Royal Albert Bridge, Saltash
Tamar road bridge, Saltash
Saltash is one of the gateways to Cornwall, the first town you reach when crossing the broad expanse of the Tamar River from Plymouth in Devon
The Tamar is close to its estuary at this point and the two bridges that span it each offer magnificent views. The older of the bridges was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the renowned Victorian engineer. Built in 1859, the magnificent Royal Albert Bridge carries the railway into Cornwall from London, The Midlands and The North.
The road bridge was opened in 1961 providing a much needed road crossing on the Tamar. Until the Tamar Bridge was opened all vehicles entering and leaving Cornwall had to do so by ferry, a service which had been in operation since the 1200s. On entering Cornwall today via the road bridge, travellers are then taken through a tunnel under Saltash to reduce the pressure of traffic within the town.
For those who take the time to stop awhile and explore this Cornish border town, Saltash has much to offer. A walk down to the quayside near the base of the bridges provides excellent views of the granite piers supporting the elegant structure of the Royal Albert Bridge and a worms eye view of the modern Tamar Bridge with fine views across the water both upstream towards Calstock and towards the sea at Plymouth Sound.
Saltash' waterside is a Conservation Area and still a popular centre for all manner of watersports and fishing. A colony of mute swans live here. Known as the Saltash Swans, they are all year round residents and a popular sight for visitors and locals alike. Huge flocks of pigeons often frequent the roofs of the buildings around the waterside and provide quite a dramatic scene as they ascend into the air, particularly when food is available for them!
Intriguing old buildings such as Mary Newman's Cottage, reputedly the family home of the first wife of Sir Francis Drake; The Guildhall dating from the 17th century with its granite Tuscan columns; the Church of St Nicholas and St Faith, a chapel of ease until 1881 but much older with its Norman origin being related closely to when Saltash itself first originated in the 12th century.
Established as a market town in the 1100s by the Lord of Trematon, it had already risen to the importance of being a borough by the end of the 12th century.
Despite its antiquity, Saltash did not have its own parish church until the 19th century. St Stephen's (by Saltash) was the church of Saltash and the chapel of ease, St Nicholas, was its dependent.
A Town Heritage Trail, exploring much of Saltash' history, was launched in July 2000 and visitors to Saltash can get information on the trail from the Tourist Information Centre at The Guildhall.
St Nicholas still retains many Norman features including its tower, the south door and many of its walls and masonry. Its unusual font is believed to be Norman.
St Stephens by Saltash, the original parish church is a mile from the town centre. A fine church, much of which is 15th century and with a Norman font and some Norman remains in the tower. Most likely founded by the Norman Lord of Trematon Castle, it passed, together with the castle, into the ownership of the Dukes of Cornwall.
On the edge of the town is a nature reserve managed by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust. Churchtown Farm Community Nature Reserve, bordered by the Tamar and Lynher rivers, extends to 150 acres and falls within the Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
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