By Helen Jackson
A bid has been launched to raise £10,000 to help a West Norfolk man to secure the historic West Lynn to King’s Lynn ferry.
Former fisherman Ben Ellis (pictured) wants to take over the business from present owners Steve and Gail Kingston who have run it since 2000.
The business has been up for sale for two years and Mr Ellis, of Terrington St Clement, has been in negotiations with Mr and Mrs Kingston with the hope of taking over the business.
He has secured a large proportion of the £65,000 sale cost, but needs to raise at least a further £10,000 and has set up a crowdfunding appeal, hoping people will donate to ensure the service can continue to operate.
Mr Ellis, 38, said: “The present owner cannot run it for another winter and needs to sell the business or shut down and sell his boats. If that happens we may not be able to start a new ferry for years, if ever.”
Mrs Kingston said the couple had not put a time limit on continuing to run the ferry but added: “We hope not to be there this winter. Steve is 66 and is hoping to retire.
“Ben has worked on the ferry before and has been around boats all his life.”
Mr Ellis, who has three sons Tyler, 14, Jamie, 12, and Ashton, two, was raised in West Lynn and has spent most of his life working on the river.
He said: “I really want to take it over. I want my own business and to be able to pass it down to my children.
“We’d like to make the ferry a thriving family business, and look ahead to opening a cafe and offering river trips.
“This is a part of King’s Lynn’s history, it has been running since 1285. Everyone I speak to wants to keep the ferry and wants it to continue.”
The ferry provides a service across the River Great Ouse for shoppers and commuters every 20 minutes between 6.45am and 6.30pm, with a continuous service during peak times.
Mr Ellis has been seeking funding but so far has not managed to find any schemes for which he is eligible.
West Norfolk Council subsidises the ferry and has assured Mr Ellis that funding is secure until 2022 but is unable to offer any further assistance.
A spokesman for the council also said it may look into the possibility of buying land adjacent to the existing ferry car park in West Lynn to create additional spaces.
Mr Ellis is keen to hear from anyone regarding grants for which he could apply.
Make a donation to the appeal at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-historic-west-lynn-ferry
I have also spoken to property services about the land, and they have confirmed that this is something that could potentially be looked into.
Not aware of any other assistance that could be provided.