Gallery: Take to the water on Harwich Harbour Foot and Cycle Ferry

A trip on the foot ferry from Shotley to Felixstowe and Harwich on a beautiful sunny day

A trip on the foot ferry from Shotley to Felixstowe and Harwich on a beautiful sunny day

Linking Suffolk and Essex, the Harwich Harbour Foot and Cycle Ferry is a much-loved service. And in sunny weather there’s no finer day out.

At Shotley Marina you can see the ancient town of Harwich not so far away. But getting there by car is a 25-mile journey which takes about an hour.

It’s much quicker just to hop on to the Harwich Harbour Foot and Cycle Ferry.

Joining the service at the marina’s pontoon, owner and operator Alan Sage welcomes customers on board.

He said: “The ferry was built in 1984. It is called a Rotork work truck and was designed by James Dyson.

“It has been running for 14 years and is operated from Good Friday until the end of September providing a frequent service between Shotley, Harwich and Felixstowe.”

The timetable is arranged to coincide with the bus service.

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Alan said: “The service is heavily dependent on the tourists taking a day out. It is also part of the North Sea Cycle Route.”

As we pull away from the pontoon the ferry, which holds up to 12 people, turns and heads to Harwich.

A former merchant seaman, Alan, 63, said running the service was a natural progression for him.

He said: “I have been at sea all my life. I look forward to work – especially when the weather is good. It is a great job when the weather is good. I enjoy meeting people as well.”

Crossing the busy harbour, it’s just a few minutes before the ferry arrives at Harwich to pick up. Alan calls ahead to the harbour authorities to alert them of his arrival.

Alan said: “It can get choppy and we don’t run when the weather is bad.”

The harbour area is popular with visitors who particularly enjoy the scenery along the Stour and Orwell. And with plenty of footpaths and cycle tracks, bird watchers are well catered for with feeding waders on extensive mud flats on both rivers.

At Harwich Quay Christine and Michael Saunders, of nearby Ramsey, climb on board and a yacht slides across the harbour in the distance.

Christine, 66, said: “It is such a lovely day that we thought we’d have a day out away from mundane things and go to Felixstowe.”

Once on board the couple book their return tickets.

Christine added: “It is a long way round to drive and this is an easy way of getting across. We do this trip at least once a year. It is an important link across the harbour and it is great for the tourists to the region. I think it is a wonderful service.”

Alan said a new jetty at Felixstowe would enable a new ferry carrying more passengers all year round to be brought into service – a long-held dream.

He added: “There are in excess of 150 people who live in Harwich and work in Felixstowe and have to drive 80 miles a day so it would make sense to have a new ferry. We have set up a working group with the various councils to look at developing the service in the future.”

From Harwich to Felixstowe the water gets a little choppier as we cross the busy shipping channel. And in the distance, on the other side of Landguard Fort it looks as if a huge container ship is gliding towards the end of its journey.

Harwich-based Jimmy Preston, 65, is among the passengers.

The retired publican said: “It’s good value for money for a nice day out. I’m going to Felixstowe to relax on the beach and maybe have a pint of Guinness. I come on the ferry as much as the weather allows.”

For 68-year-old former builder Peter Harvey the ferry is an easy way to keep in touch with his family in Ipswich.

He said: “I’m going to see my sister and niece in Ipswich. I don’t drive so I’ll get the bus at Felixstowe. It’s a really valuable service and it would be good if it were available all year round.”

On board the atmosphere is friendly with everyone chatting about the day ahead of them and then, suddenly, everyone is off again and a new group join for the return journey to Harwich.

Mike and Anthea Thompson, of Rendlesham Road, Felixstowe, are headed for a day out in Harwich.

Mike, 77, said: “We do this trip two or three times a week so we are regulars. We enjoy the boat trip, it is very relaxing.”

The container ship – the Maersk Salalah – glides past dwarfing everything around it. Up close it is huge and makes an impressive sight.

Geoff Pearman, 68, of Marina Gardens, Felixstowe, said he fancied a change of scene today.

He added: “There’s lots of things to see in Harwich and it has a different feel to Felixstowe. I might have a cycle along the promenade. It’s good to have a change every now and again.”

And then, just a few moments later we pull alongside Harwich Quay.