Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Footbridge campaign to consider ferry idea

A SEASONAL ferry service could be introduced in Wargrave as a temporary fix for the lack of a river crossing.

Members of the Wargrave-Shiplake Bridge Campaign are interested in a volunteer-run service to get residents across the River Thames during busy times of the year.

The group, which was established earlier this year, is seeking to revive a previously unsuccessful attempt to build a bridge between the villages.

Now it is investigating the ferry idea as a stopgap measure and has consulted Hobbs of Henley and Val Wyatt Marine, as well as the Environment Agency.

Olivia Coppin, who started the campaign, said: “We are looking into both commercial and volunteer-based ferry options.

“A volunteer option would be preferable from the point of accessibility for the whole community as it would operate on donations and community support as opposed to a mandatory fee per crossing.

“We would be keen to hear from any boaters who may be interested in volunteering to skipper a community ferry on an occasional basis.

“With enough support and volunteers, we are cautiously hopeful that we may be able to operate a seasonal ferry next year, covid-19 permitting.”

In 1997, South Oxfordshire District Council approved an application by Wokingham Borough Council for a foot and cycle bridge. However, residents of Shiplake mounted a campaign against the idea and it was never realised due to a lack of funding.

Now Ms Coppin, of High Street, Wargrave, has resurrected the idea. She carried out an online survey and 95 per cent of the 948 respondents said they were in favour.

She has recruited nine other villagers to help investigate potential sites for the bridge with support from Knight Architects, who designed Taplow Bridge in Maidenhead.

Ms Coppin said: “Despite Wargrave being one of the oldest Thames-side villages, there is practically no public access to the riverbank and no footpaths at all.

“The team has been busy over the last few months reviewing the idea of a bridge by speaking to the relevant landowners, investigating potential sites and surveying the communities for their views.

“We would like to welcome more Shiplake residents into the group to ensure we properly represent the interests of both communities.

“There was some concern that a bridge would only appeal to Wargrave residents and we were pleased that, of the Shiplake residents who completed the survey, 72 per cent said they were in favour of a bridge and would use it.”

In the original plans, the suggested site was the railway bridge, which originally had two tracks. The Henley branch line from Twyford is now single-track but the cylinders that supported it are still standing.

The idea was to seek funding from the Millennium Commission for a tourist attraction.

For more information or to get involved, email wsbcc2020@gmail.com

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