A much-loved icon on the river Tamar us set to return thanks to the efforts of local people.
The Northern Belle is a historic wooden ferryboat, purpose built in 1928 to operate the Plymouth to Cornwall crossing between Stonehouse and Cremyll. The vessel ran the service for 86 years until a collision in 2013 put an end to her work – but now the boat has been bought by a group of local enthusiasts who have a plan to repair her and get her back into the water once again.
Thousands of people, locals and visitors alike, remember with affection the Northern Belle as the best of all the ferryboats on the short Plymouth to Cornwall crossing. She ran on steam for the first fifty years, then on diesel – but the new owners, the Northern Belle Trust, have something much more modern in mind. The group brings together expert heritage boatbuilders and restorers, technical specialists in propulsion and regulations, community organisers and historians. They are planning something quite new, while retaining the original purpose and activity.
The group are working on a brand new Electric Propulsion system- the very first time that such a move has been made in the UK, though electric ferries are fairly common in other European countries. Electric motors will be far quieter, so making the journeys much more comfortable, and will of course be non-polluting compared to running a large diesel engine 16 hours per day.
A second string to the Trust’s aims is the opportunity to use the boat as a floating classroom and study centre, taking schoolchildren, students and leisure groups up the river. The silent propulsion will be a major benefit here too, as it will allow much closer approaches to wildlife.
The group hope to reach agreement with the local commercial operator to have the boat used once again on the Stonehouse – Cremyll route, as a summer relief and at other times as needed.
There is a great deal of work to be done, starting with a full survey on the current condition, confirmation that there is a need and desire to see her running again, and the question of raising the money to make it all happen.
The new Trust have set up a Public Meeting in Millbrook, Tuesday 15th January at 7.00pm in the Village Hall, to launch the new work and to start the fundraising campaign, which will include a Crowdfunder site and direct donations for those who don’t use computers.