Skating ponds hosted big crowds

Ice-skating at the Nairn St rink, Arrowtown, circa 1965. Photo from the Clarke Collection.
Ice-skating at the Nairn St rink, Arrowtown, circa 1965. Photo from the Clarke Collection.
A group of young skaters poses for the camera on the frozen pond at the Queenstown Gardens,...
A group of young skaters poses for the camera on the frozen pond at the Queenstown Gardens, probably about the 1890s. Photo by Lakes District Museum Collection. REF: EL 1757.

It used to be one of the most popular winter destinations in Arrowtown - and even hosted a national championship - but these days the former Nairn St ice-skating rink is part of the recreational reserve.

Today's historic photographs from the Lakes District Museum show (right) a good sized crowd at Nairn St about 1965 and (below) a group of skaters on the frozen pond at the Queenstown Gardens, probably taken in the 1890s.

Museum director David Clarke says he can vouch for the popularity of the Arrowtown venue in its heyday.

"Our bible class group used to make the trip up from Invercargill. Sometimes, there'd be about 10 buses from Invercargill. It was extremely popular," he said.

According to Mr Clarke, the Arrowtown skating rink was built by the late Jimmy Wilcox and local farmer Alan Hamilton, probably in the late 1950s, using water taken from the nearby Arrow River.

The New Zealand Ice Skating Association's website shows the 1965 national championships were to have been held at the Nairn St rink but were cancelled "due to the Nevis Bluff being under repair, necessitating a detour of an extra 100 miles". The championships were transferred to Christchurch.

But, in 1966, the nationals went ahead at Arrowtown and started "on time, even after officials were delayed due to snow some 100 miles on the road".

In 1966, the Queenstown ice-skating rink was opened on June 4 and the ice-skating club was formed a year later.

According to Mr Clarke, the new Queenstown facility was one of the reasons why the outdoor venues at Nairn St and at Bush Creek became obsolete and closed, added to the fact the winters got warmer over time and the ice was not reliable.

There was also an outdoor rink at Rum Gully, near the Skippers Saddle, operated by Ian and Joan Hamilton, plus Downeys dam, near Coronet Peak, and another at Queenstown Hill.

 

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