I SUPPOSE it could have been divine intervention, but more likely it was the swift action of a crew from Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service, which saved Worcester Cathedral Ferry last weekend

Tethered to the bank, the boat was being pulled down by its moorings as the River Severn rose rapidly and its outboard engine was only inches from the water line when firefighters set it free. Hallelujahs all round and another glass of communion wine please vicar

Because the Cathedral Ferry is quite possibly the oldest “thing” in Worcester. Not the current boat, obviously, but the tradition of having a river crossing at this point. It’s way older than the cathedral itself, certainly as old as Stonehenge, which goes back 4,000 years, and possibly much older than that. In fact the existence of a river crossing at this point led to the creation of a settlement which grew  into present day Worcester.

In the early days it would have been a couple of cave dwellers sitting astride a tree trunk, paddling like fury with their hands and feet and hoping it didn’t roll over.

In which case they would have been swept downstream to enter the ocean at the Bristol Channel and possibly go on to discover America.

As it is, the tree trunk eventually developed into a boat, the crossing point became known as a ferry and in the 19th/early 20th centuries there were as many as nine such operations in and around Worcester. As well as the Cathedral Ferry, others included the Dog and Duck in Henwick Road, Kepax ferry, north of Pitchcroft, the Camp and Grimley ferries, up river of the city boundary, the Ketch on the southern boundary and one at Pixham, between Callow End and Kempsey.

The Cathedral Ferry, as its name suggests, was run by the Cathedral authorities, but ceased to operate in 1958 when it became too expensive. It then lay dormant until the summer of 1982 when local architect Nicolette Baines suggested reviving it as a tourist attraction. The cause was  taken up by Nicola Milne, wife of the King’s School headmaster, who became the driving force in a Ferry Appeal Fund and a new boat took to the water in the spring of 1983.

There have been fluctuating fortunes since then with both oar powered and motor powered craft being used and there’s a  constant search for volunteer helpers. But come 2019 it’s good to know the hunter-gatherers from Wales can still nip across the Severn for a bargain, albeit the dinosaur steaks at Waitrose might be a bit out of date