Gallery: Former Fenland speed skater takes to the ice again

Fen skater Philip Doubleday from Downham Market. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Fen skater Philip Doubleday from Downham Market. Picture: Matthew Usher.

In the colder winters of his youth, he did his skating on the frozen Fens, winning the national championship in the early 1980s. At the age of 86, he made a return to the ice at a Christmas ice rink.

Now 86, Philip Doubleday is still getting his skates on – though now in somewhat tamer surroundings.

The former champion Fens skater has returned to the ice on one of this year's Christmas rinks.

'I did have a fall which knocked my confidence a bit,' he said. 'But overall I did enjoy being back on the ice.

'The surface was certainly much smoother than the ice we used to skate on at Well Creek in Outwell.'

Mr Doubleday visited the rink at Parker's Piece, in Cambridge, with his daughter, Caroline Cotterell.

The last time he took to the ice was in 2010 when the Fens last froze over and skating was possible once again.

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Mr Doubleday was born in Outwell during a sharp winter. His parents carried him on the ice to introduce their newborn baby to friends who were out skating.

He owned his very first pair of skates at the age of six.

As a teenager, he was skating along the Welney Wash and spotted Cyril Horn, a British Champion in the 1920s and 1930s.

'He was skating effortlessly with his hands behind his back,' Mr Doubleday said. 'I thought to myself that I would like to skate like that.'

In 1947, aged 18, he started participating in races. He was twice runner-up to Neville Young in the British Professional Championship in 1956 and 1962 and to M J Bliss of Harleston in 1979.

But in 1982, aged 53, he managed to secure the title over one-and-a-half mile race at Baston Fen, in Lincolnshire.

Mr Doubleday also won Hayes Fisher Cup over three miles in 1963 and the one-mile GT Ward Cup in 1979.

Although he retired from skating for 11 years after gaining the national title, he was back on the ice again and racing in his 60s.

Now living in Downham Market, the retired farm worker attributes his fitness to working on the land. He also enjoyed cycling.

He said: 'There was nothing much we could do on the farms during the winters as everything froze over. So anyone connected with farming used to skate. I look back on those days with such happy memories.'

A pair of Mr Doubleday's skates have previously been on display at the Downham Market Heritage Society collection.

Do you have memories of skating on the Fens? Email