Upgraded boats and train rides return to Hall Leys Park

In a sign of normality returning to everyday life in Matlock, boat and train rides whirred back into action at Hall Leys Park this week - complete with new electric engines.

Friday, 7th May 2021, 10:48 am
Special guests toast the new season getting underway

But as the environmentally friendly modern machines began their spring season there was also a nod to the lengthy history of the popular attraction.

Among the selected invitees to a grand re-launch day - who had to be kept at a minimum due to ongoing virus restrictions – was David Wildgoose – great grandson of Lubin Wildgoose who was the first man in the boats when they launched back in 1935.

Also giving his seal of approval to the new machines was Hubert Swain - son of Cyril Swain, first private owner of the boats.

Hubert Swain was given the front seat on the maiden journey.

Cyril, who had his steam trains in the park from 1949, commissioned Little David –still in use today – in 1974.

Current operator of the rides, Alison Coffey, said: “Due to the current pandemic situation we couldn’t have the grand opening that would be fitting for us as we launch our new electric era.

"However, being joined by a small group of special people with connections to our business was really lovely.

“David Wildgoose is now the first person to ride the boats just as his great grand father did back in 1935 and seeing Hubert Swain have a ride on Little David, the locomotive he persuaded his father Cyril to commission back in 1974 just made my day. We have added to the long running history of the business today.

The boats are blessed before they head out on to the Hall Leys waters.

“ We would like to thank the mayor and his wife for attending and sharing the morning with us, it was quite evident they really enjoyed what was the mayor’s final public engagement in his role.

“ As we start the next part of our history we would love people to come and visit and enjoy what was back in the day a real treat for families and visitors.”

The attraction is marking its 86th year of operation in 2021. But rather than petrol the now electric boats and train are driven by totally renewable power, generated by wind turbines and solar panels.

Mayor David Hughes said: “I think this a fantastic symbol of renewal in all sorts of ways.”

Prayers for a fun-filled summer before the first train journey sets off

The attraction operates weekends only – and weather permitting – from 11am – 4.30pm.

David Wildgoose recreates a picture taken by the press of his great grandfather Lubin Wildgoose - who was the first man in the boats back in 1935.
Mayor David Hughes and his wife Jo steer their boat away from an island collision
Mayor of Matlock David Hughes steers out the first boat launch of the season.