Spruce-up for river stalwart

THE Reedham ferry, which crosses the Yare between Reedham and Norton Subcourse, was yesterday taken to Oulton Broad for servicing and repairs.It left its home near the Ferry Inn, in Reedham, at about 5am to make its way towards the boatyard, passing through Mutford Lock in Oulton Broad at about 10am.

THE Reedham ferry, a vital link from the Loddon area to the north of the Yare via Norton Subcourse, taken to Oulton Broad this week for servicing and repairs.

It left its home near the Ferry Inn, in Reedham, at about 5am to make its way towards the boatyard, passing through Mutford Lock in Oulton Broad at about 10am.

It will now spend the time in one of the boatyard's workshops being preened and polished so that it is ready to transport motorists across the Yare once again. Meanwhile drivers and pedestrians will have to take the long way round via Norwich to get to Great Yarmouth.

The wood and steel ferry is still popular with motorists who would rather take the 200ft trip by boat than tackle a 30-mile diversion through Yarmouth or Norwich.

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It is the only one of its kind left operating on the Broads, but at the beginning of the 20th century there were chain boats at several points along the waterways, including one at Martham and a vehicle ferry and separate open punt for foot passengers at Horning.

The current vessel was purpose-built in the 1980s by Newson's boatbuilders in Oulton Broad, near Lowestoft, and it has been taken back there for servicing and repairs ever since.

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Ferry owner David Archer, who also runs the Ferry Inn and neighbouring Archer's touring park, said: “She is taken right out of the water at the boatyard. The first job will be to pressure wash her and then she will go into the big boat building at the yard to be checked out. The planks and all the running gear and engines will get serviced - it will take anything up to five weeks.

“This is the best time of year to get the work done because things quieten down a little bit. Then she will be ready and new in time for a hopefully busy summer season. Most of the staff from here will be down at the boatyard giving them a hand.”

Although the ferry may seem like an old-fashioned way of getting from one village to another, many motorists still use it as an alternative to driving via Yarmouth's congested Gapton Hall roundabout.

Mr Archer, who moved to Reedham with his parents in 1949 to take over the pub and the then hand-hauled ferry, said that drivers will have to take the longer route while the ferry is being serviced, but that it should then be up and running for many years to come. He said: “Naturally as soon as we can get it out of the water, cleaned up, sorted out and back again, the better for everybody. For the clients, unfortunately they will just have to go round but it does make them appreciate it when the ferry isn't here.”

The ferry can carry 16 tonnes and can fit about three small cars for the journey across the Yare.

The Ferry Inn and Archers touring park are still open while the ferry is being repaired.

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