Tuesday 1 December 2015

Llawr Sglefrio Caersŵs [Caersws Ice Rink]

Gwerddon yn yr anialwch iâ Cymreig (An oasis in the Welsh ice desert)

Leaflets have been everywhere in Aberystwyth advertising the new Caersws Ice Rink. We decided to go one night with our Dutch cleaner Grietje1 as they had a promotion offering half-price entry and a free advocaat for Dutch people. All the way there on the train we practised our Dutch, so that when we got to the entrance Grietje could do the talking, and all we had to do was stand behind her nodding, and saying things like Verkoopt u postzegels?, Hottentottententententoonstellingsterrein and Deze mevrouw betaalt alles to each other. This worked depressingly easily, and we all got discount entry and enjoyed our advocaats (although this last bit was challenging).

The rink is a good bit of entrepreneurial innovation by Powys County Council. Recognising the rapidly declining benefits of solar investment, and the precarious state of the County's schools, a large solar farm and medium-sized primary school (Ysgol Walter Watkins) were flattened to make way for the new development, thereby killing two birds with one stone (or lladd dwy frân â'r un ergyd as it is said in Welsh). Early ambitious plans to employ Daniel Libeskind as architect dissolved in acrimonious and rather vulgar arguments about how much you pay for the design of a frozen puddle; the resulting structure, while not perhaps a likely award winner, blends well into the countryside backdrop. The rink is one of the geographically best placed in Wales (see below), with comparatively good public transport in the form of buses and trains, while the Llangollen canal is only 30 miles distant, and Birmingham Airport can be reached in less than three hours.

Unusually, the designers did not use the normal "flat" ice approach, opting instead for a scale model of the nearby Pumlumon range in the Cambrian mountains, presenting the skater with ravines and crevasses aplenty.

Possibly intimidating for beginners, this certainly adds to the fun! An interesting economy measure is to have "one size fits all" skates for hire which can take a little time to get used to. Grietje has twice won the under-12 section of the 200Km Elfstedentocht,
the second time in a Scooby-Doo costume, and so it was no surprise that she brought her own skates. She also brought her Scooby outfit and it took some persuasion on our part to stop her putting it on. She eventually succumbed to reason, and the promise of being allowed to wear it on the journey home to mingle unobserved with the "last train" drinkers returning from Machynlleth to Aber.

Not much expense has been spared within. In addition to the novel ice design, there is a creche, bar and cafe. Unfortunately these were closed for refurbishment during our visit, so a review is not possible. (Grietje was actually rather miffed by this as we had promised her stroopwafel:

We tried to placate her with a one-day old marmite sandwich, but she just stamped her foot and shouted "Dat lijkt niet op voedsel" - all very embarrassing). There is a notice at the rink explaining that customer toilets will be installed in a few months time, but meanwhile there are facilities in the nearby Buck Hotel, although the landlord takes a dim view of skaters using them unless you also buy a drink or two. During our visit, most gentlemen just popped round the side of the building, which seems quite convenient.

So there it is for all your skaters, whether experienced, learners or just would-be's: the brand new Caersws ice rink is easy to reach, novel in many ways, and well appointed. Arriva run trains (in both directions) at least every two hours and there are several buses. This is an attraction to rival Aberystwyth's new bandstand.
Dutch nights are the first Tuesday of every month - Veel geluk/Pob lwc!

1. Some of the names in this article have been changed.

There are two other ice rinks in Wales:

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