Despite having no photos of my own and only the most distant memories of crossing on it, Grove Ferry earns its place here because, as I grew up, this was what I thought of when someone mentioned a ferry. My earliest memories go back to summer afternoons when when my Dad would drive us from our weekend caravan at Swalecliffe for an afternoon of coarse fishing at Plucks Gutter or Grove Ferry on the River Stour, just downstream from Canterbury.
It is a trivially small river to cross, but… if there's no bridge then you need a ferry to cross the river! What I remember is a simple raft that was pulled across the river by hand on a fixed rope, with just room for our black Morris Minor convertible.
The Stour here is very flat and slow and muddy. Back in the days of the Romans Thanet was an actual island, separated from the rest of Kent by the
, with the present day Grove Ferry near what was then the mouth of the Stour. Since then the Wantsum has silted up (helped by land reclamation in the Middle Ages) to leave an area of marshes and drained "levels", and the Stour now meanders very slowly through them to discharge into Pegwell Bay just past Sandwich. In fact looking at old maps shows several place-names where ferries had once run across the Wantsum. The Roman forts at Reculver and Richborough make more sense when you realise that back then the Wantsum Channel was a major shipping route and those forts marked the ends of the channel.
In the Second World War the army had erected a temporary bridge at this site. Though intended to aid military access to parts of Kent the local civilian economy came to rely on it. So when it was dismantled after the war there was a lot of talk and plans to build a permanent bridge. But it took until 1963 to actually build the bridge, and in the meantime the ferry was brought back into operation.
I can find no relevant photos in my family's collection and there are few on the internet. Back then I'd not yet been given my Brownie 120, so what few photos our family took were on my parents' old Brownie box camera shooting on 110 Verichrome Pan. If you have some photos in your album or shoe box I'd love to see them. But for now here are the few images I have access to.
And how was the fishing? My Dad normally managed a couple of roach or bream, but rarely did I get a bite.
Here are a couple of extracts from old Ordnance Survey maps showing the location of Grove Ferry. (Best viewed expanded.)
Map credits: "This work is based on data provided through and uses historical material which is copyright of the Great Britain Historical GIS Project and the University of Portsmouth".