So long, it’s been good to know you…
The old Cowes Chain Ferry, also known as the floating bridge, was seen off in style when a group of Islanders celebrated its retirement with an on-board picnic and singalong. The floating bridge linked Cowes with East Cowes across the River Medina for nearly 40 years, and was used by hundreds of commuters each day. It was taken out of service on January 2nd, to be replaced in March by a new £3.5 million floating bridge, funded by the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership.
Newport resident Lois Prior felt it would be sad to see the ‘old girl’ disappear without a celebration of her life. Lois said: “I put a message of Facebook suggesting a few of us should have a picnic on board to mark the occasion. Although I didn’t use the floating bridge that much, it was always a wonderful experience to go across on it, and I appreciated it was more than just a way of getting from Cowes to East Cowes. It was a regular meeting place for commuters as they made their way across the Medina. “So about a dozen of us turned up to have the picnic, and then others joined in as they made their way across the Medina. East Cowes group, the Chain Ferry Gang, also came along, and there was a lot of singing, and loads of smiles – it was a really happy atmosphere.”
Lois continued: “We were on the floating bridge for about an hour and a half, and I lost count of the number of times we crossed the river. We all got off at one stage, because we were being charged every time we went across, and it was getting a bit expensive. “I think we gave the old girl a good send off. In a way it was sad to see her go, but after 40 years perhaps it was time. That is why it was good to turn the occasion into a celebration. When the new floating bridge comes into operation, maybe we will have another picnic to celebrate her arrival.”
The old floating bridge was built in 1975 and came into service on the River Medina the following year. It operated 18 hours a day, 365 days a year, with a crossing time of no more than two and a half minutes every 10 to 15 minutes. In recent years it has transported approximately 1.5 million pedestrians and 400,000 vehicles per year.
BY PETER WHITE