|After leaving the former DOVER, it was time to head to Hartlepool and lunch on the WINGFIELD CASTLE, the former Humber paddle ferry of 1934. This ship is preserved at "Hartlepool's Maritime Experience" and is one of the free exhibitions - entry to HMS TRINCOMALEE costs extra. Along with sister TATTERSHALL CASTLE (now a floating bar on the Thames but only recently horrendously "renovated") the WINGFIELD CASTLE was built in Hartlepool, actually now being berthed practically on the site of her builders. Externally she was looking slightly rusty whilst on board she was in the midst of a quite major refurbishment. According to the staff, the former lower aft lounge was "a bit of a mess" whilst the aft car deck, upper deck and bridge were also all out of use. So we settled for peering into the engine room and the forward spaces - the upper lounge now serving as a cafeteria where a reasonably priced lunch of sandwiches and hot soup was procured.
The WINGFIELD CASTLE didn't really set the pulse racing however. Perhaps it was due to so much of the ship being closed off, or maybe it was the eerieness - does ship "preservation" really have to mean a ship becomes lifeless and soulless, with guides in hushed voice telling us how "historic" everything is? It was lunchtime on the Good Friday bank holiday yet we were the only visitors; the staff (there were no less than six on board, three of them serving at the cafeteria) spent much of our visit sitting in the cafeteria having their lunch despite the exasperated requests of a manager who was pleading with them to turn their attention to the visitors rather than gossip!
We returned to the car and resumed our journey to Newcastle, but via Sunderland and a chance to see the MANXMAN in her continuing lay-up. This being a Bank Holiday, the yard itself was closed, but we had the chance to gaze and wonder at this forlorn but still very-powerful looking ship. Not being particularly a Steam Packet fan (I struggle to think of a more historically backward ferry operator in the UK, the MANXMAN herself and those funny but quite awfully austere side loading car ferries being cases in point) I was actually surprised by how strong an impression this first view of the old steamer made. She remains in that all-white livery with the blue zig-zags, but at least she floats and there could possibly be some future for her.