I love walking, preferably on a warm sunny day, across the Tamar Bridge taking in stunning views of the Tamar Valley before ending up in Saltash. As you come off the bridge and head into town, you notice and feel the change. The flag of St Piran may be flying from the old buildings, signs welcome you in a different language, Brunel’s bust and the contemporary Celtic cross catch the eye. You have just entered Cornwall and you know it.
This is a theme repeated throughout the Tamar Valley. Travellers crossing the river are greeted with a mix of old and new signs and symbols for the respective Counties. Visit Tavistock and the chances are you’ll fall under the watchful gaze of Sir Francis Drake, well, his statue at any rate. Head into Plymouth and you’ll see Britain’s Ocean City’s modern signage hinting at an exciting future whilst the historic coat of arms symbolises an important history and famed maritime heritage.
This is more than just branding. Academics have long stressed the importance of place and identity to people and this is expressed very prominently and passionately in these parts of Devon & Cornwall. It shows just what a fascinating mix of individual communities and differing environments the Tamar Valley comprises.
However, having grown up, lived and worked on both sides of the Tamar, it seems to me there can be some drawbacks. Communication across neighbouring communities can become more difficult through locally orientated media and where the boundaries of different authorities meet. Not good when you want to know what the neighbours are up to!
Banter and friendly rivalry can descend into parochialism and competition when really there should be a shared desire for success. From experience, this even happens in essential public services covering both Counties and worsens in times of reduced budgets and increased accountability.
As the storm clouds generated by the financial crisis added to the gloom of an increasingly politicised and questionable Police Service, I faced a stark choice: Shut up and blindly tow the party line, or ship out. In a nod to my Plymouth heritage, I chose the maritime option.
It was time for change and to go back to doing something I loved. That would mean the outdoors; Coast, countryside, nature and scenery. A former smallholder, a love of countryside and food has become huge respect for and desire to support local producers. Admiration for artists and crafters thrives despite an extremely limited personal ability in such matters.
Working through different ideas, I realised there is so much more to discover and learn about even if you have lived here a long time. Somehow, this would all come together to celebrate the great things of living in and visiting our part of the world without being restricted to one side of the Tamar or the other.
So, here it is: The Tamar Valley Vibe. Something new, different, with exciting possibilities and interesting times ahead!
The emphasis will be on doing things differently. To go a little deeper and discover interesting stories, not just about different locations in The Tamar Valley but also about the people who contribute to the look, character and experience of the place.
For if place and identity are important to people, then the reverse is equally true.