River Yare ferries update

My last blog post on Buckenham Ferry has provoked a great response via email, with some very interesting information and memories coming in. It’s correspondence like this which really makes me wish that I could open up the comments section on the blog again, but dealing with the extraordinary amount of spammers is just far too time consuming for me at the moment. If you do have any comments, memories of information on any of the subjects covered on the blog then please do get in contact via the main website.

Back to the subject of the River Yare ferries though, and we now have a definite date for the closure of Buckenham Ferry, courtesy of Steve Silk from the Wheryyman’s Web Blog. In his book The Wherryman’s Way, published by Halsgrove in 2010, he interviewed retired farm worker and octogenarian Cecil Nicholls who used to help operate the ferry and  who remembered the events which forced the ferry to cease operating: “We used to crank it across us boys. If we were down there when a car turned up, the landlord would get us to do the work and we’d maybe get tuppence for our trouble. It was 1938 and we were all down at the pub for an agricultural workers presentation – there were lots of people there. Mr Lake from Claxton – I don’t know his first name but we all called him ‘Liney Lake’ – came down there. He had seven tons of sugar beet on his lorry and he didn’t put his handbrake on. The lorry went straight into the river, and that was it for the ferry. It was taken up to the Hardley blacksmith’s shop and broken up.

Had it been ten years earlier, I suspect that the ferry would probably have been repaired and put back into service, but it seems that a foot ferry in the form of a rowing boat did continue here for a few years afterwards. I have a feeling that it was even mentioned in one of my 1950s or 1960s guide books to the Norfolk Broads. Whilst still on the subject of the old pontoon ferry at Buckenham, I have been told that there was another incident in 1924 when the ferryman, Mr Trett, overshot the chains. I’ve been unable to uncover any further details about this, but if anyone has more information please do get in touch.

The house from which Fred Warman operated a foot ferry at Cantley in the 1950s

I mentioned in the previous two blog posts that there had been at least one, or possibly two foot ferries at Cantley over the years and I was contacted by Patrick Brister who remembers the ferry which operated here in the 1950s, carrying workers to and from the sugar beet factory. The ferryman was Frederick Warman, who lived with his family in the house just downstream from the sugar beet factory, on the opposite side of the river (see right).  Patrick says: “The ferry was boarded right outside the house, on the Cantley side was a large bell to hail the ferry. It was a rowing boat, looked a fair load with bikes and passengers. Fred would row well up stream and cross finishing up dead opposite his house on the other side, on the factory side it was just a track from ferry to factory. One or two people from Limpenhoe used it for pleasure crossing as well.” It seems that Fred was the licensee of the Red House for a period in the 1950s too.

I’ve also had some fascinating correspondence from regular contributor Vaughan Ashby regarding the river crossings and ferries at Thorpe St. Andrew and Whitlingham. I was going to include the information in this update, but feel that it actually merits an article in its own right which will follow soon. In the meantime, my thanks to Steve Silk for allowing me to quote from his interview with Fred Nicholls and also to Patrick Brister for sharing his memories of Cantley Ferry with me.

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