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Ice skaters take to frozen Fen for first time in nearly 10 years

PUBLISHED: 14:37 02 March 2018 | UPDATED: 14:54 02 March 2018

On the ice at Welney are skaters Sally Vernon and Brian Shand. Picture: Ian Burt

On the ice at Welney are skaters Sally Vernon and Brian Shand. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

It was the moment some keen ice skaters have been waiting years for.

The river at Upwell is frozen. Picture: Ian Burt The river at Upwell is frozen. Picture: Ian Burt

As temperatures dipped below freezing, the fields and marshes of Welney have iced over for the first time in almost a decade - creating one of the biggest natural ice rinks in the country.

Although Roger Giles, from Fen Skating, stressed for people to stay safe and that they skated at their own risk, many seized the opportunity to revive a popular tradition that dates as far back as the 19th century.

Julian Sedgewick on the ice at Welney. Picture: Ian Burt Julian Sedgewick on the ice at Welney. Picture: Ian Burt

Back then, ice skating competitions would be held with thousands travelling fro as far away as Holland to take part.

In recent years, warm winters has meant ice skaters in the Fens have not been able to practice the sport since 2010.

Julian Sedgewick on the ice at Welney. Picture: Ian Burt Julian Sedgewick on the ice at Welney. Picture: Ian Burt

But as temperatures diped to -5C, skaters have been scouting the fields to find the best spot to skate in.

Sally Vernon, 35, and Brian Shand, 42, from Cambridge, decided to go for a spin on the frozen fields in Welney.

Will Sedgewick taking a tumble on the ice at Welney. Picture: Ian Burt Will Sedgewick taking a tumble on the ice at Welney. Picture: Ian Burt

Ms Vernon said: “It’s wonderful, there’s a lot of wind but when it catches you you’re just flying, you don’t even need to skate you just soar in it all.

“It’s been years since it was frozen, just to be able to skate again it’s magical.”

Ice skaters have been out on the marshes at Welney. Pictured are Julian Sedgewick and his son Will. Picture: Ian Burt Ice skaters have been out on the marshes at Welney. Pictured are Julian Sedgewick and his son Will. Picture: Ian Burt

Julian Sedgewick, 52, and his son Will, 19, from Little Downham, said they felt more free skating in the Fens as opposed to an ice rink.

“It’s the same difference as swimming in an ocean than swimming in a pool,” Julian said. 
“It is vast, just that sense of expanse.”

Will Sedgewick taking a tumble on the ice at Welney. Picture: Ian Burt Will Sedgewick taking a tumble on the ice at Welney. Picture: Ian Burt

He said he had tried to skate on the Welney Washes four years ago but fell through the ice.

This time, he said he and other skaters looked for a safer spot, adding: “As long as you know where the ditches are it is reasonably safe.”

David Hawkins, from Little Downham, learnt how to skate in 1963.

His wife, Sue Hawkins, decided to stand and watch her husband from afar. She said: “He’s either brave or mad, I’m not sure which.”

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