Coate Water Country Park could soon host the country’s first artificial surf centre says an outline study published on 1 April.
Swindon already offers possibly the widest range of recreational activities to be found in one town in the South, including ice skating, two large trampolining parks, swimming pools, indoor climbing walls and an indoor skate and scooter park. And plans are being developed to build an indoor snow centre and multi-purpose concert, event and exhibition facility at North Star next to the Oasis.
The draft study exclusively revealed to Swindon Link is thought to have been produced by a company owned by billionaire hotel and golf course developer Donald Trump, currently preoccupied with gaining the Republican nomination to run for US President.
It says Coate Water is the perfect location to establish something completely new and states ‘surfing is a great sport which is greatly underdeveloped in the UK. Participants currently have to travel to Cornwall or abroad to improve their skills on waves of variable quality. It requires dedication to become a good surfer but the lack of places to learn is holding back the British producing a world champion.
‘There are a number of large bodies of water in the South of England which might be suitable to develop a surf centre. Swindon’s location makes it perfect to draw people across the region include large numbers from London.’
The UKs first artificial surf centre opened at a derelict industrial site in North Wales in 2015. Surf Snowdonia allows beginners to learn how to surf on a 300m long man-made lagoon where perfect waves are guaranteed. Experienced surfers can hone their technique there too.
The centrepiece of the £12 million facility is a shaped blade dragged on an underwater track to generate a wave which lasts for 150 metres. The height can be altered depending on the users and there are a range of other water related activities like paddle boarding, canoeing and kayaking, as well as a crash and splash assault course. Visitors to Surf Snowdonia can also stay in on-site accommodation.
The study points out that Coate Water is also an artificial lake built in the early industrial revolution, dug in the 1820s to store water to keep boats afloat on the Wilts & Berks Canal in dry periods. Young visitors to the country park also has a small summer splash park for under 12s, with water-spitting flowers and dragons.
Whereas Surf Snowdonia has been established by a Spanish company, the Trump project, nominally called Surf Swindon, is thought to have Korean co-investors. Spokesman Kim Ju Ker said he could add little to the outline concept seen by Swindonlink.com other than to comment: “Swindon is a rapidly expanding town willing to consider new ideas.
“A surf centre at Coate Water would bring a large boost to the local economy in terms of jobs and tourist spending throughout the year. We imagine surfers would come to the town throughout the year; wearing a wet suit would make the Swindon experience quite warm compared to Cornwall. And with a major hospital just a stones throw away, any unfortunate events could be dealt with immediately.”
Reaction to the idea has been surprisingly encouraging. Mike Pringle, director of the Richard Jefferies Heritage Trust, which runs the museum dedicated to the Victorian naturalist and author, said he wanted to know more about the surfing project. “Whilst Richard Jefferies was fascinated by the environment around him and can be considered as one of Britain’s first eco-evangelists, he was equally fascinated but the coming of the railway to the town. He wrote of the ‘iron horses’ and was keen for lines to be laid into the countryside so that farmers could more easily get their milk to market.
“Nevertheless I think Jefferies would be horrified that the gentry of Swindon would no longer be able to go ice skating Coate Water as they did for many years.
“As custodians of the museum, we would say to readers that this idea sounds a bit pie-in-the-sky so why don’t you come and visit us now? It’s a great place to learn more about the town and we have a super programme coming up over the summer months. And now that the Coate Water miniature railway has built an extension right up the back gate to the museum garden, you can park in the country park and come to us by train.”
Paul Parfrey, past president of Swindon Rotary Club Phoenix, said he was intrigued by the Surf Swindon concept. “Our club organises a day of dragon boat racing in aid of charity which takes place this year on 26 June.
“The surf centre idea is very interesting because last year our club investigated the cost of refurbishing the famous art-deco diving board. It would cost around £20,000, a sum our volunteer run club is unable to justify when there are so many great charitable causes that we’d like to support across Swindon.
“However Surf Swindon could cover the cost of refurbishing the diving board. I’m sure the dragon boat races could continue and having waves would make them much more exciting. The waves could be like a handicap system, larger for more experienced crews and smaller for beginners.
“I think we could look at organising world inland surfing championship. Imagine how much money could be raised for charity?”
Swindon Council is actively seeking outside management to take on the town’s assets including Lydiard Park and Stanton Park. A spokesperson was non-committal about Surf Swindon saying: “This is the first I’ve heard about an outside investor interested in Coate Water. If something were to come forward, we would expect everybody to be fully involved in a public engagement exercise.”
Surf Swindon is expected to come up against stiff opposition from people who love the free access to Coate Water and the birdlife to be found there. In the early 2000s over 50,000 people signed a petition calling on Swindon Council to block housing being built between Coate Water and the Great Western Hospital. It made no difference as the houses are now being built and occupied.
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Pictured top and above, the Surf Snowdonia site in North Wales and dragon boat racing at Coate Water. Below, drone shots of Coate Water
Find out more and watch the video about Surf Snowdonia