Plans to re-establish old Thorpe to Whitlingham ferry river crossing

PUBLISHED: 08:53 21 August 2014

Stephen Ellingham, who is reinstating the passenger ferry service across the River Yare to Whitlingham Lane. 
Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Stephen Ellingham, who is reinstating the passenger ferry service across the River Yare to Whitlingham Lane. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Plans to re-establish an old river ferry crossing linking Thorpe St Andrew to Whitlingham Country Park have moved a step closer.

The old Thorpe to Whitlingham ferry

Before the Second World War a ferry used to operate from what is known locally as Sugarbeet Staithe, or also sometimes called Sheep Dip, according to Mr Ellingham.

He said: “There was a ferry crossing from the Bungalow Lane to Whitlingham right up to the war time.

“People used to come in from the countryside from south Norfolk taking the ferry across and then catching the train at Whitlingham halt, which was at Whitlingham Lane in Thorpe.

“It was easier to cross the river and catch the train in to Norwich rather than walk all the way round.”

Mr Ellingham said an Ordnance Survey map dating back to 1967 has a ferry crossing listed at the site.

The group behind the ferry, which is hoped to start from Bungalow Lane next spring, is recruiting an apprentice ferryman to help run the service.

However, more funds still need to be raised and infrastructure built, including a new slipway, gates, fencing and signs.

It is hoped the ferry, which will run from May to September, will be able to transport four people across to Whitlingham Lane, at a cost of £1 per person, running in normal daylight hours from 9am to 6pm.

Stephen Ellingham, who has set up Thorpe Ferry Community Interest Company to run the service, said the ferry will be powered by an electric motor and will take about four minutes to cross the 75m stretch of water.

Tubular bells will be hung at the Whitlingham side for customers to attract the attention of the ferryman, as the ferry will be based on the Thorpe side at Kingfisher Boat Yard, which Mr Ellingham runs.

He said: “The ferry will link two very special areas of Norfolk, linking Thorpe and the Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s nature reserve at Thorpe Marshes with the south side at Whitlingham Country Park.”

He said Network Rail had agreed to upgrade the level crossing in Bungalow Lane by installing semi-automatic electric gates this autumn to make it safer for pedestrians.

Concerns have been raised by rowers at Norwich Rowing Club, who fear the ferry will present a hazard on a busy stretch of river which is typically used for higher pace rowing.

However, Mr Ellingham said he was keen to liaise with rowers to ensure that any disruption or hazard would be kept to a minimum.

Thorpe CIC has created a page to allow people to donate to help get the project off the ground and keep it running, which can be found at

Mr Ellingham said the plan was to thank people who donate now, by offering them a few free ferry trips.

More information about the apprentice ferryman role will be available from next week, when Thorpe CIC’s new website will go live at

Do you have a story about Thorpe? Call reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772474.

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