I have actually been waiting to do this op for quite a while, it's true, just ask my daughter now she's on Dooyoo, this is a part of London I love, honest... Anyway, the other day I was in Greenwich, South East London looking round the very interesting markets there, and I'd already looked in the Naval Museum, The Cutty Sark, made sure Gipsy Moth IV still looked dirty and been up to stand on the Meridian Line at the Greenwich Observatory, so I decided to get a Number 177 bus along to Woolwich... Well, I got on the bus and sat next to this rather eeeeerrrrr large lady. Cor, she did squash me, it was really uncomfortable. She would insist on keeping moving closer to me, and finally started talking to me, well what could I do ??? She said " Do you get the bus often ?? " I said, " In Southampton I do !!" She said "Have you lived in South London all your life ??" I said "Not yet !!" Anyway, we were coming up to a favourite of mine, so I got off the bus early, thank Heavens. Here we are at The Woolwich Ferry, which crosses the River Thames from Woolwich to North Woolwich !!! It is rather nice here, and although there is a rather pleasant Victorian system of tunnels here by which it is possible to walk under the Thames, I always prefer the Ferry !!! Woolwich is famous for other things like..... well... Woolwich Bank... That's moved it's Headquarters to Bexleyheath in Kent anyway .. !!! The Ferry is the best, now I'll tell you why. Years ago I used to work with somebody whose husband used the ferry every day, and he always said "Been rough at sea today !", and I always try and use it occasionally to top up on my duty free goods, and I met my friend Gary on it the other week... Serious now, this is one of London's most unusual road transport links, linking Woolwich and Woolwich, but it is free, the only free ferry in Britain. It's
probably most famous for road traffic reports, being between the North Circular and South Circular Roads. Captain Peter Deeks joined the service as a deck hand in 1962, and he is now ferry manager. When he started the crossing of the quarter-mile stretch as the River Thames was by paddle steamer built in the 1920's, and were lovely cosy ships, as Captain Deeks remembers them. Families would bring picnics and spend hours on board. Other persons would stand there watching the pistons going up and down, each boat getting through two lorry loads of coke a day. Captain Deeks used to clean the brasses, but they were dirty twenty minutes after he had cleaned them due to the stench coming from the river, and they were covered in oil to prevent discolouring. . Obviously in an effort to stop this floating brass picnic area getting clogged up, the boats were replaced in 1963 by the current ones, being flat-bottomed diesel powered craft that could take 500 passengers on 200 tons of vehicles. They are named John Burns, Ernest Bevin and James Newman, but why would one need space downstairs, in various wood panelled rooms for 500 passengers???? Anyway, new terminals were also built on either side of the river, so cars, vans and trucks could drive straight on and off in an efficient fashion. Almost 40 years later the same boats are in action, and due to a rigorous maintenance schedule, the Woolwich Ferry is one of the last Thames organisations to employ traditional shipwrights and marine fitters amongst it?s 111 strong staff !!! Captain Deeks still thinks of these as the modern ships !!! Now for a few facts, The Woolwich Ferry connects the A406 North Circular and A205 South Circular Roads, and is part of the London Cycle Network, and operates every day of the year except Christmas and Boxing Days, plus New Years Day, though there is a reduced service at weekends. Crossings should take about 15 minutes, from arrival to disembarking,
or less. On weekdays, the first boat leaves the South Terminal at 6.10 a.m, and the last boat departs at 8.10 p.m., on Saturday the last boat is 10 minutes earlier, and on Sundays the service is from 11.30a.m. to 7.30 p.m. Why would anyone use the ferry, well let?s list some reasons :- 1. They're mad like me, just out for a laugh. 2. Environmentally friendly people, saving six miles of pollution. 3. Lorry drivers, using the ferry with it's 15 ft 6 in. of headroom, rather than the Blackwall Tunnel with only 13 ft 4 inches. 4. Mean people not wanting to spend £1.80 for the Dartford Crossing. 5. Hungry people wanting to use the snack bars in the car parks. Now, as a foot passenger one could have a look at the steam trains being restored at North Woolwich station, then a few hundred yards to London City Airport, then on the Docklands Light Railway past Canary Wharf back to Tower Bridge, oh the romantic round trips that can be made... As a closing note, Mayor Livingstone's Transport for London controls the Woolwich Ferry and there are vague plans to replace Captain Deeks with a fixed bridge link in the year 2008. If anyone is like minded, see you for a drink on the ferry, cheers !!!!