Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Stratford Chain Ferry

Just a very quick post about a little adventure Steve and I had at the weekend.

We went to Stratford-upon-Avon on Sunday afternoon, and a lovely place it is, especially in the summertime. We may also have been aided by the fact that there was some sort of sporting event happening that afternoon, so we were very nearly the only English people wandering about.

Thanks to the Chair Of Awesome, I no longer have to make the choice between staying within a few metres of the car, experiencing incredible pain, or assigning someone else the job of pushing me. So for the first time, we were really able to wander about which was great.

We enjoyed a bit of a stroll along the bank of the Avon, and then we spotted the ferry.

Built in 1937, the chain ferry is safely pre-DDA and I'd pretty much dismissed it out of hand when I heard about it as "things that just aren't designed for wheelchairs" - I don't tend to expect anything pre-war to have great access. Nevertheless we decided to mosey over for a look because, if nothing else, it's an engineering curiosity and worth a look.

I was quite impressed, then, to see that there were decent not-too-steep side-on ramps down to the jetties on both sides, and that the operator's answer to "can we bring the wheelchair aboard?" was "of course!"

The fare was a princely 50p per person.

The ferry itself does have three steps down into it at each end, but there are sturdy rails all over it that come right up to chest height so there's plenty to grab. Best of all, the operators had almost definitely had some training in disability issues, as their attitude could not have been better (or maybe they're just exceptionally nice young men). One of them physically held the ferry as stable as possible against the bank, and they also did the marvellous thing of asking and offering help for getting me down into the boat rather than grabbing and interfering. The same at the other end. I was really pleased about getting to do something I didn't think I'd be able to do, and thanked the guys for their help - to which one of them replied "it'll be better soon hopefully - we're trying to get a ramp to go into the ferry itself."

Ooh, I felt like applauding, and was a very happy bunny as we trundled away from the jetty towards the Brass Rubbing Centre and the Courtyard Theatre.

I don't know (and haven't been able to easily find out) whether the chain ferry is privately owned and run, or if it's the council, or some kind of conservation charity, or a combination of all the above.

But I was really impressed to see an historic curio making the effort for access in terms of both the physical environment and the staff attitudes, rather than hiding behind its age as a reason for not making any effort at all.


evilstevie said...

Amazingly for a cheap, friendly, accessible and working service it turns out it is run by the local council.

Mary said...

Due to repeated spam comments from a ferry company, comments have been closed on this post.