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Will Welney Washes freeze over to allow ice skating this winter?

PUBLISHED: 06:29 21 December 2019

Ice skaters take to the ice at Welney Wash.

PLEASE BYLINE: Brian Purdy.

Ice skaters take to the ice at Welney Wash. PLEASE BYLINE: Brian Purdy.

Ice-skating enthusiasts are keeping an eager eye on the weather this winter hoping it will keep alive the region's skating traditions.

Fen Skaters take to the ice on the flooded fields around Welney, as conditions go below freezing.Fen Skaters take to the ice on the flooded fields around Welney, as conditions go below freezing.

Ice-skating on the frozen fields and meadows on the Welney Washes, on the Norfolk and Cambridge border, has been taking place since the 19th century.

Welney Washes, with its open and easily flooded fields and meadows, creates one of England's biggest natural ice rinks when frozen over.

The 1980s was considered a golden age for Fenland skating which saw thousands of people, some travelling from as far away as Holland, watch ice-skating competitions.

But will this winter bring the same spell as last? It comes after ice skaters took to the frozen Fens in March 2018 for the first time in 10 years.

Crowds would gather in large numbers on Well Creek, Outwell and Welney Wash to enjoy ice skating on the frozen surfaces. Picture taken 21st February, 1978 . Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARYCrowds would gather in large numbers on Well Creek, Outwell and Welney Wash to enjoy ice skating on the frozen surfaces. Picture taken 21st February, 1978 . Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

Fen skaters are hoping this winter will bring consistent frost that will create the ideal conditions for skating.

Of those keeping a keen eye on the region's weather conditions is former chairman of Welney Gala and Welney skating committee, Roger Giles.

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The Fen Skating member, who used to organise skating galas in the 1960s and 70s, has said there could be a possibility of skating this winter.

Fen Skaters take to the ice on the flooded fields around Welney, as conditions go below freezing.Fen Skaters take to the ice on the flooded fields around Welney, as conditions go below freezing.

Mr Giles said: "Longer term forecast does show a chance. There will be sub zero temperatures in mid January onwards."

Warmer winters has meant conditions for Fen skating and racing have not been as consistent since the late 80s.

"It was massively cold in 1962 and 1963 and all the Fenland rivers were frozen solid, even large parts of the Welney 100ft New Bedford tidal river was solid from Christmas to the end of March," Mr Giles added.

"In the late 1800s and early 1900s every family in Welney would have had skates. And the skating population was 1000."

Ice skaters take to the ice at Welney Wash,
pictured is Leigh Marshall being pulled along by his dog.

PLEASE BYLINE: Brian Purdy.Ice skaters take to the ice at Welney Wash, pictured is Leigh Marshall being pulled along by his dog. PLEASE BYLINE: Brian Purdy.

Mr Giles updates the Fen Skating Twitter page to let people know when conditions are ideal for skating.

He said: "My advice to punters wanting to skate on the Fens is beware of social media, it often puts the word out before the ice is really safe to skate on.

"Always watch where locals skate and do not venture or explore without local advice. Never go out alone."

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