Skaters enjoy the first festive freeze in Welney Washes since 1986

AN old fen saying says that it takes ice to meet old friends. And in Welney yesterday, people from all generations got their skates on for the first festive freeze in Welney Washes since 1986. Seasoned locals, families and enthusiasts from further afield

AN old fen saying says that it takes ice to meet old friends.

And in Welney yesterday, people from all generations got their skates on for the first festive freeze in Welney Washes since 1986.

Seasoned locals, families and enthusiasts from further afield dusted off their skates, as they took to the natural ice rink on the flooded meadows of the Fenland village.

And if the weather holds, the British and Fenland Skating Championships could be held there this weekend.

Adam Giles, who grew up in the Fens and is a member of the Welney and District Skating Club, said: "I remember creeping off from Welney down to the Washes on my own when I was 11 or 12 - which I shouldn't have. I remember getting on the ice - I just loved it.

"When it freezes, all of the old folk come out of the woodwork.

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"Quite a few people we wouldn't have seen since we last went ice- skating are there.

"A lot of people regard it as something that happened years ago, or as an antiquated thing people used to do. But it is still very much alive."

He added: "There hasn't been skating at Christmas for a long, long time. The 1980s had three of the best ice-skating years.

"We only need four or five days where it is minus five for us to be ice-skating in the Fens."

Daniel Scott, from Christchurch, has lived in the area his whole life and brought his children, Matilda, 12, and Freddie, 10.

He said: "It's difficult to explain unless you do it. On an ice rink you are in a very confined space. Here you can see skaters for miles and miles. I've been here when there have been 200 or 300 people."

Graham Carver, from Upwell, arrived at Welney Washes with his wife and daughter to check if the ice was thick enough for skating.

He said: "It's lovely. My only regret about living in the Fens when it is snowy is that there are no hills to sledge down.

"But being able to skate on the washes more than makes up for it. It is the best skating in the country when the weather is right."

He said: "When I as a boy there would be a gang of us who would come from Outwell and Upwell. And the old boys who used to skate in the Fens would come down too.

"There were miles and miles of the washes that could be navigated on skates.

"When it was icy a few years ago, all the old boys came out and many of them had not skated for 10 years."

Will Van Beele, 44, who grew up in Holland, travelled from Milton Keynes to spend the day on the ice.

He said he had heard about the skating when it froze last time and had been checking to see if there was skating in Welney.

"When it started freezing this year, I asked my mother to send my skates over from Holland.

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