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Fundraiser hits £37k target to secure Hythe ferry's future

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HYTHE ferry is expected to sail again this month with the help of a community fundraising campaign which gathered more than £40,000.

Operator Blue Funnel had previously warned that the service had run out of money and would not be starting up again when lockdown restrictions fully eased.

It was forced to stop operating when Covid-19 struck last year and a lack of income made it impossible to cover the £60,000 routine maintenance required for it to start operating again.

The ferry will be back in operation from mid-July
The ferry will be back in operation from mid-July

But hopes are rising after a fundraiser launched by local resident Ashleigh Mutimear hit its target of £37,500, with the current total standing at just over £41,000.

Lee Rayment, owner of Blue Funnel, told the A&T the money meant the much-needed maintenance could now be carried out on the service's main boat, and he hoped to be fully operational by mid-July.

He said: "I cannot thank the community enough for saving the ferry. It shows the community spirit locally is fabulous, everyone has got so behind it all. Ashleigh is a true stalwart."

However, he warned if passenger numbers dropped again, the service would not survive, and added: "It is 'use it or lose it'. This sort of thing [fundraising] won't happen again."

Ms Mutimear set up a funding webpage in a last-ditch attempt to keep the service running, and arranged events to help raise awareness of its plight, which including her and friend Sonny Wilson walking up and down the pier, which links the ferry, for 24 hours.

Owner Lee Rayment and Ashleigh Mutimear at the pier entrance
Owner Lee Rayment and Ashleigh Mutimear at the pier entrance

A fundraising book was also written by local author Simon Chadwick in aid of the ferry.

Ashleigh said: "I am so overwhelmed but I can confirm the crowdfunding page hit the target of £37,500. What a huge achievement by each and every one of you that have supported, donated and fundraised along the way.

"I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am so deeply grateful for everyone that got behind the campaign.

"Together, we have made something very special happen."

The ferry has also been supported by three local councils which pledged to provide £67,500 of funding to keep afloat the vital service, which links Southampton and the Waterside.

New Forest District, Hampshire County and Southampton City councils previously each confirmed they will give the service £7,500 a month for three months.

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