Family days out: Beckworth Emporium

A huddle of pushalong penguins at Beckworth Emporium's ice rink
A huddle of pushalong penguins at Beckworth Emporium's ice rink
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A garden centre isn’t the obvious place to take a couple of boisterous three-year-olds for an afternoon of fun.

But Beckworth Emporium, near Mears Ashby, isn’t an ordinary garden centre.

Yes, they sell bedding plants, pots and compost, and the award-winning restaurant attracts custom from far and wide.

But what marks Beckworth out as different at this time of year is, of course, the ice rink.

And that is why we (three adults, three grandparents, the two three-year-olds and a 12-month-old) headed out there one Friday afternoon.

Your skating time is governed by hourly slots and booking is strongly recommended as the ice rink has proved very popular since it was first put on in 2009.

Having said that, it was almost deserted when we tentatively set foot on ice for the first time at the start of our allocated slot.

The loan of skates is included in the price, as is the use of one of the vast huddle* of pushalong penguins for the smaller skaters.

The rink itself is just the right size for those unused to skating, as we all were, but would probably test the patience of a more able skater, especially during busier times.

The handrails are never too far away, which is good news for those less than confident on the ice.

There were two or three staff on the rink at all times to ensure none of the rink rules were broken (taking photos while on the ice – guilty) and they were very attentive whenever our son took a tumble (about every couple of minutes).

The children absolutely loved their time on the ice even though, in truth, we didn’t do much more than shuffle around in an anti-clockwise direction for a circuit of the rink, pause for a photo to be taken by a watching grandparent, and then shuffle off again for another lap.

I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to stay upright, my previous skating experience being limited to gliding around the rink at Peterborough about 20 years ago where the blades on the skates seemed thinner and the ice more skiddy.

We started to tire before our 45 minutes was up and decided to take refreshments in the previously-mentioned restaurant, which incidentally has some tables overlooking the ice, rather than the more rough-and-ready ice cafe which is next to the skate hire area.

As we were such a large party we understandably had to wait for a table, which to the youngsters’ delight was found right next to the huge roof-scraping Christmas tree with baubles the size of footballs!

Tea, coffee, hot chocolate and cake followed, all of a generous portion and high standard which was reflected in the price.

The fun didn’t end there either – there is a Christmas shop full of decorations and trinkets which was a pleasant diversion for 10 minutes, and we couldn’t resist one or two treats from the food hall on the way back to the car either.

So definitely something for everyone at Beckworth – even pushchairs can be taken on the ice if you’re feeling really adventurous!

Skating sessions

Ice skating takes place every day at Beckworth Emporium from Saturday, November 16, until Tuesday, January 7 (except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day).

There is a main rink, which we used and has a capacity of 133 people, and a VIP rink which can be hired for exclusive parties of up to 40 people. There was a class of schoolchildren on it when we went.

The basic cost of a 45-minute session is £10 for adults, £7.50 for children, although there are many half-price sessions available as well as other offers.

Check the website for full details and how to book.

How to find them

The address is Glebe Road, Mears Ashby, NN6 0DL. Follow the brown signs from the Sywell roundabout on the A43.

Parking

There is a large free car park on site, which can get full at busy times.

*You can also have a march of penguins, a parade of penguins or even an icing of penguins if you prefer.