Ancient Carmarthenshire ferry crossing could be revived

9 March 2017

Almost 1,000 years after it was described by chronicler Gerald of Wales, a ferry could once again be crossing the Tywi estuary in Carmarthenshire.

The service between Ferryside and Llansteffan was a favourite with 19th and early 20th Century tourists from the south Wales valleys during “miners’ fortnight”.

But it was discontinued during the 1950s, leaving walkers and cyclists facing an 18 mile (29km) round trip up the estuary.

On Thursday, the plans were submitted to the Coastal Communities Fund for a purpose-built boat which could be plying the route again within two years.

The idea is the brainchild of retired Liverpool University professor Kenton Morgan.

He said: “It’s known there are 400,000 annual visitors to Cefn Sidan beach just along the coast, and tens of thousands of visitors to Llansteffan Castle, Ferryside Castle and Laugharne, with its Dylan Thomas links.

“If the plan is approved, the ferry itself will become a tourist attraction.”

As the name suggests, the settlement of Ferryside developed around the landing stage of a ferry across the Tywi estuary which may have pre-dated the Norman Conquest.

Image copyright Jaggery/Geograph
Image caption Ferryside beach looking towards Llansteffan

It is mentioned as early as 1170 when it was granted to the Knights Hospitaller at Slebech Commandery, and was crossed by Gerald of Wales two decades later.

However, with the second-highest tidal range in the UK, crossing the estuary is not without its difficulties.

A conventional boat would require a 820ft (250 metre)-long jetty, owing to the slope of the beach.

To overcome this the group behind the scheme has chosen an amphibious craft, using technology developed by a New Zealand company.

The ferry would be fitted with retractable wheels like an aircraft, which would avoid the need for a jetty.

If successful, the boat would be built in Solva in Pembrokeshire.

Two public meetings have been held and backing has been secured from both the community and county councils.

An initial outline of the plan has been submitted to the Coastal Communities Fund and the next stage will be to submit a full proposal and business plan.

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