End of an era as Pullin family ends 12 years operating boats at Millhouses Park, Sheffield

It’s the end of an era – with the operators of the boats on Millhouses Park set to cast off for the last time on Friday.

Wednesday, 13th April 2022, 12:48 pm

The Pullin family, who have been running the boats on the lake for 12 years have been told they have lost the contract to run the service, which has been a feature of the Abbeydale Road park for generations.

A new operator is expected to take over the running of the lake – but it has not been revealed who that will be.

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Its the end of an era on Millhouses Park boating lake, as the Pullin family, who have been running the boats on the lake for 12 years have been told they have lost the contract to run the service, which has been a feature of the Abbeydale Road park for generations. Pictured is the boating lake

Bob Pullin, whose family has operated entertainments in Sheffield’s parks for generations, said he was sad that the family would no longer be running the service.

He said: “It has been a devastating blow to the family. The whole family has put so much time and capital over the years to improve the boats that are available there. It is an emotional and heartbreaking situation.

"It’s the end of an era and we’re very grateful to the Sheffield public who have given us so much pleasure there over the years.”

Sheffield boating lake

Millhouses Boats - Kathleen Young

His son, Sacha, who has been running the boats, said the family felt they had improved the site over the last few years, having brought bigger, family sized boats in as well as traditional two seaters.

The family does not yet know what will happen to the boats they had bought.

The contracts for running the boating lake are issued by Sheffield Council, and the authority says boating will continue with another operator.

Users of Millhouses Park told of their surprise at the decision to end the contract with the Pullins, with many speaking warmly of the way the lake had been run.

Millhouses Boats - Lorraine Musgrave

Kim Farley, of Crookes, was in the park with her young children, and said the people running the boats had been doing a good job.

She said one of the reasons that her family came to the park was the boats – something they enjoyed doing together. She said she would be worried if they were not running.

She said: “We love coming here. The lady who does it at the moment is really friendly and we’ve always enjoyed coming and seeing them.”

Millhouses Boats - Hannah Dundas

Praise for Pullin family

She said her advice to anyone taking over would be they should keep it running and keep it open.

"The price is reasonable,” she added. “So is the condition of the boats. They’re always a really friendly group of people who are running it.”

Kathleen Young, from Sheffield, was in the park walking her dog.

She said: “Over the years, the children have always enjoyed going out on the boats, and they’ve always been pretty good in the past. I don’t know why they’re being changed.”

She said she would like to see whoever takes the boats over provide the same standard that the Pullins had provided, who she thought had been good over the years.

Millhouses Boats - Jing Fan with sons Hao and Ming

Hannah Dundas, from Bradway, was walking past the lake with her young children, and is a fan of the boats

She said: “We’ve never actually been on them, but we love coming down and having a watch of them, and just having an area that’s got a pond is really nice, especially in the summer when we’ve got good weather. It’s lovely to come and watch and I’m sure it won’t be too long until my boys want to go on them.

She said she would say to whoever takes, she would like to see them keep it as it is.

She said: “I don’t know about costings and things like that, but everyone seems to really enjoy them how they are.”

She thought the people running it seemed to have done a good job.

Lorraine Musgrave, of Ecclesall, was at the park with her two grandchildren.

She thought the Pullins had always done a good job at the lake, adding: "There are always loads of children on them, and they’re quite safety conscious. They’re brilliant. I came yesterday, and it was really busy – there were loads of children on with their parents.”

Her own children had used the boats in the past, as well as her grandchildren. She thought it was a shame that the operator would not be running them after this week, saying: "They’ve done a good job, and run it health and safety conscious – I can’t understand why they’ve lost the licence really.”

She said her message to whoever takes over would be ‘run it as well as the Pullins had run it’.

Mum of two Jing Fan, from Bents Green, was at the park with her children, Hao and Ming. Her children both said they thought it was a shame the operator would be changing, and thought they had done a good job.

Hao gave his views of what the new operators should do. He said: “I think they should run it so that they give you a longer time on the boats and make them a bit cheaper.”

Parks retendered

Ruth Bell, head of parks and countryside at Sheffield Council, said: “We know how much our parks are loved across the city and we work extremely hard to make sure people have the best experience when visiting. Businesses that trade within our parks play an important role in enhancing that experience and it’s important that we review these and appoint the best possible providers.

“Several parks concessions were due for retender for the 2022-2025 period. As with all council commercial business, we have completed an open and fair tender process, and have to consider all applications.

“We have selected providers who best met the tender criteria and will see a mix of existing and new businesses operating in our parks.

"We understand that this is very difficult for those who were unsuccessful but we cannot automatically renew at the end of a contract and must conduct a process that is fair to all interested businesses.”

Millhouses Boats - Kim Farley
Its the end of an era on Millhouses Park boating lake, as the Pullin family, who have been running the boats on the lake for 12 years have been told they have lost the contract to run the service, which has been a feature of the Abbeydale Road park for generations. Pictured is the hut by the lake.