There are two bridges across the River Tamar – for trains, the Royal Albert Bridge (known locally as the Brunel Bridge), and for vehicles, the Tamar Bridge. Before the Tamar Bridge was built in 1962, a ferry connected the two sides of the river.
After moving to Saltash when I was 11, I’d only walked across the bridge three times – each time, holding tightly onto whoever I was walking with. I was/am scared of heights. However, as an adult, my buses to work were becoming more unreliable, and one day I made the decision to walk the bridge to catch a choice of services on the Plymouth side.
At the time, the cantilevers – one on each side, to provide a fourth traffic lane, and a dedicated pedestrian/cycle path – were new. And every time a heavy lorry drove past, the cantilever bounced. It was a horrible feeling, and took me months to get used to it.
Gradually, I grew to love my daily jaunt, the freshness of the river helped to wake me up. In the middle of the winter, I’d occasionally witness glorious sunrises; and during the height of summer, it was a relaxing start to the working day, the river beneath deep blue, speckled with white sailing boats
The river itself has its distinct personality – glassy winter clarity or hazy mid-summer glow, grey and churning during storms, dull and heavy when the weather is overcast.
Walking across the bridge on windy days were a battle, with gusts predominantly from the south pushing me into the path of cyclists and other walkers – the day I chose a denim maxi skirt was particularly memorable and challenging. If the wind was paired with rain or hail, I’d be soaked and exhausted, but strangely exhilarated. Once I gave in to the fact that my hood was never going to stay in place, I’d walk with my arms open and a grin on my face, relishing the elements.
My favourite days were those of thick fog, where both Saltash and Plymouth disappeared, and the river was a mere suggestion beneath my feet. In the right conditions, the sun shone but the bridge was completely enveloped in low cloud, a river mist that can linger for most of the morning. Walking into it feels like entering a fairy tale, a surreal and beautiful start to the day.
Sadly, I no longer walk across the bridge – I got a new job on my side of the Tamar. But, sometimes, when the weather is right, I walk across just for the fun of it.
My third book, Our Beautiful Child, was set around this area, although I omitted the two bridges across the water and borrowed some features from nearby towns. I don’t know why; sometimes I wish I hadn’t.
Annalisa Crawford lives in Cornwall, UK, with a good supply of moorland and beaches to keep her inspired. She lives with her husband, two sons, a dog and a cat. Annalisa writes dark contemporary, character-driven stories. She has been winning competitions and publishing short stories in small press journals for many years, and is the author of four books: Cat & The Dreamer, That Sadie Thing and other stories, Our Beautiful Child and You, I. Us. She won 3rd prize in the Costa Short Story Award, 2015. Find her on her website, Facebook and Twitter @annalisacrawf.