From city to county
PUBLISHED: 12:00 24 August 2015
It's not quite the high seas, but a ferry crossing provides our columnist James Matthews with another new adventure.
Where I live in Norfolk I can stand on one bank of the River Yare and look across at the bank opposite knowing I have no feasible way of getting to the other side without flagging down a passing boat, fashioning my own makeshift raft or taking a 20 minute drive into Norwich and back out again. It’s one of the lovable quirks of the Broads and this county.
I attended the christening of a friend’s daughter recently, which took place in a picturesque church near the Broads. It was the same church he’d married in only a couple of years earlier. The problem was, since that special day he’d moved to a village on the other side of the waterway, which required a long drive via Norwich to get from the church to the reception at their home. Keen to wet my whistle after an enthusiastic (and pitch-perfect, if I do say so myself) contribution to the service hymns, I pointed out to my friend the somewhat impractical distance between the two locations.
“It’s really just on the other side of the Broads. You should take the car ferry at Reedham.” He said it in a tone that suggested A. I should know there’s a Broads ferry and B. I knew where Reedham was. But after pootling down some country lanes in the vague direction instructed, we picked up the signs to the ferry and congratulated ourselves on almost certainly being the first guests to arrive at the reception.
But it turned out we weren’t the only guests my friend had recommended the ferry to and as we swung round the final corner to be met by a queue of 10 cars our early smugness quickly subsided.
Those of you familiar with the Reedham car ferry will know that it only takes a couple of cars at a time and goes at ... well ... a “Norfolk” pace. Luckily, Norfolk has an knack of serving up an inviting country pub in exactly the right location (it’s another one of the county’s quirks) - in this case, directly opposite the ferry “terminal”. With the sun shining, we abandoned our designated driver in the queue and bundled into the pub, returning seconds later with a cold beer to sit on the picnic benches by the calm water and count down the crossings until it was our turn. And eventually it was. We tentatively rolled forward onto the vessel to embark on our 80-yard voyage, paying the captain our £4 fare.
I remember an article in a London newspaper a few years ago claiming that the Tube journey between Leicester Square and Covent Garden was the world’s most expensive cost-per-distance journey (a 43-second journey covering 260 metres would set an unsuspecting tourist back £4) but at the same price and a much shorter distance, I think this particular Norfolk journey rivals it. But it was a delight to pay the fee (and a bargain when shared between all four of us in the car after all) for the sheer novelty of floating across the tiny stretch of water in our vehicle. We were late for the reception - it would have been quicker to drive into Norwich and back out again to get there. But of course, had we done that we would have missed another little Norfolk adventure.