Relocation from Surbiton to Totnes area

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    My husband and I are considering a relocation from Surbiton to the Totnes area of Devon. We are both solicitors, and will be working in either Exeter or Plymouth. We are attracted to Totnes as it is equidistance between the two, near the sea and seems interesting, historical and not TOO rural.

    Our children are 2 and 9 months so the secondary stage is a long way off but we are considering grammar catchments and alternative secondary options – does anyone have any experience of living in or around Totnes and getting their children into the Torbay grammar system? I’m concerned the 6 or 7 miles to Torquay or Churston Ferrers could make it (a) unlikely our children would get in, in the event of a tie and distance from school having to be considered; and/or (b) hard for them to socialise as their friends are likely to be scattered all over the place and unlikely to be based in Totnes.

    Thoughts? Recommendations for alternative areas to consider living / alternative schools to look at?

    We are at the very early stages of considering this move and really open to ideas / experiences/ recommendations/ advice.

    Thanks so much




    Hi Jen,

    I run a property search and relocation company,, so would like to think we know a thing or two about where to live in Devon! 🙂

    Totnes is a fantastic, if slightly eccentric, town to live in. It’s got fantastic history, a very vibrant local economy and the entire town has a great ethical feel about it. It is a very nurturing and supportive community that is open to new people and I am sure you and your husband would be made to feel very welcome there.

    Regrettably, unless you favour private schooling, there is a lack of very good secondary schools close by. An alternative to Torquay grammar is Ivybridge Community College. It is rated Outstanding by OFSTED and has a very enviable reputation for elite sports.

    If you are looking for places with a similar feel to Totnes but located equidistant between Plymouth and Exeter then please consider Ashburton and Bovey tracey. Both have vibrant communities that are open and welcoming with great locally run retail and Food and Drink offers and they are both very convenient for the A38.

    A major thing to bear in mind with Devon when compared to other, busier, parts of the country is commuting takes a lot less time due to the far lower volumes of traffic. For instance, even in rush hour it rarely takes more than 1 hour to drive from Plymouth to Exeter. There are many people who commute daily between the two cities quite comfortably This may help you possibly widen your search radius.

    If we can be of help with your search at all please don’t hesitate to get in touch either through this forum or through our website.

    Best of luck.




    Hi Jen

    I’ve been based in the South Hams for 22 years moving here with a corporate job and now have 2 kids and have gone through the whole Home buying, Primary choosing, Secondary choosing (private, Academy and Grammar), commuting thing. My kids are now 14 and 16.
    I live just outside Kingsbridge which is a little further south than Totnes but still easily commutable to both Exeter and Plymouth. Exeter outskirst takes me about 50 minutes and Plymouth centre 30. My husband works in Plymouth and either drives or more often than not cycles the 20 miles !.
    There are many cross country routes from here to the A38 which still make anywhere from here up to the A38 a viable option for you if commuting to Exeter. I would recommend Kingsbridge very highly. Much less eccentric than Totnes (which I love by the way) and a very vibrant local economy, lots of locals, good shops, restaurants, great primaries and a superb secondary etc.
    Modbury is another town I recommend. Good community spirit and high street and in the catchment (I believe for both Ivybridge and Kingsbridge Academies) and only 10 minutes to A38. By the way I love Totnes too but I couldn’t hand on heart recommend their secondary.

    Churston Grammar and Torquay Boys and Girls are great academically. I have friends with kids at all of them (and a few friends who teach at them). I do wonder that they sacrifice the all round “child” somewhat rather than a rounded one who plays sport and does lots of other activities rather than just academics. However all kids I know who go there are happy. You also have Stover (near Newton Abbot) which is private and a happy school though not stellar in terms of performance compared with some other private schools. I have 2 friends with children there who are very happy with it and they have a newish head who is very popular.
    Ashburton has South Dartmoor Community College. Good school but not as good as Ivybridge/Kingsbridge (see below).

    If you end up living a little further toward Plymouth there is Plymouth College (Private) and Devonport High School for Boys and Girls the two Grammar schools which are very well thought of.
    Both the Grammar Schools in Torquay and Plymouth (and Plymouth College) have dedicated bus services which kids can get on from Kingsbridge/Totnes in the mornings. ie their nets spread far and wide. I am not sure in other words that you have to be in their immediate catchment areas like London to apply for a place. I have a number of friends who live in Kingsbridge whose children get the morning bus to Plymouth and others whose kids go to Torquay. Best to check with the schools though about their transport. In other words their feeder schools are just not Plymouth or Torbay based.
    Having said that Kingsbridge Community College and Ivybridge are pretty much as good as a grammmar. Both our kids were bright enough to go to grammar but we kept them at Kingsbridge as it is a national teaching college and in the top 100 of all state schools in the whole of the UK. It also meant they were near their friends and didn’t face the issues you mention above. They also saved 2 hours a day on a bus…We are very happy with it. I know there are people specifically moving here now to be in its catchment.
    Pretty much ALL the feeder Primaries into Kingsbridge Community College are very good.

    Kingsbridge and surrounding areas are also near the most amazing beaches which is invaluable all the way through childhood !

    One final thing, settle somewhere you think you will find friends not just the kids schools. Its invaluable when they are little to have a great local primary school which is big enough (some down here only have 20 kids in total!) where you will make friends at the school gates as well as your kids having enough children in their class. A vibrant local business community (you mention you are solicitors) will mean you will meet like minded friends. An interest you might have is vital too ie rowing, a great local gym, good rugby for the kids, cricket club etc. These clubs play a vital role in settling somewhere for the long term and mean both you and your children will make friends and be happy.

    Would highly recommend coming down to Devon in June/early July and staying in a local house and walking round all of these towns (if you haven’t already done it before) and going to see the primary/seconary schools so you get a better feel for them.

    Warning – If you are doing long days at work its hard to get pre-school hour and post school hour clubs for children down here (not like London at all) so if you need it you might need to consider an au pair/child minder/nanny on top to do the pre and post school care. Otherwise you might need to live in either Exeter or Plymouth where its probably easier to get the morning/after school clubs.

    Any town up near the A38 has entirely different weather to further south. Kingsbridge/Modbury are much drier and sunnier than Ashburton/Totnes which get more Moorland type weather.

    Finally, one of our children is now not at Kingsbridge but this is only because they got a scholarship to a private school in Somerset related to their particular sport. Without that I would never have considered moving either of them from Kingsbridge.

    Sorry for the brain dump. Any other questions, just shout !

    Susannah Churcher



    Totnes is a fantastic place to relocate to. Check out this article
    But don’t dismiss the draw of local villages. Most are very easily located A38 so not too rural. Most have a decent bus service. I find that in the summer months they are far less congested than the towns and areas closer to beaches. The village schools tend to be smaller, which I personally prefer but it is a matter of taste. Some don’t have fantastic before/after school clubs but most have. Plus there are plenty of childminders to cover the gap.
    The local pre-school nurseries are good too.
    Local villages worth checking in the Totnes area would be Harberton, staverton, dartington, ipplepenn, denbury, littlehempston, broadhempston. South Brent, Ashburton and Bovey Tracey are worth a look too, although they are a closer to the moorland which will affect planning permission should you need it, and weather.( I wouldn’t suggest Newton abbot or Torbay. )
    Lots of children from the local villages travel to the grammar school in Torbay without issue. I’m not sure how many children from Totnes go to the grammar as there are more ‘alternative’ schools in Totnes that are popular with the residents. It might be worth investigating with the grammar school itself.
    South Hams/ South Devon is a fantastic place to live but be prepared for a MUCH slower pace of life. It can be a bit of a culture shock at first!!
    Good luck!

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