Ancient ferry makes a splash again

By Review reporter   |   Reporter   |
Thursday 28th April 2022 1:59 pm
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AN historic hand-pulled ferry has launched into action again after more than two years moored on the bank.

The Symonds Yat ferry linking the Forest of Dean with Herefordshire has carried pedestrians across the River Wye for at least four centuries, although it’s thought ferries were first introduced in Roman times to link the forts of the Doward and the Yat.

But the current service run by The Saracens Head Inn, overlooked by the hit Sex Education series ‘Chalet’, was hit by flooding in October 2019 and again in February 2020, only for Covid to strike weeks later.

The Ferry ‘rope’ was broken in the October floods, and it firstly proved difficult to recover the 100m long steel cable from the bottom of the swollen river.

By the time they managed to recover the cable, it was at the height of lockdown, and the licensing authority’s staff shortages meant it couldn’t be certified.

When the Saracens reopened in May 2021, they then didn’t have enough staff to run the six-passenger ferry while social distancing rules meant they would only be able to take half the numbers.

But now it has started running again and was in time for the Easter holidays.

The Saracens posted: “After a two-year hiatus, record breaking floods and the pandemic, it is with great pleasure that we can announce our lovely ancient hand-drawn ferry is back in action.

“The tariff is £2 per adult, £1 per child, and will operate between 11am and 6pm (operation outside of these hours is possible by prior arrangement).

“As per usual, the crossing is dependent on weather/river levels for everyone’s safety so always best to check ahead if you are unsure. We look forward to seeing you all soon.”

A spokesman added this week: “It’s quite a big deal for us and we’re happy to see it taking passengers again.”

There were up to 25 hand ferries between Ross and Chepstow 200 years ago, but today only two remain, both on the Symonds Yat stretch.

For walkers and local residents, the ferry today provides an important service, as the Biblins Bridge is more than a mile downstream, while Huntsham is over two miles upstream.

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