The Boardwalk opening at Mercia Marina

PUBLISHED: 09:29 12 January 2015 | UPDATED: 09:29 12 January 2015

The Boardwalk shopping and leisure development at Mercia Marina

The Boardwalk shopping and leisure development at Mercia Marina

Ashley Frankliln Photography

The grand opening of the new £1.7m Boardwalk shopping and leisure development at Mercia Marina between Findern and Willington attracted thousands of visitors last autumn

Heather Wheeler, MR for South Derbyshire, officially opens the Boardwalk, flanked by Marina co-owner John Thornton and the Marina's general manager Robert NeffHeather Wheeler, MR for South Derbyshire, officially opens the Boardwalk, flanked by Marina co-owner John Thornton and the Marina's general manager Robert Neff

Once a private fishery, Mercia is now the largest inland marina in Europe, accommodating over 630 boats. It’s long been an attraction for dog walkers and weekend cyclists but is now set to be a magnet for shoppers and diners.

The Boardwalk – a mix of elegant timber cladding, Derbyshire stone and large glass panels – houses a two-storey restaurant with outside seating area overlooking the 24-acre lake, farmshop ‘The Butcher The Baker The Ice Cream Maker’, Blue Water womenswear fashion store, accessories store Molly & Co, and beauty salon Elegant Touch Beauty.

During the Grand Opening, visitors were met by stilt walkers, a face painter and a roving magician, and treated to live entertainment from acclaimed tribute acts to The Beatles and Frank Sinatra, circus-style performers who played with fire, and Derby-based 1623 Theatre Company, performing Shakespeare in and around the Avante line of narrowboats named after plays by The Bard.

Families took to the water on giant swan pedalos or explored nature and wildlife trails around the 74-acre site. A grand firework display climaxed a busy Saturday while on the Sunday South Derbyshire MP Heather Wheeler officially opened the Boardwalk alongside Mercia’s co-owner John Thornton and the Marina’s general manager Robert Neff.

Heather Wheeler said: ‘When we saw the plans for this marina several years ago, we knew it would become the jewel in the crown for South Derbyshire. And we were dead right.’

After the ribbon was cut, Robert Neff stated that ‘this has been an extremely important chapter in the growth of Mercia Marina as a visitor destination and we’re greatly encouraged by seeing so many people at the Grand Opening. It was better than we ever envisaged.’

The arrival of Zing Furniture & Gifts and childwear store Annie & George is imminent and pharmaceutical company Ellis Pharma are already occupying the upper floor office space. The Ideal Hamper Co – which operates from a narrowboat – is the first of what is hoped will be several ‘floating businesses’ moored alongside the Boardwalk.

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