VIDEO: Excitement as ice rink returns to Cheltenham
By Mark Owen and David Wood | 17th November 2023
There was a real buzz about Cheltenham last night with the return of the festive ice rink and the opening of the Christmas Market.
Skaters of all ages are set to create magical memories in Imperial Gardens over the next few weeks after the rink was absent from the town last year.
Punchline-gloucester.com editor Mark Owen was present at the ice-rink's launch last night and was joined by David Jones, MD of Cheltenham-based planning consultants Evans Jones.
David said: "It's so exciting to have the ice ink back after two years. Last year the local authority couldn't get it to work. Basically there were some procurement issues. It's great to see the local authority and other sponsors now committing to it.
"There's a bit of a story about how it's fuelled and what keeps the ice cold. This year and for the next two years maximum it can be powered from bio fuel generators which keeps the ice cool. That's a bit of a compromise so the local authority has committed to putting a permanent power supply in which commits to an annual Christmas fixture which I think is great for the retailers and great for the town."
The last time there was an ice rink in Cheltenham in 2021, more than 43,000 people enjoyed a festive skating experience. It was estimated that an additional £3.3m was spent in Cheltenham as a result of the ice rink and associated market that year, with two-thirds of visitors saying they ate or drank in local venues and/or spent money in local shops.
As for the outdoor Christmas Market on the Prom, both Mark and David were blown away by the amazing star effects in the surrounding trees.
David said: "Compared to last year this is a great effort by Cheltenham Borough Council. When they do something they do it really well.
"It's a great atmosphere. There are some lovely gifts and products to buy and you always see something interesting at these markets, something you don't get on the high street.
"I was here earlier and there was a local choir here and it was absolutely rammed. People are here enjoying themselves under these lovely Christmas decorations. It's fantastic. This brings trade to the town and there's a real Christmas atmosphere.
David's only 'beef' was that the permanent shops don't stay open longer when the market is on.
"It's not joined-up thinking," he said. "The retail trade has always had that concern that the market will take their trade away from them so we'll let the market go on and we'll just just shut up shop.
"It doesn't work like that. Markets come, people come and they will buy things from the market but will also buy things from the permanent shops. I think it's a massive missed opportunity but it's up to them - they're commercial organisations. There's nothing I can do, nothing the local authority can do."
Despite all the doom stories, David said he felt Cheltenham's high street was undoubtedly back.
"We've had two cafés open in the last week or so, we've got to remodel Wilko, Cavendish House is still a bit of a work in progress but we'll get there. We're not out of the woods yet but it's much better than it was two years ago."
Cheltenham's ice rink is open to the public from today (Friday 17 November) to Monday 1 January.
You can book tickets at www.visitcheltenham.com/ice-skating
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