|A potentially dangerous ford in Staffordshire|
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A ford is a form of bridgeless river-crossing sometimes provided at a point on a river or stream where the water is shallow enough (and the river bed is firm enough) to allow wheeled vehicles to pass directly through the watercourse. Many towns and villages derive their names from crossings of this type.
Fords can vary from simple water splashes to major stream-crossings passable only by specially equipped off-road vehicles. It is important that drivers check warning signs and depth gauges as a stalled vehicle in water is difficult and costly to extract from the crossing, and it is for this reason that the vast majority of fords are located on very quiet unclassified roads.
A ford may be signed as 'unsuitable for motors' in order to discourage less experienced drivers from attempting to drive through it – but as these signs are purely advisory there is nothing to stop off-roaders tackling such a ford at their own risk. Often if a ford is signed as unsuitable it is because the approach ramps have been damaged by water erosion or because the growth of algae on the road surface has made it excessively slippery. As reversing in water is a bad idea, vehicles can very easily become stuck in such conditions.
A variant on the ford is a tidal road, which is liable to complete flooding at high tides. The most famous example of this is the Lindisfarne Island causeway in Northumberland. Lesser examples exist near Morecambe at Sunderland Point. These roads can be very dangerous if crossed at the wrong time so notices giving tidal times are usually posted on the approaches and signs warn drivers of the hazard in advance. Depth gauges and posts that indicate a closure if the water is touching them are also provided.