If you are looking for something to do in London that costs nowt you could worse than cross the Thames on the Woolwich Ferry.

First some expectation management.

Its not on the same level as the Staten Island Ferry that brings commuters to the spectacular southern skyline of Manhattan or the boats that move people around the nonchalantly beautiful harbours of Sydney. The journey is much shorter – perhaps ten minutes or so – and the view is more of an acquired taste. More post-industrial. And you do have to get yourself out to Woolwich to enjoy it.

But enjoy it I do, it’s fun to mess about in boats on the river. I like the expectation of queuing up, watching the boat unload its passengers on the far bank, fill up with new ones and turn back towards us.

Its a very practical piece of transportation. There were no tourists on my crossing, there rarely are. The pedestrians carried bags of shopping, the people in cars and vans sat in their vehicles, fingers tapping, impatient to get in their way. Nobody took photos (except me). It’s a way to get from A to Z.

There’s been a ferry here for more than six hundred years. These travellers are standing in the footsteps of people to whom the Crusades were current news. It became free in 1889 when all tolls across the Thames bridges were also scrapped. When the nearby foot tunnel opened in 1912, foot passengers reduced but some, like me, obviously prefer the scenic route.

Cars queue for the northbound ferry

Gates to the boat

The vehicles park on the flat roof of the ferry

Like a small aircraft carrier

A full ferry

Approaching the docking station

Close to docking

A mistake here would hurt

Looking east from North Woolwich