Royal rink for Christmas skaters

CHRIS BISHOP You could be skating under the stars this Christmas - courtesy of Her Majesty the Queen. For the first time in more than 100 years there will be skating on the Royal Estate at Sandringham, near King's Lynn.

CHRIS BISHOP

You could be skating under the stars this Christmas - courtesy of Her Majesty the Queen.

For the first time in more than 100 years there will be skating on the Royal Estate at Sandringham, near King's Lynn.

But instead of allowing revellers to take to the ice if the lake in front of the Queen's Norfolk retreat freezes, a purpose-built rink will be created instead.

The 200m-square temporary rink will be built outside the visitor centre, close to Sandringham Church and the war memorial. It will be flanked by Christmas trees and lit by fairy lights.

"We are all very excited about the ice rink," said Helen Walch, Sandringham's public enterprises manager. "It's something I've been hoping to do for a long time and I'm delighted that we are able to introduce it this year.

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"We have so far had an overwhelmingly positive response to the plan from local people and visitors - the feeling seems to be that a rink will really bring a buzz of activity and atmosphere to the country park in winter and people are looking forward to it."

Miss Walch said she did not know whether any members of the Royal family planned to use the rink while they were spending Christmas on the estate.

"There's a lovely drawing in the house of Edward, the Prince of Wales, who went on to become King Edward VII, skating on the lake in front of the house," she added. "It must have been round about the 1870s."

Milder winters mean skating on frozen lakes and fens has all but died out. West Norfolk's fen skaters were once among the fastest in Britain and thousands would come to watch them on the flooded Welney Washes or River Nene.

While Royal watchers will wonder whether Princes William and Harry might take to the ice to emulate their ancestor, the sound of revellers will be heard across the road at Sandringham House.

A similar rink installed outside the Forum in Norwich over the last three winters has proved a hit with shoppers and visitors.

More than 100,000 skaters have so far ventured on to the ice, which has become a major tourist attraction. There will also be skating at the Forum this year.

The Sandringham rink will be open every day except Christmas Day from Monday, December 4, to Sunday, January 8. Skating will be in one-hour slots from 11am to 8pm, for £7.50 adults/£5 under-14s, which includes skate hire.

Food and drink will be available at the Sandringham Restaurant.

A special skating hotline has been set up on 01553 612909.

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