A TEESSIDE town was transformed into a Christmas card scene as the first skaters sampled the magic of an outdoor ice rink.

With faces aglow, novices like myself shared the ice with expert skaters at Middlesbrough's newest and most spectacular attraction, in the town's Victoria Park.

Like everyone there at its opening, yesterday, I had greeted news of its arrival with delight, imagining skaters elegantly whirling round the set of a 1940s film.

While the pop music being pumped from large speakers slightly dented that image, the air of excitement as skaters made their first tentative strokes was palpable.

Not one to shirk a challenge, I boldly took to the ice.

Having teetered around like a newly-born calf for several steps, I gradually got into a rhythm, and soon began to enjoy the fun of outdoor skating.

Unlike the equivalent leisure centre experience, where strip lights cast an unhealthy glow, we were bathed in brilliant winter sunshine, which was reflected by the ice to create a shimmering light.

Children joined hands to complete wobbling circuits together, while others clung on for dear life as they struggled to even venture from the side.

At the other end of the scale, professionals like Karen Murtagh, a figure skating instructor who has been drafted in for the next seven weeks, showed us all how it should be done.

I tried not to resent her as she pirouetted past me while I fought to keep upright.

Normally used to teaching indoors at the Billingham Forum, she said the outdoor ice rink, which is open every day until January 7, was a great idea.

"We have had children coming that would probably never have got the opportunity to skate anywhere else," she said.

"We have also had a lot of interest from adults - even an 82-year-old lady."

To ensure everyone who wants to has an opportunity to try out the ice rink, special sessions for toddlers, the over-50s, office workers and the disabled have been organised.

There will be displays by the England Curling Team and the cast of Aladdin on Ice, as well as competitions and matches.

Tony Boynton, of Hockey Non-Stop, the firm behind the rink, said: "We are here to make sure the people of Middlesbrough have a good time."

Judging by the first day's skating, they are doing a pretty good job