Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Floodlit ice skating on Chorlton Meadows ....... now that doesn’t happen any more

I am back on the meadows thinking of warm summer's walks.

All of which is a far cry from those winters we used to have when freezing temperatures brought the promise of ice skating on the meadows.

It is a story I have regularly revisited and will do so again with this newspaper cutting from the Manchester Guardian of December 22 1938.*

The headline ran "Winter Sports in the North" and then did nothing to fulfil the promise with the follow up headline “Little Skating Yet in Manchester Area”, which is one of those stories which raise you up only to dash you down again.

“The frost has not been severe enough to provide safe skating on any but the shallowest water, and there is only a bare inch or two of snow for sledging.”

That said here in Chorlton “Manchester’s biggest sheet of bearing ice is the one at Chorlton Meadows, in Brookburn Road, Chorlton.

Nearly twenty degrees of frost in the early hours of yesterday produced a good surface there, as the water is shallow and still and quite a number of people were on it in the morning.

School children who had broken up for the holidays joined in the fun during the afternoon, and when darkness came the ice was floodlit.”*

Now I first came across the skating stories on the meadows in the 1970s and only half believed them despite photographs and the testimony of old friends.  More recently as I researched the science of meadow farming

I became even more sceptical, as all the farming authorities argued that letting meadow land freeze over was bad practice.

But the stories of went on down there wouldn’t go away and so it seems the folk tales and the pictures were not one offs but pretty much how it was when we had long cold winters.

And of course this newspaper cutting brings us into a period which is still within living memory and just possibly there will be people who skated into the floodlit evening.

If so I would love to hear from them.

And perhaps on subsequent days because in the same edition the Guardian warned that there was an increased demand for coal more than was usual in the run up to Chritsmas with the chance that some would face delays in getting their supply.

Which was pretty much my fear in the run up to this year's holidays, but that is another story.

Pictures; the meadows on a bleak December day in 2001, from the collection of David Bishop, and skating on Chorlton Meadows from the Manchester Courier, 1914 courtesy of Sally Dervan, 

*Chorlton and ice skating, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Chorlton%20and%20ice%20skating

**Winter Sports in the North, Manchester Guardian, December 22 1938

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