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This is another "home ferry" for me. My parents moved to Seaford 25 years ago, and I have spent a lot of time there since. Driving through Newhaven and over the swing bridge I always check to see if the ferry is in dock. Walking the Seaford seafront or on top of the cliffs on Seaford Head I frequently see the ferry arriving or leaving, especially as it is visible way out in the Channel. Some of the best views I had were when walking one of my parents' dogs on the Downs and I'd look across and see the ferry towering over the docks at Newhaven, maybe with a bit of mist on the fields and hills to add some mystery.
The first time we actually crossed on the ferry was in 1995 when my folks had picked up some almost free tickets from a newspaper offer, valid for a day trip. We had our three young sons with us and the day started fine, but for some reason the ferry was quite delayed on the outbound trip. This meant we got very little time in Dieppe—
just enough to walk the main street, buy some pastries and beat it back to the boat. To make things worse, the wind strengthened on the return trip so it got pretty bumpy, and we all got a little green. This was on a classic cross-Channel ro-ro car ferry, operated by P&O Stena, and took a nominal 4 hours.
In 1999 we crossed again, but this time with a rented Peugeot as part of a trip that took us and our sons through Brittany and then to Guernsey to stay with some friends. By now the service was operated by Hoverspeed using a SeaCat. This was a much faster trip, about 2¼ hours to get to Dieppe, and super smooth—the Channel was almost flat calm. Again we didn't get much chance to see Dieppe itself as we had miles to make. And for the return we came back via Calais and my first use of the Channel Tunnel.
Our most recent crossing was in 2004. We had flown to Paris to spend a few days seeing the sights, and then took the train to Dieppe. We managed a bit of a look around the town and seafront, but were limited by our trip baggage. The ferry was again a Hoverspeed SeaCat, and we were met at Newhaven Harbour by my Mum, with just a 5 minute drive back to her house in Seaford.
One day I really must make time to look around Dieppe a bit more. The Dieppe Raid of 1942 means so much in the history of Canada and has resulted in a strong bond between Dieppe and Canada.
Hoverspeed gave up that route later that year and it has been run ever since under the Transmanche brand, though this is now a subsidised service and has been operated by a couple of different companies over the years. Their classic yellow painted ro-ro ferries are unmistakable!