Expansion of Falkirk Wheel Waterplay Zone set to make a splash

Hydrozorbs, water cannons, model boats, a giant map of Scotland and a paddling pool are just some of the exciting activities in Phase 2 of the popular Water Play zone at The Falkirk Wheel, which will open in Spring next year it was announced today (Monday 20th October).

Falkirk Provost, Pat Reid, and P3 and P4 children from nearby Easter Carmuirs Primary School celebrated as the first sod was cut on the site of the 150m2 water-based play area which will sit opposite the 35 metre high Falkirk Wheel.

Scottish Waterways Trust raised £430,000 for the expansion, which has been funded by grants from Avondale Environmental (£300,000), The Veolia Environmental Trust (£65,000) and WREN (£65,000).

These three grants have been awarded through the Landfill Communities Fund. This vital source of funding lets waste companies retain part of their Landfill Tax bill and distribute it to community and environmental projects.

It is hoped that the innovative new outdoor play and education space will be as popular as Phase 1, attracting more visitors to The Falkirk Wheel, which is one of Scotland’s top ten attractions, welcoming over 400,000 people a year.

Phase 1, which opened in June 2011, features a mini canal, Archimedes Screw and an outdoor classroom designed to help children explore the principles of water displacement and gravity and how people around the world source and move water.

Designed to celebrate the history, geography and role of Scotland’s canals, the new water play zone will centre on two new pools one of which will include a giant map of Scotland made of natural stone and featuring the country’s five canals.

Visitors will be able to play with hydrozorbs (large inflatable balls) and water dodgems on the larger of the two pools.

The smaller of the pools will feature a gently sloped beach edge so people of all ages can paddle in the shallow water.

Visitors will also be able to steer model boats from the water’s edge or from on top of the map of Scotland, manoeuvring their craft through the miniature canals complete with model lock gates and a rotating bucket wheel representing The Falkirk Wheel.

As well as exploring where the five canals flow and how they and The Falkirk Wheel work in context, children will be able to clamber over the map, discovering the peaks and valleys of Scotland, the geographical fault lines and cities and major settlements.

Both pools will feature natural stone edging and steps leading up to a timber viewing terrace where visitors will be able to view the Wheel, watch the activities or even spray one of the fixed water cannons at passing hydrozorbs and dodgems.

Marking the occasion, 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 Canals and their funding partners are to be congratulated for their bold, exciting initiative.”

Karen Moore, Chief Executive, Scottish Waterways Trust, added:

“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.

“The 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. Indeed, the Water Play Area is fast becoming a really unique attraction and we’re already looking at how, with further funding, we can introduce winter activities such as a natural ice rink when the weather is cold enough and snow zorbing in the future.”

Steve Dunlop, Chief Executive of Scottish Canals, concluded:

“The Falkirk Wheel is one of Scotland’s top tourism attractions and the expansion of the incredibly popular water play area will offer visitors yet another reason to take a trip to the world’s only rotating boat lift.

“The 200-year-old canal network played an integral role in the history of Scotland and this project will give visitors, no matter what their age, the chance to engage with that rich heritage while enjoying some water-based fun.

“Whether they’re indulging their inner boatmaster and steering model barges through mini canals, taking to the water on floating dodgems, or learning about the elegant engineering behind the Wheel itself, there will be no shortage of things to see and do. We look forward to welcoming the public to the water play area next year – but advise them to pack a change of clothes!”

Scottish Waterways Trust carried out a local public consultation on concepts for Phase 2, which was designed by HarrisonStevens.

Construction of the extension will be carried out by Mackenzie Construction.

Issued on behalf of Scottish Waterways Trust by Joanna Harrison, mobile 07884 187404.