Sunderland city centre’s Christmas ice rink opens in Keel Square

Sunderland city centre’s Christmas ice rink has finally got its skates on - with a little help from its friends.

The Keel Square attraction had been due to open on Thursday, then Saturday - but a combination of a technical problems and the unseasonably warm weather meant it took longer than expected to freeze the ice pan to the point at which it was ready for use.

The ice rink in Keel Square

The ice rink in Keel Square

Jan Eskildsen, who was in charge of the installation for Ice Sunderland said: “One of our chillers had a technical problem and we had to get it changed.

“The contractor had to come down and change the chiller and the generator.

“That happened on Thursday, then we have had the milder weather on top of that.

“This is actually the fourth ice pan we have built up - we built three, we lost three.

“This is actually the fourth ice pan we have built up - we built three, we lost three.

Jan Eskildsen

“But we have had good support from Billingham Forum ice rink.

“They have given us snow from when they have been resurfacing their ice pan.

“We have put five or six tonnes of snow from Billingham onto it, to help us build it up as quickly as possible, but it has been a bit of a challenge.

“You need to have at least two inches of ice built up before it is right for skating, otherwise it is not a good experience.”

Enjoying the ice rink in Keel Square were l-r Holly Cockcroft, Sarah Richardson, Jane Cockcroft and Hannah Davison

Enjoying the ice rink in Keel Square were l-r Holly Cockcroft, Sarah Richardson, Jane Cockcroft and Hannah Davison

Among the first skaters to try out the rink this year were Naomi Golsdmith and daugher Chloe, from Red House, who were making their second visit to the ice rink.

“We actually came down on Friday because she had a teacher training day,” said Chloe, 27.

“We had a full day planned but it was closed, so she was a bit disappointed and we had to go to the cinema instead.

“So today she is in her element. She loves skating - she actually used to have skating lessons .”

Eight-year-old Chloe was delighted to finally get out on the ice.

“I was a little bit sad when we came down before,” she said.

“I am very happy now.”

Sharon Hurst had brought grandchildren Leyla, 10, and seven-year-old Ned Littlemore down from Penshaw to try out the rink.

“I just love skating,” said Leyla, “but I have just fallen down.”

Ned was getting his first experience of skating, with help from a plastic polar bear - but was still spending a lot of time on the ice.

So exactly how often had he fallen over?

“About 250 times.”