Everyone must have heard the Gerry and the Pacemakers’ song Ferry Across the Mersey. But do you know any more than that one line? I didn’t until I found this Youtube video of their 1965 Top of the Pops appearance.
Why am I suddenly interested in this old song? Well, because this weekend I finally took the ferry across the Mersey.
I’ve been to Liverpool many times and always enjoy walking along the waterfront. But I’ve either not had the time or the ferry schedule hasn’t fitted in with my day, to be able to make this iconic trip.
This weekend, with a friend and her 7 year old son who loves boats coming to visit, I was determined. We googled the ferries and found out that the commuter ferry doesn’t run on the weekend so we’d have to take a ‘cruise’ instead. It’s more expensive, but travels a bit further than necessary up and down the river enabling passengers to see more and spend longer on board.
There’s also a commentary which I don’t know if you’d get on the commuter ferry. This actually made no difference as we spent most of our time on deck and so couldn’t hear much of it anyway.
The ferry departs Pier Head on the Liverpool side of the river on the hour and makes two stops on the opposite bank. The first leg of the journey took 2o minutes and we disembarked in Seacombe.
We’d paid a bit extra for our tickets to enable us to visit the Spaceport, but really didn’t know what this was or what to expect. It turned out to be well worth doing.
Two floors of exhibitions on the solar system, the universe and life of an astronaut with lots of buttons to press and experiments to perform kept us entertained for some time.
When we arrived we were just in time for a 25 minute film in the strange cinema where the seats are reclined and the film is projected onto the domed ceiling. The film was quite interesting – I learnt how astronauts start practising for space by wearing their bulky, clumsy spacesuits and diving into special pools where they are weighted in the water just the right amount to replicate the zero gravity found in space. They then have to perform the sorts of tasks they may need to do on space walks on replica space equipment – but the quality was poor. The colours looked very faded and it was hard to tell what some things were. My friend had seen the same film only recently in Winchester and said how much better it had been there, as there the colours were really vibrant.
The film had been included in the admission as was a ‘space ride’. This was a mock rollercoater ride through space. The carriage shunted from side to side and forwards and backwards as the ‘route’ was projected onto a screen in front of us. Although it sounds cheesy, it was quite effective and we enjoyed the 4 minute ride.
Leaving the Spaceport, we had about half an hour to wait for the ferry and so sat in the cafe with an ice cream and walked a little way along the river taking photos of the dramatic cityscape across the river.
Back on the ferry, I took the time to read some of the information in a special exhibit explaining why the ferry was painted in such dazzling colours.
It was dazzling because it had been painted to replicate the Dazzle ships of the First World War. Dazzle ships were naval vessels that were painted in a array of brightly coloured zigzags and stripes to break up their silhouette on the horizon and thus confound the Germans. Ships painted in a solid block of colour stand out against the choppy sea. These days, with radar, it wouldn’t make any difference, but back then when ships had to be sighted for anyone to know they were there this gave our navy quite an advantage.
The Dazzle ferry is part of the First World War centenary commemorations and was designed by artist Peter Blake. I’ve always liked his work and loved the idea of being able to experience one of his works from the inside!
Leaving Seacombe, the ferry sailed to Woodside 10 minutes away. Here there is a U-Boat exhition which is included in the cruise ticket price, but we’d run out of time and it was about to close. Instead we stayed aboard and travelled the final 20 minutes back to Pier Head.
Was it worth waiting so long to get the ferry across the Mersey? Definitely, because I got to do it on the Dazzle ferry (which is only going to be like this for a few months) and experience a Peter Blake work of art in a unique way.
As for that song? I was humming it in my head all the time I was on board. But only that one line. At each stop the ferry played it over the tannoy as we arrived and then departed, but they only played that one line too!