Tuesday, 28 February 2012


There is a gentle and pleasing video made by Alexandra Mattholie in 2009 about the then ferryman at Topsham, Mike Stevens. The ferry is said in the film to be 500 years old but it is probably much older. The less likely ferry from Pratteshythe (Exmouth) to Starcross was busy in the twelfth century. As I remember, the Topsham ferryman was traditionally also the landlord of the Passage Inn, hence the name. It was an obligation that came with the license. I recall George Leach(?) in the sixties grumbling about being called out to row, in those days it was a rowing boat, passengers across the Exe, but Mr Stevens and his predecessor, Mr Pym, were fulltime ferrymen with an outboard motor. Mr Steven's other claim to fame is that he is in the Guinness Book of Records for his 1986 feat of Underwater Endurance. Alexandra Mattholie has caught a moment in the history of the Estuary in a film that has some lovely shots of that corner of Topsham, its slipways, hulks, reedbeds. and its glorious mud. This calm account of the eternal to and fro of the ferry reflects the steady pace of the lives of those who work the tides.

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