HIGH up from our site on a north Devon farm, we could see the lights of Porthcawl blinking in the not too far distance.

We were staying just outside Ilfracombe. South Wales was only 25 miles away, but it would take us three hours to get there, maybe more with the Easter traffic.

Because like the millions of Welsh holiday makers in the south west, we’d have to go the long way round – by road via the M5, Bristol, the Severn bridges and the M4.

Why can’t we go by boat?

There was, of course, a car ferry across the narrow neck of the Severn to Chepstow from Aust before the first Severn bridge was built in 1966.

At the moment, the only way to take the shortcut across the water is to sail on the vintage steamers Balmoral or Waverley which ply their trade from Penarth and Newport to Somerset and Devon. Graceful and elegant they may be, but you can’t take your car on a paddle steamer.

A ferry service across the Severn estuary has been mooted for a least the past five years but infuriatingly has so far failed to sail.

A company called Severn Link started looking at routes linking Cardiff with Minehead and Swansea with Ilfracombe in 2007.

Businesses in Devon estimated the Ilfracombe service would bring an extra £20m to the local economy in its first year of operation.

Severn Link hoped to launch the Swansea service last year but problems finding a suitable vessel have put paid to their plans for now.

It has been said that the Severn Estuary, with millions of people living on either side and with much trade and tourist traffic already, is the only comparable stretch of water in Europe without a scheduled ferry service.

Severn Link said earlier this year that they were still working on plans for a passenger link.

But for now, unless you take the steamer across to Minehead, you'll have to take the long way round in 2013.