FEN CENTRE SKATING
OF NISA (UK) Ltd
ASSOCIATION

Welcome to Fen Skating.co.uk
This is a the site for all Fen Skating enthusiasts.
Please keep checking back as we get more information about the ever changing possibilities that we might get some ice, if the weather comes goods for us.
Unfortunately,the weather looks like it is going to get the better of us yet again this winter, we have had plenty of water, and in many cases far too much, but living in Sutton, I have only had to clear the frost from my car windscreen a couple of times all winter, so we have had a severe lack of frost.



The Winter Olympics in Sochi have come and gone, and what a what a festival of winter sport it has been, and a superb display of speed skating by the Dutch skaters, proving that the facilities they have in Holland, combined with an abundance of skaters, can produce a domination of a sport, at World and Olympic level.

The National Ice Skating Association (NISA) is the governing body for all forms of skating, except, on the Fens, and is currently trying to boost Long Track Speed Skating within the UK.

If the Winter Olympics has inspired you to want to get involved, please go to www.iceskating.org.uk  where you can click on the different disciplines of ice skating, including short track and long track speed skating.



We need three things to happen for Fen Skating to be possible:-
1st We need water.
 In past years we have not had enough water, this year we have far too much! We usually skate on flood water that has frozen, this water is usually on flooded fields and flood plains, where the water is, at most no more than 3 feet (1 metre) deep, this year, at the moment, most of the areas where we would skate have in excess of 5 feet of water.
2nd We need frost.
A couple of nights frost, soon gets people thinking about a chance of Fen Skating, but in order to get on the Ice, we need a prolonged period of cold weather, we usually think that a minimum of 4 nights of hard frost, before there is a chance of skating, but that is totally dependant on how hard the frost is, at the actually filed whaere the water is, (it can be -2 in a village, but -6 out in the Fens, but it can also be the opposite, less cold out in the Fens, than in a village). A big contributary factor is also the daytime weather, if the sun gets out, and the temperaute rises above freezing, the effect of the overnight frost can be lost.
3rd We need no wind or snow
Wind and snow both have a bad influence of Fen Ice, if the wind is blowing, when it is freezing, the little ripples caused by the wind, can make the surface of the ice range from a little bit bumpy, to toatlly un-skateable. If snow falls on a thin film of ice, the weight of the snow can break the ice, before it builds enough strength to be able to skate on, the covering of snow can also protect the ice from further snow, by adding an insulating layer over the ice, and a layer of snow makes everywhere look very pretty, but can be very dangerous for skating, as you cannot see what you are skating on, so there may be cracks, or frozen debris in the surface of the ice, which you cannot see.

The best advice is to keep off any ice, if there is no one else there, do not go onto any ice that is covered with snow, even if you walked on it the day before, as you cannot see if the ice has thawed from below the snow.

Keep safe, keep warm and keep dry!!

If any ice becomes available for skating, this website will be updated to let you know where it is safe to skate.

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What is Fen Skating?
Fen Skating, is literally exactly what the name suggests, skating out in the Fens.
Ice skating, or Fen skating has been a big part of the tradition of the Fenland area of Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire. Fen skating only happens when a series of weather conditions coincide to create large areas of natural ice, on open fields, flooded fields and meadows.
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When did Fen Skating start?
In the days before the massive drainage systems of The Duke of Bedford, and Cornelius Vermuyden,

http://www.jim-shead.com/waterways/people.php?wpage=PE594

http://www.barking-dagenham.gov.uk/4-heritage/local-history/information-sheets/pdf/info-sheet-19.pdf

The fenland area between Cambridge and King's Lynn had large areas of swamp ,and marhsland, which during the winter months would freeze over, making navigation and movement between settlements very difficult
Animal bones were flattened and strapped to the feet of travellers, and a long stick was used to push the traveller along, much like a punt is pushed along on a river.
The drainage system created by this plan created two man made rivers, running almost parallel from Earith in Cambridgeshire to Denver Sluice in Norfolk. Between these two river is a flood plain, which was designed to take the excess water from Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire, out to the wash near King's Lynn.
During the winter months the area between these two rivers frequently floods, as it was designed to do, and if the weather conditions are right this shallow water freezes relatively quickly to provide a safe skating environment.
As the Fenland area is also, historically, predominantly a farming area, if the weather was suitable for skating, i.e. very cold, the farmland would have been frozen so the farm worker could not do any work on the farms, and in the 1800's, if you didn't work, you did get paid. So the farm worker could not work, but they could strap their bones on their feet and at least keep warm skating. The Victorian improvements in metal working, meant the end of bones, and a steel blades was set into a wooden sole plate creating the "Fen Runner", which was again strapped to whatever shoes or boots were available, but these Fen Runners had a big screw in the heel, to keep the skate in place, which made for big improvements in speed and control.
Legend has it that races began between farm workes trying to proove who was the best.
Races were organised, with prizes of a loaf of bread or a piece of meat, which if you were a farm worker, who couldn't work, and had no money coming in, were prizes well skating for.
Many of the trophies we races for today were donated at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Back in the late 1890's skaters such as Turkey Smart and Gutter Percher See, were the top of their sport, and crowds would gather from miles around to watch competitions where they were skating.
As technology changed and more modern materials became available, the quality of the steel used and welding techniques made speed skates, similar to what is used today, these were known as "Norwegians", as they were imported into the Fens from Norway, with a purpose made leather shoe, already attached to the blade. This did not change much in basic design from the 1930's until the 1990's, when great leaps in advancement have been made, and the top skaters now use hinged skates, known as "clapskates" and carbon fibre or heat mouldable compound shoes, custom made to the individual feet of the skater.
Where Can I Skate?
There are a few areas where over the years it has been found that both the water level and the frost combine to make good skating conditions:-
"Bury Fen," between the villages of Earith and Bluntisham, on a flooded flood meadow.
Mere Fen, between the villages of Swavesey and Over, near to the MG owners Club.
Sutton Gault, on the washes between the two rivers, near to the Anchor pub.
Welney wash, on the washes between the rivers.
Whittlesea wash, on a flooded field, north of Whittlesea on the B1040.
St.Ives, on a flooded meadow, near the Dolphin Hotel.
All these places are flood plains or flooded fields, and under normal conditions, the depth of the water is between 30 and 90 cm, 1 to 3 feet, and as a consequence, are relatively "safe" to skate, when the conditions are right!!
What do I need?
This is very simple, all you need is a pair of skates, good health, and a sense of adventure, there is nothing quite like skating on a frozen field, on a crisp frosty morning, with the nature around, the piece and quiet, except for the other skaters, and the friends you will either meet up with, or make.
Any one of any age can have a go, whether a beginner or an expert, whether on an old pair of fen runners or a modern pair of clapskates.
What do I need to know?
There are several things that you need to take advice about for new fen skaters:-
Take notice of any notice boards and signs, warning of deep water or thin ice, skating is, by it's nature a dangerous sport, with the risk of twisted ankles etc, so if a sign has been put up, it is there for your safety.
Take notice of any advice given to you, the local people or Fen Skaters, usually know what is best, if they tell you not to walk on a certain area of ice, or to gain access by a different route, they are probably telling you for a reason, and don't be afraid to ask for advice.
Never skate by yourself.Even experienced skaters can fall over from time to time, and it is nice to have somoeone there to assist, if the need arises.
You will be skating amongst the nature, so don't expect too many creature comforts, there will be no toilets, no cafes, no warm changing rooms, just the cold,bleak beauty of the frozen Fens.
Follow the Country Code, do not leave any litter, and make sure you do not damage any of the nature there, this includes hedges,fences and gates.
Remember you will be in the home of nature, and especially birdlife, they do not necessarily like the ice in the same way we do, so respect this, and keep to areas where skaters are already skating, do not go off exploring, the birds will have got used to the skaters being in one area, they do not need to be disturbed by straying skaters just out to find out how far they can skate. Stay in the same area as everyone else, this is for your own safety, as well as for the well being of our feathered friends.
Where can I get some skates?.
This one of the most common question nowadays, in years gone by, most families would have a pair or two stuck away in a shed or garage that would come out and get dusted down whenever there was any ice, even if it meant wearing 2 pairs of socks if the boots were too big, or cramping your toes up if they were a bit tight.
There a very few shops in the fens, now that actually stock any skates, but sometimes charity shops have some, or car boot sales, these palces are a good source of cheap skates, but obvioulsy, not necessarily when you need them.
The Welney Skating Asociation do have a very limited number of pairs of skates available for loan, but these tend to get taken out as soon as skating is possible, but worth a try, contact Roger Giles through www.gileslandscapes.co.uk
If you want to buy new skates, unfortunatley Holland is the best place to look, as skating is their national obsession. Some good websites are:
www.skate-dump.nl this website has what mighty be called clearance skates, of all types, from top of the range clapskates down to basic strap on skates, similar to the old fen runners, if you don't mind having last years model, or have uncommon size feet, this is great place to start your search.
www.stouwdam.nl this website/shop has a comprehensive range of all skates.
www.haicobouma.nl this website/shop has a wide range of skates, and the shop is owned and run by an ex professional marathon skater, who was one of the top skaters in Holland until he retired, only a few years ago.
www.fabersport.nl this website/shop has a wide range of skates for all requirements.
Any of these websites and shops will be very good for advice, e-mails do not need to be in Dutch, as they all speak excellent English.
haicobouma and fabersport are both very close to Heerenveen, and as the 3 skaters from the Fen skate in Thialf Heerenveen on a regular basis, normally once a month from November through to February, so if you need anything asking, collecting or returning, there are possibilities.
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For some good footage, got to BBC I player for Countryfile broadcast 17/01/10
or Inside Out broadcast 18/01/10
The Guardian website and search for Fen Skating.
For information about fen skating, please contact :   info @fenskating.co.uk
If you have any comments, video clips, photographs, newspaper clipping or anything that you think will be of interest, and are happy to share with other skating enthusiaists, please e-mail us at the info@fenskating.co.uk address, we will contact you to arrange "collection".
We are trying to build up a comprehensive history of Fen Skating, in pictures and video, maybe with the possibillity of creating a DVD of skating on the Fens.
With the spread of video technology, and the increase of personal video cameras, there may be some small clips of ordinary people skating and enjoying themselves out in the Fens.
Of particular interest is the 1980's, when we had 3 consecutive winters of good skating weather, I am hoping to get a collection of video and photos together for what could well be called as the Golden Decade of Fen Skating, when more racing and more skating took place than almost any other decade in living memory.
Any Memories are good memories, and if you are happy to share them, we would be happy to hear them.
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The 3 local skaters who still go to Holland racing can be seen in action in the link below, a clip filmed by one of the Dutch spectators and put on youtube, but it does show very well what we get up to in Heerenveen, north Holland.
As a matter of interest, Dave Smith, is the bald headed skater in dark blue with yellow shoulders and gloves you can easily pick out after aboout 14 seconds, Malcolm Robinson, can also be picked out in the crowd, wearing a suit with black legs, white body and light blue arms, he eventually finishes second. 
www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCuIWHUQops

FOR LOCAL INFORMATION CHECK: www.gileslandscapes.co.uk

FOR THE "EXTREME" SKATING ENTHUSIASTS GO TO: www.weissensee.nl
for those who do not speak Dutch, you can translate the page into English.
this website is for The Alternative Elfstedentocht ( Alternative Eleven Cities Tour) on a frozen lake in Austria .
The skating goes on until the end of January, events organised for all levels of skating every day.
Peloton onderweg voor de eerste rondjesLaatste mist trekt weg

for some excellent archive footage, please follow these links:

www.guardian.co.uk/travel/video/2010/jan/14/cambridge-fen-skating

http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?=id4237

http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=15872

http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=4231

http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=6390

There are plans to arrange a film show, soon, to give fen skaters to have a get together in the warm, and enjoy watching what some of us have got up to, and what some people have done, or do in the pursuit of skating.
Keep an eye  on this website for details of when and where!
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For up tp date information about ice/water conditions, please check our Welney based friends at www.gileslandscapes.co.uk, their website is updated most days between 8:00 and 9:00 in the morning, and as Roger Giles is very local to the ice, he is. able to give the most up to date information.

The recent cold weather we had here in the UK, is nothing compared to that experienced by our neighbours in Holland.
There was much anticipation and expectation during their cold spell, when the organising committee for the Elfstedentocht(The Elfstedentocht, is a race, between 11 towns in the province on Friesland, in the northern part of the Netherlands. The race takes place over the frozen rivers,canals and lakes, and is 200km (125 miles) and has only happened 15 times in history). had their meeting to decide if the race would take place.Unfortunately due to a similar covering of snow, in the southern part of Friesland, and the thickness of the ice only reaching 7cms, teh minimum required thickness being 15cms,the decision was made on Thursday last week that the race would not happen.
For more information about the Elfsteden tocht
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elfstedentcoht
There may not have been an Elfstedentocht in Holland over the weekend, but according to the Algemene Dagblad, National Daily news paper in Holland, over a million skaters took to the ice over the weekend, in organised tours around the various lakes and canals all over Holland.In one tour, the Westland tour, in the south of Holland, where skaters had a 15km (about 9 miles) loop and the option to skate 1, 2,3 or even 4 laps around the loop,around 70,000, are reported to have donned their skates, and between 20,000 and 25,000 skaters in another tour.
For up to date information about anything to do with speed skating, on natuurijs, or ice rinks, short track or long track, please visit the www.schaatsen.nl
The only problem with this site is that it is not in English, although some pages will translate,depending which search engine you use.
If you see something you like the look of, but do not understand the Dutch, please e-mail the info@fenskating.co.uk and I will try to translate for you.