Ferry across Butley river in Suffolk operates all week

Image caption The Butley ferry carries walkers and cyclists across the river on the Suffolk coastal path between Bawdsey and Orford, saving them a 6 mile (9km) detour
Image caption Normally the ferry operates only at weekends and on bank holidays - it is open for seven days just this week
Image caption The volunteer oarsmen row people and the cyclists 50 yards (46m) across the river

For the first time in 120 years a ferry in Suffolk is operating for the whole week.

The Butley ferry saves walkers a 6 mile (9km) detour by rowing them 50 yards (46m) across the river on the coastal path between Bawdsey and Orford.

The ferry is normally only open at weekends and bank holidays, but thanks to volunteer oarsman Andrew McDonald it will run every day for this week only.

If the longer opening proves popular, it may operate more hours next summer.

'Smallest rowed ferry'

Mr McDonald, a retired NHS manager from Sudbourne, is operating the ferry this week with the help of his wife, Sue, who acts as his "harbourmaster".

He is one of 17 volunteer oarsmen who operate the ferry, which has been sponsored by the Alde & Ore association for the last 15 years.

"It's believed to be the smallest rowed ferry in Europe," he said.

"It's been going since the 16th Century, and it would be shameful for people in the 21st Century to let it go."

The boat is able to take four people or two people and two bicycles.

"You have to be quite fit to do the rowing," Mr McDonald said.

"If you have two people and two bicycles and gusts of wind like we had yesterday, it can be quite a heavy row.

"But," he added, "what could be more fun than being in a delightful bit of countryside rowing people across the river?"

Simon Barrow, the Alde & Ore committee member responsible for the ferry, said he hoped the week-long experiment would prove popular.

"If it's successful and other ferrymen come forward, maybe next summer we'll be able to do a seven-day service all the time," he said.

Until the late 19th Century the ferry operated every day, serving workers on local farms.

Since then it has been for walkers and cyclists and costs £2 for adults, £1.50 for bikes and £1,00 for children.

The Alde & Ore Association has 3,000 members who maintain the sea and river defences in that part of Suffolk.

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