Breaking the ice: Kew becomes latest landmark with skating rink

The Great Temperate House at Kew Gardens was built at the end of the 19th century to keep out the cold and protect the collection of woody specimens that had outgrown the overcrowded Orangery. Now the world's largest surviving Victorian glass structure will face perhaps its frostiest winter yet as it provides the backdrop for an open-air ice-rink.

The Great Temperate House at Kew Gardens was built at the end of the 19th century to keep out the cold and protect the collection of woody specimens that had outgrown the overcrowded Orangery. Now the world's largest surviving Victorian glass structure will face perhaps its frostiest winter yet as it provides the backdrop for an open-air ice-rink.

The botanical gardens' rink - big enough for 250 skaters an hour - will be set on lawns outside what is by far the biggest glass house at Kew. The gardens will remain open later.

Once, frozen lakes were the nearest thing Britons got to the outdoor rinks common on the Continent, but dry-ice technology and some judicious siting of rinks has changed that, and the World Heritage Site is the latest British landmark to make use of popular grounds and buildings to attract skaters.

Somerset House and the Millennium Dome already draw a combined 200,000 skaters a year in London. Elsewhere in the country, several town centres, including George Square in Glasgow, are cashing in on a new-found popularity.

Rink manufacturers say that new venues and rising ticket sales show that outdoor skating is enjoying a renaissance in Britain - and this, they believe, comes down to the decision to site rinks at existing visitor attractions.

Paul Savident, a spokesman for PWR Events, a company which is expecting 300,000 skaters at its three English venues this winter, says that tickets are selling much faster than last year. "The rise in the interest in seasonal skating is always given an added excitement when the ice-rink is situated in wonderful surroundings," Mr Savident said.

The company built a rink last year at Hampton Court Palace in south-west London and found that venture so successful that it has decided to build two new rinks this year: one at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and the other at Kew.

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