Colchester ice rink battles to stay open despite above average temperatures

Winter Wondeland in Colchester

Winter Wondeland in Colchester - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

Organisers of the Colchester outdoor ice rink are “doing their best” to resume normal service as unseasonably warm weather has forced the attraction to close for several hours each day this week.

The official opening of the ice rink and Winter Wonderland in Colchester's Castle Park. Deputy mayor

The official opening of the ice rink and Winter Wonderland in Colchester's Castle Park. Deputy mayor Julie Young and Ben Payne open the ice rink. - Credit: Archant

The Winter Wonderland and Ice Rink in Castle Park opened to the public last Friday, but skating was stopped on Monday and on Tuesday afternoon as high temperatures led to excess water on the rink.

Since Wednesday the rink has only been open from 4pm, when the temperature begins to fall, instead of at the scheduled 10am.

Ben Payne, director of Reflective Ice which runs the attraction, said he understood people’s frustration but there was nothing he could do about the weather.

“We are doing our best and hope to be back to normal next week,” he said.

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“It is unfortunate, and if we had launched last year we would not had this problem. But we are not alone, our partners Cousin’s Entertainment have had similar problems at their rinks in London and elsewhere.

“Initially people were upset and cross, and didn’t understand – and that’s why we are trying to explain.

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“It is not that the rink is unsafe or not built correctly, as some people have suggested, it is the temperature. There may well be some, not excessive, water on the rink, but it is necessary to freeze over and if you scrape it all off eventually we will be down to the pipes and have to close for several days.

“We would love a perfect sheet of ice, and our chillers are working 100%.

“There was a man in the High Street the other day in T-shirt and shorts, which seemed a bit crazy but did not leave you thinking ‘he must be cold’, which shows what we are up against.”

Anyone who has tickets for a cancelled session on the rink is entitled to a free re-booking or a refund.

An official statement from the attraction said: “We are determined to stay open and, as much as possible, give the people of Colchester the perfect fairy-tale ice skating experience we promised from day one.”

It is the first year of the Winter Wonderland, and Mr Payne said early talks had already begun about returning next year.

Mr Payne added: “Overall it has been great. We had 5,000 people on the first four days which was fantastic, and we are still selling tickets in quantities daily, even with the weather.

“We have had some feedback about Santa and that it wasn’t Christmassy enough so we have made some changes already.

“I want this to be an annual event, and to grow year on year. But people need to come down and support it, and understand it is only in its first year.

“Just look at Hyde Park seven or eight years ago, when it was just in the middle of a roundabout, and now has 4.75 million visitors. I am not saying we will hit that, but that we will improve.”

Tim Young, Colchester borough councillor for culture, said: “It is extremely disappointing and frustrating to all concerned that our best efforts to keep this year’s Winter Wonderland open to visitors as advertised have been hampered by abnormally warm weather and heavy rain playing havoc with the surface of the ice rink during its opening week.

“I know everyone involved is working extremely hard and doing everything possible to avoid further disruption and disappointment, and ensure the rink remains open throughout the coming weeks.”

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