9th February 2017
There has been a ferry across the River Great Ouse at King's Lynn since 1285, so what better way to re-commence my journey Around the Edge of England for 2017. I'd thought at first that it might not be possible - the journey is supposed to be a continuous progression around the coast and there didn't appear to be any way forward from West Lynn, on the other side of the river, without first returning to King's Lynn itself.
But then I was pleased to discover that a handful of journeys on Stagecoach's service 555 to Spalding diverted via West Lynn village and, better still, stopped near the ferry terminal. Even better, one of them ran at exactly the right time for me to start the day's travels on the ferry.
|The approach to the ferry via Ferry Lane|
The ferry terminal is accessed via "Ferry Lane" a narrow passageway leading off the Tuesday Market Place. It is probably this convenient access to the town centre combined with the circuitous journey by road (despite a new bridge) that has ensured the ferry's survival.
|King's Lynn landing stage|
It's a short crossing. Google Maps gives it as 650m but when the tide is low, as it was today, it can be quite a bit less, although the fare stays the same at a very reasonable £1.10.
The King's Lynn landing stage is every bit as perilous as it looks in this image, especially at low tide.
|The ferry on its way over from West Lynn|
And don't expect much in the way of luxury. I crossed in a open boat (some have a flimsy top cover) sat on a hard wooden bench. The vessel was powered by two outboard motors - a powerful one with a large propeller to cope with the tide and the flow in the Ouse and a smaller one for manoeuvring in the shallows at either bank, with the helmsman stopping and starting each in turn - meaning that for a few moments on each crossing the boat is at the mercy of the current!
There are rather more commodious waiting factilities on the West Lynn side, where the ferries are based, although even here egress from the boats at low tide involves jumping off over the bow on to this rather fearsome set of unguarded steps!
After leaving the ferry I made my way into the village to wait for the bus on to Spalding. Although shown as a stopping place on Google Maps there was no "bus stop" sign in sight to confirm the location, but after 25 years in rural Herefordshire I'd become quite used to that and waited confidently for the bus to arrive. I wasn't even put off by the arrival of a road works crew, who proceeded to erect signs and temporary traffic lights all along the side of the road where I was waiting. Fortunately the bus arrived before they'd finished.
The 555 provided an interesting ride along the edge of the fens. At Sutton Bridge it crossed the River Nene via a marvellous piece of Victorian engineering. It was built in 1897 and originally carried both the road and railway over the river. This lasted until 1959 when the railway closed.The bridge opens to allow shipping to reach the small port of Wisbech a few kilometres upstream, although nowadays most ships call instead at Port Sutton Bridge, which is upstream. I should really have got off the bus for a look around, but I didn't, so I have no photos although there are plenty on the village web site.
Another feature of the route is the church of St. Mary in the nearby village of Long Sutton, which apparently has the "highest, oldest and most perfect (sic)" wooden church tower in Europe. Pictures here.
After all this excitement Spalding was a bit of a let down, especially as I'd been here fairly recently already. There was, however, plenty of excitement on the next bus - the 200th of the trip and the 14.50hrs Brylaine Travel B13 to Boston.
It all started at the bus stop outside the "Royal Mail Cart" pub on the outskirts of Spalding. Although only one passenger was waiting, it seemed that the boarding process was taking an inordinate length of time. From my seat towards the rear of the bus I could discern only that an animated discussion seemed to be taking place, perhaps over the fare? It ended with the passenger, a young man on crutches, snatching his ticket angrily from the driver and making his way to a seat. As he did so he said something which upset the driver, who said something back whereupon a full-scale slanging match erupted. At one point the driver insisted the passenger get off the bus. He refused and the driver, realising he would be on a hiding to nothing in attempting to remove him, backed down and we set off, rather erratically, for Boston.
All went well until just outside the town, when the bus halted and the driver now told our hapless passenger that this was as far as his ticket would take him and that he would have to get off - crutches or no crutches - and walk the rest of the way! At this point the passenger, realising further discussion with the driver was fruitless, appealed to nearby passengers "for the loan of a quid" to pay his fare. Immediately, a young lady sitting opposite came up with one and once again the driver had to back down and continue. More words were said on arrival at Boston bus station, where it became apparent unfortunately that there was a racial element to the incident.
I was just happy to get off and make my way here for a restorative cup of tea.
|Best cup of tea in Boston!|
The incident however did remind me that in 200 bus journeys this had been the first example of any sort of unpleasantness on the buses which, given what drivers and passengers have to put up with at times, says a lot for human nature.