Ice skating is set to return to the Fens

PUBLISHED: 12:36 20 March 2015 | UPDATED: 11:33 21 March 2015

The Men's Fen Speed Skate race gets underway during the Fen Speed Skating championships at Whittlesey Fen, near Peterborough. Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

The Men's Fen Speed Skate race gets underway during the Fen Speed Skating championships at Whittlesey Fen, near Peterborough. Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

An open air ice skating pond could be built alongside the Great Ouse as part of a radical scheme to revamp a key site in the Fens.

The vision was unveiled yesterday, at the launch of a public consultation over ways to transform the area around Denver sluice, near to Downham Market, into a visitor destination and tourist attraction.

Among other proposals put forward were improved walking, cycling and riding trails, water sport facilities, and a water taxi service between Downham Market and Denver.

Although there were few details given as to exactly what the ice skating pond proposal would entail, it was the most eye-catching of the schemes outlined.

Such a project would tap into a rich heritage of ice skating in the Fens, where, for generations, inhabitants have flooded meadows during exceptionally cold winters, to create areas to skate.

The Denver Complex currently coordinates what is thought to be one of the largest and most sophisticated sluices in the country. But under the new plans, it is also hoped it will become a key attraction.

Ian Bliss, waterways partnerships manager for the Environment Agency, said: “We already have limited facilities here at Denver Complex, but it has so much potential.

“The complex is a vital operational site, so we’ve explored how to balance the important work that it does as well as attract visitors to the facilities. It’s also important to emphasise that this can raise awareness of the importance of Denver Sluice and promote it as an education facility.”

A landscape architect led an initial study and development of proposals, working alongside local residents and partners to explore how the area could be further developed.

The Environment Agency manages the site and is a partner in the Ouse Washes Partnership, a three-year project largely funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Funding to generate these ideas came from the Heritage Lottery Fund and members of the public were invited to share their views of the ideas presented.

Gerald Allison, general manager for the Downham Market Group of Internal Drainage Boards, said: “It would be nice to make people more aware of Denver Sluice and its function in terms of flood risk management. I think it is a good idea to do something here as long as the flood risk management is not derogated in any way.”

Ann Linnett, of Minster Court, King’s Lynn, added: “There are lots of lovely walks around here that nobody seems to know about. I think this looks wonderful.”

Concerns raised by members of the public included the increased flow of traffic and a feeling that the ideas were overly ambitious.

Do you have a west Norfolk story? Email louise.hepburn@archant.co.uk

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