Visitors to The Falkirk Wheel this Easter could find themselves clambering across Scotland, piloting boats from coastline to canal, and even walking on water following the opening of a new £430,000 water play park.
Featuring two pools boasting everything from a giant stone map of Scotland complete with miniature canals and working lock gates, to water cannons and pilotable model boats, the new playground is sure to cause a splash with younger visitors. For those looking to stay reasonably dry, the bigger of the pools will also play host to hydrozorbs, which resemble giant, floating hamster balls, and water dodgems later in the year.
Falkirk Provost Pat Reid and children from nearby Easter Carmuirs Primary School were on hand to turn on the taps of the water play park for the first time today (Thursday 2nd April), with the kids putting its splashtastic contraptions to the test.
All the funding for the project was provided through the Landfill Communities Fund, with canal charity the Scottish Waterways Trust securing grants from Avondale Environmental (£300,000), The Veolia Environmental Trust (£65,000) and WREN (£65,000), all of which operate through the fund.
Falkirk Provost Pat Reid said: “This is another step towards the reshaping of the Falkirk area as a ‘must visit’ destination for visitors as well as a welcome additional attraction for local children and adults. Scottish Waterways Trust, Scottish Canalsand their funding partners are to be congratulated for their bold, exciting initiative.”
The new park expands upon the existing water play area at The Falkirk Wheel, which is Scotland’s busiest tourist attraction outwith a city centre location. More than 500,000 visitors took a trip to the Wheel in 2014 – its most successful year ever – and it’s hoped the new water park will encourage even more people to pay a visit to the world’s only rotating boat lift in 2015 and beyond.
Phase one of the water play park, which opened in June 2011, features a mini canal, Archimedes Screw, an outdoor classroom and an array of contraptions designed to help children explore the principles of water displacement and learn about the elegant engineering that allows The Falkirk Wheel to move boats between the 35m that separate the Union and the Forth & Clyde Canal while only using the same power as it would take to boil eight kettles.
The latest expansion is designed to celebrate the history, geography and changing role of Scotland’s canals. Visitors are able to explore scale models of the nation’s inland waterways, piloting model boats through their locks and lengths and even travelling on a representation of The Falkirk Wheel itself, perhaps imagining they’re carrying vital cargo between the industries that once lined the banks of Scotland’s historic canals or are setting off on a sailing adventure in the present day.
Karen Moore, Chief Executive of the Scottish Waterways Trust, said: “”We wanted to create something special for the local communities and schools of Tamfourhill, Camelon and the wider Falkirk area as well as visiting tourists and the water play area has been a phenomenal success.
“On any day you can see people of all ages messing about and enjoying the interactive elements, having fun and learning a little about the historical and cultural importance of Scotland’s canals along the way.
“This second phase will give visitors the chance to play and learn on the water and it will be a fantastic amenity for the spring and summer months.”
While primarily aimed at children, the water play park holds a lot of fun for big kids, too. Adults beaten to the controls of the model boats by younger visitors can head to the area’s timber viewing terrace, where they can watch the Wheel carry 600 tonnes of water and boats between two historic canals, keep an eye on activities in the play park, or step up to one of its water cannons and fire off a few shots at passing hydrozorbs and water dodgems.
Martin Latimer, Scottish Canals Board member, added: “The Falkirk Wheel is one of Scotland’s top tourism attractions and, even more than a decade since its opening, it continues to attract huge numbers of visitors, boosting the economy of the area and putting Falkirk on tourists’ ‘to-see’ lists the world over.
“Thanks to the Scottish Waterways Trust and the support of our funders, the expansion of the popular water play area offers visitors yet another reason to take a trip to the world’s only rotating boat lift and engage with the incredible, 200-year-long story of Scotland’s canals.
“Whether they’re indulging their inner boatmaster and steering model barges through mini canals, taking to the water on floating hydrozorbs, or learning about the elegant engineering behind the Wheel itself, there’s no shortage of things to see and do.”