw.org.uk/gwr if you’re interested in finding out more. 

In case you’ve not heard of them though, we’ll fill you in with a little bit on what they do. Children’s Hospice South West provides hospice care for children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions and their whole family across the South West region. This care is based in three hospices across the area and ranges from respite and short breaks to emergency and end of life care. They make an incredible difference in the lives of hundreds of families and help to provide support and to make memories for some very poorly children and their loved ones. It was founded in 1991 by Eddie and Jill Farwell  ‘after they experienced for themselves the urgent need for hospice care for children in the South West’ as they had to travel over four hours from their home to the country’s only children’s hospice at the time with their two eldest children. The first hospice, Little Bridge House, opened in 1995, followed by Charlton Farm in 2007 and finally Little Harbour in 2011.
Here at the Passage House Inn, we feel privileged to be in a position where we can regularly organise events and fundraising efforts for such an amazing charity. This October, we hope to continue in doing so with a Halloween spectacular fundraising event and hope that the people of Topsham will once again dig deep to help support the work that Children’s Hospice South West does. We are so incredibly grateful for the people who have helped us in these efforts in the past few years and to those that have got involved and donated, we couldn’t do it without them! So why not head over to their website (www.chsw.org.uk) and have a bit more of a look at the work they do and at the fundraising events that are happening over the next few months. And here’s to the next 25 years! 

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The Finer Things

I think it’s fair to say that here at The Passage House Inn we definitely appreciate the finer things in life; good food, well selected wine, beautiful works of art… In fact, so much so that we are proud to display the works of talented local artist, Geoffrey Teece, on our walls. We also have a selection of his cards, all featuring a beautifully painted scene from around Topsham, for sale at the bar. It’s a fairly popular pairing, advertising art in eating establishments and you can understand the logic behind it. If you are enjoying a delicious, freshly cooked meal and spot a painting nearby that catches your eye, what better time to ponder on whether you want it on your wall at home than as you relax with a post dinner coffee or slice of cheesecake? 

View from the Passage

Since retiring from full time university work and moving to Devon, Geoff has made his watercolour painting ‘much more central’ in his life. Of his chosen medium he says ‘watercolour, painted freely and wet is, in my opinion, the best medium for portraying the rapidly changing softness of the temperate climate of these islands.’ (1). Interestingly, he sticks to a very specific range of colours in his painting and it obviously works as the finished artifacts are, without exception, beautifully created, soft and oh so pleasing to look at. He chooses to paint mostly places in and around Topsham, creating sublime pictures that I’m sure will soon become the pride of place in many local homes. Only a few weeks ago, at Topsham Art Group’s Summer Exhibition, his talent was further acknowledged as he won the Joy Armstrong Cup for the most popular painting in the exhibition.

After the shower, Topsham

As you can tell, we are so proud to be exhibiting his paintings and have received much positive feedback about them. We’re also very proud to be following through on our ethos of ‘supporting small and local’ by displaying the work of a very local artist. We really believe that close knit communities are built on the premise of building each other up and by supporting local businesses and people with your consumer choices. So next time you pop in for a pint or sit down for one of our delicious meals, why not take a bit more time (if you haven’t already!) to have a look at the amazing artwork adorning our walls? Or if you need a card to send to a loved one far away, don’t forget that you can buy a gorgeous watercolour scene of Topsham from just £2. In our opinion, a handmade piece of art beats a postcard any day! 

The Waterfront, Topsham

Celebrating Topsham

I know you might think us something of a broken record but we can’t help but love and shout about what an amazing community exists in our humble town of Topsham. All year long there are events for the residents to get involved in; carol concerts, the Ferryman’s swim, beautiful gardens opened to the public, musical nights galore and much more. And whilst we sadly saw the final Topsham Carnival last year, this summer we have something new and very exciting for the whole community to get involved with. On the 27th August we will be celebrating Topsham’s inaugral Town Charter Day! Dreamt up in the wake of the carnival, the folk on the town committee recognised the need and desire of residents to still be able to celebrate Topsham once a year. And thus, they decided to start an annual community gathering to celebrate the awarding of our town charter.

Topsham was granted its town charter on 22nd August 1300 by King Edward I. Now I don’t know about you, but I didn’t know much about what this signified for the town at the time. A little bit of research though tells me that it was a pretty big deal. In medieval England, there weren’t that many towns in existence. In fact in the Domesday Book of 1087 only six towns were included. Most people lived in villages and just travelled to towns for trade. Having a charter though, ‘gave people in a town certain rights that were clearly stated in the charter that town had.’ (1) Common rights granted included the right to collect their own taxes and the establishment of their own law courts. So Topsham being awarded its own town charter would have been very important at the time, especially given its relatively modest size.

So why not come down and mark the occasion on the 27th August with us all? It looks set to be a brilliant day with a peal of bells, the Honourable Lord Mayor of Exeter in attendance, hawk displays, storytellers, jugglers, medieval stocks and much more. The day will culminate with a celidh before a firework display at 9pm. The first annual Town Charter Day certainly seems like it’s going to go with a bang! Here at The Passage House Inn, we’ll be open as usual, serving ice cold drinks and delicious homecooked food, offering a refuge for those needing a quick sit down and a breather before heading out again to experience the best that medieval Topsham has to offer! 

Swimming with the Ferryman

There is one event that we look forward to more than any other here at the Passage House Inn, and it is the annual Topsham to Turf Ferryman’s Swim. Not surprising really given our long standing friendship with the ferrymen of Topsham. Every August, Mike is joined by a growing number of intrepid swimmers who take to the water and swim from just outside our doors, down the River Exe, to Turf Locks. As well as the adrenaline rush gained from a spot of wild swimming, they do so in order to raise money for the Estuary League of Friends, a very worthy local charity.

Wild swimming is an activity that is on the rise in the UK and with very good reason. It’s a great way of getting outside and getting active. According to wildswimming.co.uk it ‘soothes muscle aches, relieves depression and boosts the immune system’ as well as having a whole host of long-term benefits such as lowered blood pressure and cholesterol, reduced fat disposition and increased fertility. It’s also a brilliant way to explore the countryside around us as you hunt out the best spots for a dip. Be it lake, river or sea, it is the opinion of a growing number that you just can’t beat a spot of wild swimming.

The Ferryman’s Swim is a great starter event if you’re new to the activity as the swim itself isn’t too long, you’ve got a fair bit of current assistance and everyone involved is friendly and guaranteed to make you feel welcome. You also have the added benefit of knowing that you are helping to raise money for a most excellent cause. On top of that, once finished, it’s easy enough to jump onto the ferry back to Topsham to warm up with some hot food and tell us all about your achievement!

This year, the swim is taking place on Saturday 13th August at 14:30, all details on how to get involved can be found here. So why not be brave and dip your toe (pun definitely intended) into the world of wild swimming with the Topsham to Turf Ferryman’s Swim? But if you can’t quite bring yourself to strip off and get into the Exe, never fear…you can still be part of it. Sponsor one of the competitors and then come and join us at The Passage House Inn as we cheer from the starting line before settling down with some good food and a pint by the river to watch them as they race downstream, led by our very own ferryman of Topsham, Mike Stevens.

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Communal Dining

In less than a month, the streets of Topsham will be closed to cars and people will be piling out of their houses armed with picnic baskets laden down with delicious food, bottles of wine and oddly, a dining room chair. It can mean only one thing, the biennial event that is fast becoming a favourite Topsham tradition, Nello’s Longest Table. Here at The Passage House Inn, we’re looking forward to the street party atmosphere that descends on the town and to sampling the culinary delights that our chefs will be cooking for the tables right outside our front door. Then later on, we’ll be getting our dance shoes out as we’ve booked the Fab Beatles to come and entertain the masses!

Nello’s Longest Table is an event that was started by friends of Nello Ghezzo, a much loved Topsham figure who sadly died in 1999 after a battle with cancer. He had a dream of a longest table event in Topsham whereby tables are placed end to end around the streets of the town and folk join together for one gigantic communal meal. His dream was first realised in 2008 by his friends as part of Topsham Food Festival and since then it has become a biennial event. Tables cost £30 each and are sold by Route 2 and all money raised goes to Topsham Community Association and Force Cancer Charity.

Marc Millon, a close friend of Nello, kindly shares his thoughts about the event. “Nello’s Longest Table is a truly extraordinary event. I love to walk the full length, from Topsham Fire Station all the way down Fore Street, around the Quay, and then down Ferry Road and the Underway along to the Passage Inn. It’s great to see this longest table, stretching endlessly through the town; to catch a glimpse of what people are eating and drinking; and to greet friends and new acquaintances along the way. There is such a warm, happy atmosphere everywhere. The amazing thing is how, as dusk begins to fall, everyone clears up, returns their tables to the designated collection points, takes away their garbage and litter, and before long, the town is completely back to normal. It’s almost as if it were all a dream, that it had never really happened! But it had and it will.”

This event perfectly encompasses everything that is great about Topsham; the strong sense of community, the drive to do good and raise money for worthy causes and the love of good food and drink! This year’s theme is ‘celebrating Topsham’s salmon fishing heritage’ which should certainly give you some inspiration for your menu. Here at The Passage House Inn, we’re counting down the days until this amazing event. So why not take part in the biggest meal with friends you’ll ever attend, raise a glass to Nello and then when you’ve eaten your fill, wander through the streets to join us and dance into the evening to the sounds of the Fab Beatles!

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Location, location, location

I think it is fair to say that when it comes to the hospitality industry, location really is everything. No one wants to go for a meal or a drink in an establishment overlooking a motorway, with a view of a landfill or just in a dreary dull street with no redeeming features. Ambience and location really are an important part of the dining experience. And here at The Passage House Inn, we think we’ve hit the jackpot! Not only are we in the much loved harbour town that is Topsham with it’s beautiful buildings and village like atmosphere, but, we are situated right by the water with gorgeous views across the River Exe and smack bang in the middle of the Exe Estuary Trail. We’ve recently put up boards in our beer garden with birds you might spot on the estuary and a map of the trail itself for those walking or cycling their way around.

Since 2001, Devon County Council have been developing the trail as part of the National Cycle Network Route 2. Once completed it will be almost 26 miles in length although you can obviously pick and choose individual sections to complete, especially if you utilise some of the ferry services available (such as the one just metres from our door!) Devon County Council are rightly very proud of this route, not only does it provide “an exciting opportunity for people to experience cycling or walking around the entire Exe Estuary, appreciating the wildlife and passing through some beautiful riverside towns and villages steeped in maritime history” but the different habitats on the Estuary are so diverse that it has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area, a Ramsar Site (internationally important area for birdlife) and is a candidate for a Special Area of Conservation.

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The Passage House Inn is in a very unique and beautiful area of the world and we still can’t believe our good fortune at being nestled amongst it all. No matter what time of year, no matter what the weather, we are always afforded a changing view of wildlife on the estuary that provides extra interest and variety to those coming to visit us at the Passage House Inn. So whether you’re just ambling along the Topsham to Lympstone stretch or ambitiously cycling along the whole trail, make sure you visit us for a coffee before you go, a refreshing drink mid walk or a meal to refuel once you’ve completed your day of discovery along our very own Exe Estuary Trail. There’s really no place we’d rather be.

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Small Batch Brews

Over the last few weeks, here at The Passage House Inn, we’ve had the absolute pleasure of being one of only a handful of pubs able to offer a range of different delicious ales crafted by St Austell Brewery as part of their first Small Batch Beer Club season. As we’re winding down towards the last few, we thought it’d be interesting to delve a little deeper and find out some more about them.

The Small Batch Brewery is a relatively new venture for the folk at St Austell; in their own words, ‘building on the success of our previous micro-brewery, but delivering up to 3,000 pints at any one time instead of the previous 600, the Small Batch Brewery is designed to allow St Austell’s team of highly skilled and innovative brewers to keep experimenting with new flavours and new beer styles while further developing the skills of the master brewer using a truly ‘hands-on’ brewing system’. It is undoubtedly a pretty exciting time for beer in the South West. Although we offer and love a wide range of drinks, we can’t deny that the heart of our business lies with beer. And we wouldn’t have it any other way! We are passionate about supporting local and small businesses by putting on regular guest ales and our customers love the choice that it gives them as well as the opportunity to try a pint they’ve not had before.

We’ve been so impressed with the amazing diversity in the 12 beers that the brewing team at St Austell have concocted for this first run. We’ve had Gorse-Ed, inspired by the Eden Project, the ever so tasty Vanilla & Bourbon Porter, a sweet honey infused Black & Gold and several more. We’re especially looking forward to the next one that we’ll be putting on, Seven Cs & Rye, an ale with seven hops all starting with the letter ‘C’, how’s that for a bit of brewing fun?! We’re very proud to have such a great relationship with St Austell and look forward to seeing what else the Small Batch Brewery gets up to. It is also going to form the heart of their soon-to-open interactive visitor centre and we’ll be one of the first lining up to have a look round! In the meantime though, why not pop down and sample one of these limited edition ales, here at The Passage House Inn in Topsham, whilst stocks last!
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