Olympic sport is coming to Lancashire

Progess on work at the new Barton Grange Flower Bowl
Progess on work at the new Barton Grange Flower Bowl

As the British curling team flies high at the Winter Olympics, with a place booked in the semi final, TOM EARNSHAW took a sneak peak behind the scenes at Wyre’s new rink

It’s a popular sport in Scotland, but in England opportunities for curling are somewhat limited with just one dedicated link in the whole country.

But that is about to change, as Lancashire prepares to welcome the country’s second dedicated curling facility.

The rink is part of Barton Grange’s Flower Bowl development, which is now well underway at its site in Wyre, near Garstang.

Central to the £8m development, which will also include a cinema and restaurants, is its purpose-built four lane curling rink.

The rink is only set to open in later this year but the Post has been given a special behind-scenes look at the facility.

Guy Topping, managing director of Barton Grange, said there is already a real buzz around the development.

“All four lanes – or sheets as they are called in the sport – will be the standard length of what we see on television at the Winter Olympics,” said Guy.

The rink base is made up of a four-inch slab of concrete with heating pipes to prevent permafrost, followed by another slab of concrete on top with cooling pipes in them running at minus seven degrees, ready to be topped off with a thin layer of water to turn into ice.

Goosnargh-native Guy, whose family have run Barton Grange since 1963, said: “There’s not much to do around here on wet days. We wanted to add some purpose-built necessary facilities for the garden centre customers, expanding on what we already have at Barton Grange.

“There is a lot of scope for people to come from further afield. A lot of our garden centre customers come from more than an hour away in Yorkshire and Cumbria as it is.

“There’s also a lot of Scottish people looking for somewhere different to come and play curling.

“A lot of Welsh curling teams are already set to come up to curl here because they use ice hockey rinks at the moment and its just not the right kind of ice – the ice in curling rinks is a lot colder so it doesn’t cut up like it does with skating.

“As well as that though, it’s about fun and coming and having a go on a day out. Curling is so popular now because of the Winter Olympics and it’s very inclusive; you can have matches with children, adults, people lies are of course welcome all the time, but we have to aim a some kind of market, you can’t just aim for everyone.

“If children and parents want to come at weekends they are more than welcome; the likes of the cinema will be showing children’s films as part of its schedule.”

“Likewise, bowling will be adults only after 6pm for adults to come in the evening and enjoy it too.”

Plans are still to have a grass roof with sheep grazing on it – although the number of sheep has yet to be decided upon.

“We wanted it to blend in with the local countryside; it’s a rural place here so we need to take that into account,” said Guy.

“When you put grass up there you need to either mow it or graze; we decided grazing was a better fit.

“We’ll have perimeter fencing so that the sheep don’t fall off. There will also be access via a staircase at the back for the sheep for when the weather turns or they just want to come down into the sheltered pen at the back of the site.”

He had hoped that the £8m new development would be open in time for the Winter Olympics, but a June 2018 opening is now on the cards.

What is curling?

Popular in Scotland, but lesser known in England where there is only one dedicated facility, in Tunbridge Wells.

Two teams of four players take turns to slide stones down a sheet of ice, trying to get it as close to the centre of a round target, known as ‘house,’ as possible. As the stone is moving down the ice, players, called ‘sweepers,’ will brush the surface with a broom to try and alter its path.

Each team will play eight stones in an ‘end’ of curling. A team scores one point for each stone which is closer to the centre of the house than any of the opposition’s stones.

Games are played to a time limit of around two and half hours or until an agreed maximum number of ends are complete.

Team GB women’s Curling team have qualified for the semi finals at the Winter Olympics, which will be held tomorrow.