Southern Belle cruises' bus link-up

A RIVER lover who revived Yarmouth's tradition of pleasure boat trips for the 2006 season is hoping his business will really motor ahead this summer.Steve 'Tug' Wilson, 53, is restoring a double-decker bus with local historical significance to bring guests from local holiday parks for cruises on his boat, the Southern Belle.

A RIVER lover who revived Yarmouth's tradition of pleasure boat trips for the 2006 season is hoping his business will really motor ahead this summer.

Steve 'Tug' Wilson, 53, is restoring a double-decker bus with local historical significance to bring guests from local holiday parks for cruises on his boat, the Southern Belle.

The 73-seater, the last double-decker bus made at the former Eastern Coach Works, in Lowestoft, in 1986, is currently being renovated and readied for re-spraying at Mr Wilson's Ferry Boathouse on the riverside at Gorleston.

Mr Wilson, who spent two years and more than �150,000 restoring the Southern Belle, said: 'Last season was quieter for us than 2007 but we are hoping that the weaker pound will deter people from European holidays and bring more families to Yarmouth.


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'We have found intense interest in the history of the Southern Belle, with some people making daytrips from as far afield as Luton just to come on a cruise.

'I am hoping the history of the coach, which was made slightly smaller than normal so it could get under Southend Pier, will generate its own interest.'

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He said the bus was an ideal size as the Southern Belle, which was previously based on the River Tamar in Plymouth, has a seating capacity of 100.

Mr Wilson, who runs the business with his son Colin, 24, hopes to start his season at Easter, offering cruises from his mooring on the River Yare, outside Haven Bridge House, around Breydon Water.

In July and August, he will launch a new three-and-a-half-hour trip to Oulton Broad via Reedham, the New Cut and Somerleyton, with passengers returning on his bus. The trip will replace one stopping at Reedham which has been scrapped because of difficulties getting a guaranteed mooring.

'Some of our Breydon Water trips will also include a conducted tour of the Berney Windmill in conjunction with English Heritage. It is the first time the mill will have been open for seven or eight years,' he said.

Mr Wilson, of Oulton Broad, who has lived close to the Broads all his life, is proud to have revived a pleasure boat tradition that vanished more than a decade ago with the departure of the Golden Galleon.

In the longer term, he has plans to revive a cross-river foot ferry to South Denes for commuters as a way of avoiding the likely increased road congestion from the outer harbour.

He said: 'It is early days and we have got to look into its viability and whether it is possible to link it up with bus services.'

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