The Visitor Centre at the Saltash Bridge opened its doors for the first time in May 2019. Since then ‘Bridging the Tamar’ has welcomed many visitors and achieved great things.
The project was started as there was a realisation that there was a lot of local pride for the bridges and their incredibly rich history, with regular requests for talks and behind the scenes information. There was also a lot of demand from schools and groups for talks and sessions about the bridges from a historical and engineering perspective. The creation of the Centre was made possible thanks to a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), with the remainder being funded by the Tamar Crossings.
Now the Centre is able to celebrate these major landmarks with the community in a fantastic space. It’s a much more powerful experience to be able to welcome people on site so they can see the structures in context. It’s also a natural stopping point and gateway into Cornwall with a fantastic view, encouraging visitors from further afield to understand the history and stories behind the bridges.
Another part of ‘Bridging the Tamar’s’ work is as a hub for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) learning. It works with schools and educational providers to encourage skills in these areas whilst finding out about our shared local heritage. It has a team of 33 volunteers from the local area who are passionate about telling the story of the Tamar Bridge and Royal Albert Bridge, and who work with the local community to promote the significance of this part of their heritage.
The Centre has also expanded the range of tours it provides, and now offers visitors the opportunity to go down into the Tamar Bridge’s anchorage. It also has a new tour exploring Brunel’s approach to constructing the Royal Albert Bridge and how it would have been carried out. It’s also successfully grown its learning programme, frequently welcoming local schools to find out about the bridge structures, Brunel, Victorian transport, and engaging students to become mini-engineers, building their own bridges.
‘Bridging the Tamar’ participated in the History Festival for the first time last year, in collaboration with WEA to offer ‘Pevsner Perambulation’ talks around St Budeaux and Saltash. These were very successful and those who took part said it gave a new perspective and helped them find out new things about areas they see everyday.
You can find out more via ‘Bridging the Tamar’s website, and also share images and stories on Facebook and Instagram. At 6pm today we’ll be sharing an article they’ve provided about Brunel’s construction of the railway bridge. In the meantime, enjoy these fascinating images of the construction of the road bridge.
The Visitor Centre will be holding talks throughout this year’s History Festival via Zoom. They’ll take place on Wednesday 20 May, Tuesday 26 May and Tuesday 2 June, all at 11am. Click here to book your place.