04:22AM, Saturday 14 April 2012
A phone call to the book shop she ran with her husband led Joan Tucker into a mammoth project that still keeps her busy more than 30 years later.
Joan, 76, has spent the last 35 or so years chronicling the history of England's rivers and canals. Her latest book - her sixth - tells the stories of the vanished world of the ferry.
There are no ferries left at all now along the Upper Thames but at one time there was one every mile. Joan's new book tells the story of these historic ferries from Oxfordshire, through Maidenhead to Windsor.
The grandmother-of-two who lives in Gloucestershire said: "I studied geography at university specialising in rivers. Years later my husband and I got a call at the book shop we ran in Stroud.
"It from a publisher asking if we knew anyone who might write a book about the river. I said I would do it."
She has been writing ever since.
Each book takes years to prepare. Joan cannot drive. But with her husband Alan at the wheel she travels the route of the Thames researching them, staying at hotels on the way.
She said: "You can still see evidence of where all the ferries operated from. The memory is all around us."
The old Townsend's Ferry at the bottom of Wharf Lane, Bourne End was a real family business that only closed in 1962. It was a vital service during the Bank Holidays, once carrying 3,500 people over the river each way.
Joan's travels took her through Maidenhead and Windsor to the Bells of Ouseley pub in Old Windsor. A ferry there could even take horses, cattle and vehicles over the river. It dated back to Saxon times when the kings based at their palace in Old Windsor to Wraysbury for the hunting.
The ferry was still offering transport to Wraysbury, Horton and Colnbrook almost 1,000 years later.
Ferries of the Upper Thames is published by Amberley.
See the historical photos from the book below.
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