Appledore to Instow link launches for summer with huge funding windfall.

THE ties between two North Devon coastal communities will now be closer than ever thanks to a £30,000 funding boost for a ferry boat service between the villages.

Volunteers behind Appledore Instow Ferry Limited are celebrating the huge lottery jackpot in the week the service re-launches for the summer.

The not-for-profit company will use the Big Lottery Fund’s Village SOS grant to double its flotilla with a brand new boat to ferry even more passengers across the Torridge.

It will also enable the community enterprise to buy new uniforms and train volunteers to expand the service as part of a new era of self-sufficiency.

Chairman John Nightingale said: “It’s absolutely fantastic because it will allow us to consolidate our position with the project. We are trying to train all volunteers, we would also like to buy a second boat so at busy times we can have a better service and at other times maybe we can take people up the river.

“It really is going to make a tremendous difference. It’s a fantastic feeling when you start with hardly anything and get funding like this.”

While the service will be important for the residents of Appledore and Instow, Mr Nightingale said it will be hugely beneficial to tourists during the holiday season.

“To be able to allow them to visit both villages without the hassle of driving around and parking will be wonderful,” he said.

A 250-year-old service across the Torridge stopped in 2007 but an 18-week pilot with a rented boat between June and October last year proved a runaway success, with nearly 8,500 passengers making the short river crossing rather than a five-mile road trip.

North Devon Councillor Rodney Cann, who instigated a public meeting at Instow Village Hall to establish if there was sufficient local support to reinstate the service, said: “I could never have dreamed it would turn out to be so successful.

“Thanks to the affords of the very enthusiastic and dedicated ferry group we have a major success on our hands that brings benefits to the local economy and provides a valuable service to tourist and residents alike.”

The group behind the project have been busy fund-raising during the winter and raised £4,300 during an auction of promises at Instow Yacht Club last month.

They have also won financial support from Leader 4 Torridge and North Devon (£7,500); Fullabrook Wind Farm Community Interest Company (£2,500); West Quay Fundraisers (£1,000); and Appledore Pirates (£500).

Mr Nightingale said the money had helped the company buy the boat it originally rented, and replace the engine.

He said: “We have had fantastic help from several sponsors that has given us the financial platform to purchase our existing boat and buy new equipment.

“We have a new fuel efficient engine and new radios so we can communicate with our volunteers at Instow pier and Appledore slipway and will do our best to provide a service every day from April until the end of October.”

The new service starts tomorrow (Thursday). For a timetable of operating times, visit www.appledoreinstowferry.com or click on the link at the top right of this page.

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Other local winners in the Big Lottery Fund’s Village SOS scheme were the Barbrook Public Facilities Trust and the Buckland Brewer Community Shop Limited.

The team behind the Barbrook project will use £19,839 to provide a self sustainable community information hub by installing photovoltaic panels on the roof and buying computer software in order to set up a database for car sharing.

The improved hub will also provide an outlet for local produce, and act as an information centre for visitors to the area.

The Buckland Brewer Community Shop Limited has been awarded £24,334 to set up and run a community shop in the vestry area of the village church.