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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox and Lee Beel
Featured in the April 2013 issue

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Tourism is a major growth industry throughout North Lincolnshire and is worth £167 million to the local economy

No wonder then that the smaller towns and villages in the area are doing all they can to earn themselves a slice of that fortune – particularly those tucked away in the heart of the countryside, like the attractive market town of Caistor.

With a history dating back to Roman times and a unique location on the northwestern edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds, Caistor is often referred to as the ‘gem’ or ‘jewel’ of the Wolds and is awash with Georgian and Victorian listed buildings, archaeological finds and an ancient monument.

It is one of the most important conservation areas in the whole of the West Lindsey district and is situated within easy reach of the Lincolnshire coast, Humberside International Airport, the county’s major towns and cities and the motorway networks.

Much is being done to put the town – and the Wolds – on the map including the production of a new tourism brand, the opening of a new touring caravan park and a strong community spirit which yells out civic pride.

A new partnership between Caistor Town Council and local businesses – the Caistor Means Business Group – has seen a concerted effort being made to attract more visitors to the area from around Lincolnshire and beyond.

It was formed last year to establish a marketing initiative for the area to promote Caistor and the Wolds as a tourist destination.

“What’s good for the area is good for business and that works both ways too,” explained Stuart Caine, who together with his wife Lynda, has been producing the Caistor brand from their new base, the Forge in nearby Nettleton.

“As a design agency, we’re working on the branding and trying to get it on as many things as possible. We want people to start seeing it popping up all over and want to get involved, and it’s already working.”

A website is going to follow along with a social media campaign to complement the Visit Caistor brand.

“The website is going to be a big thing in terms of size and also how important it could be. There’s so many good things going on and soon people will be able to find out about it all from one place,” said Stuart.

“It’ll be live later in the year and until then we’re on facebook.com/VisitCaistor,” he said.

The Town Council is also looking at promoting Caistor and the Wolds as an area for green tourism.

Town clerk, Helen Pitman, said it is something that has come out of the Neighbourhood Plan.

“People said they would like to see the area opened up to more visitors and also more accommodation in the area to put people up,” she said.

“A new caravan site has opened and the town has been accredited with ‘Walkers are Welcome’ status enabling us to promote the area to walkers and businesses alike.”

The town’s Walkers are Welcome Group has launched a new website – www.walkerscaistor.com – and is holding its first walking festival over the weekend of 10th–11th May.

“There are town walks on both days and two longer country walks on both days. They are all led walks and can be booked through me,” said Helen.

The new caravan park, Wolds View Touring Park, is located on Brigg Road and surrounded by open countryside with a beautiful view of the Wolds. It can accommodate forty touring caravans/motorhomes, twenty tents and has storage for sixty-two vehicles in its compound.

A heated amenity building houses showers and toilets and it also includes a reception, shop, laundry room and there are plans to open a coffee shop at a later date.

Owners, Phil and Jane Lodder-Manning said their long-term dream has always been to manage a quality touring park.

“We have over the years looked at many existing businesses and green field sites throughout Lincolnshire,” said Phil. “Finding the Lincolnshire Wolds as an area of outstanding natural beauty and Caistor made our minds up to move our existing business and family to develop an exciting new venture here.”

It wasn’t an easy task, but they said they had great support with their planning application and they also managed to secure financial support in the form of a grant from the Lindsey Action Zone, which is an initiative of the Rural Development Programme for England supported by the European Commission, Defra, Lincolnshire County Council, East and West Lindsey District Councils.

“We look forward to accommodating the many visitors that will enjoy Caistor. The town has been awarded Best Small Market Town for the last three years and has been successful in the East Midlands in Bloom competition during the same period, culminating in the Gold award in 2012,” said Phil.

“It showcases many events throughout the year, for example food fairs, walking festivals, farmers’ markets, theatre productions, Proms in the Park and a 10k race, as well as seasonal celebrations.”

As an added bonus to visitors, the town hosts a farmers’ market selling local produce on the second Saturday in the month until Christmas, and its Post Office is about to receive main Post Office status.

Community pride is very much to the fore in Caistor, shown by the Caistor in Bloom group’s success in the East Midlands in Bloom competition last year.

Caistor took the Best Large Village award and also won a special award for community participation scoring 49 out of a possible 50 points, the highest score anyone has ever achieved in the competition.

“That was a tremendous achievement,” said group chairman, Deborah Barker. “The judges were blown away by the amount of support. It was all about creating community pride and making sure everyone had a part in it.”

The Caistor in Bloom group formed in 2009 and right from the word go had massive support from the town.

“We held a meeting to discuss entering the competition and there must have been fifty people turned up for it. Caistor is a strong community and we were overwhelmed by the number of people who were interested,” said Deborah.

All their efforts have paid off because it was selected to represent the East Midlands in the Britain in Bloom competition this year. The town is one of seven finalists in the large village category going for glory in the national competition run by the Royal Horticultural Society.

“It’s a big ask but we are up for it,” said Deborah.

Heritage is also a big part of the town’s make-up and it has a long and varied history, having been a medieval borough mentioned in the Domesday Book, Danelaw Charter and Pipe Rolls of 1197–98.

As its name implies, it was originally a Roman castrum or fortress but only a few fragments of the fourth-century walls remain. The original Roman wall is visible on the southern boundary of the parish church of St Peter and St Paul and the area occupied by the fortress is now classified as a Scheduled Ancient Monument which is a ‘nationally important’ archaeological site or historic building, given protection against unauthorised change.

TELL YOUR CAISTORY
Caistor Arts and Heritage Centre is one of the first groups in the UK to receive a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) All Our Stories grant.

This exciting project entitled ‘Caistories’ will capture real-life stories about Caistor and its surrounding villages over the past 100 years.

It will tap into the memories of local people;  relive the fascinating past of the buildings and streets that make up the modern townscape; and celebrate the trades and crafts, many now long gone, which provided employment and industry for those who built the town.

The aim is to create a permanent digital audio and visual display of local people telling their stories, which will be housed within the Arts and Heritage Centre.

The Caistories project is now gathering pace and there is a team of volunteers in place who will start to record the stories from the people of Caistor and the surrounding villages. The team would love more people to join the project, whether it’s to tell their stories or to be part of the team who will record, interview, carry out research etc. They also want people to come forward who may have home movies, photographs and objects that relate to the stories.

Many local industries, such as sweet and chair making, longwool sheep and shoemakers and saddlers have disappeared from the town, as have many of the local pubs and alehouses.

Part of the project, Searching for the Golden Fleece, in Caistor is being led by The Children’s House Consultancy based at Lincolnshire Montessori, which has been given funding to research the history of their site at the former Fleece Inn at Caistor Top.

The project will see the primary aged children develop research skills including interviewing and trawling the archives to map a history of the eighteenth-century coaching inn which forms part of their school. Once home to the largest sheep fair in England, in the 1800s, the inn was a focal point for miles around.

If you would like to become involved or have a story to tell contact: Stephanie Dale, the centre manager at 28 Plough Hill, Caistor LN7 6LZ or tel: 01472 851605

CAISTOR POST OFFICE
Post Offices have been a staple of British life for decades, providing a place for people to pay their bills, collect their benefits, get their car taxed and buy stamps locally. But the number of branches has dwindled from about 25,000 in the mid-1960s to around 11,500 today.

Now, at a time when Post Offices up and down the country are closing their doors or being downsized, Caistor’s seems to be doing the opposite.

Plans have been announced, which will see the town’s being upgraded to main branch status as part of a national restructuring programme.

The works, which the Post Office estimates will take a week, will start this month and they include plans to modernise the counters and other fittings.

A Grade Two listed building, Caistor Post Office is full of character and enjoys the perfect location in the heart of the Market Place right in the town centre.

Postmaster, Martin Sizer said the move is good news. He and his partner, Kaye Lee have been at the helm of the Post Office for the past four years.

“It will mean more investment in us as a business by the Post Office and we will have more products to sell. Converting to the main model and to more of an open plan shopfloor is one feature of our alterations and when we reopen customers will see the benefits straight away,” said Martin.

“This news complements the extensive improvements already enjoyed by Caistor residents, and will help to assure our customers that we will not be closing our doors but, quite the contrary, we are growing the products and services we are able to provide.”

All main Post Offices will have a broader range of Post Office products and at Caistor the change will also bring additional operating hours.

From April, the Post Office will be open from 8.30am to 6pm from Monday to Friday. On Saturdays, it will open at 9am and close at 5.30pm.

“Caistor Post Office already provides an excellent range of greeting cards, gifts and stationery together with a new helium balloon service and with the new ‘Walkers are Welcome’ initiative in the town, we now provide a full range of Ordnance Survey maps and guides,” said Martin.

“Customers have already welcomed the news enthusiastically and will further support our local business with the new hours rather than turn to the online options which impact greatly on the viability of local Post Offices.” 

Before 2015, the Post Office, nationally, plans to introduce around 4,000 new main branches and around 2,000 local branches in the UK.

CAISTOR IN BLOOM
Overwhelming community spirit has played a key part in helping to put Caistor on the tourism map. The town won the title of Best Large Village in the East Midlands in Bloom competition last year and also earned a special judges’ award for its ‘impressive levels of community engagement’, notching up 49 out of a possible 50 points, the highest ever gained in the competition.

That was an achievement in itself – but on top of that Caistor has now been selected to represent the East Midlands region in this year’s national Britain in Bloom contest.

It is one of only seven entries in the Large Village category and faces competition from Guernsey, Scotland and Wales as well as Yorkshire and the Thames and Chilterns area of England.

Chairman of the Caistor in Bloom group, Deborah Barker said it was a tremendous achievement.

“We had tremendous input from everyone in the town. Everyone helped from the start and the judges were blown away by the amount of support we had.

“It came from everyone – businesses, schools, residents and was phenomenal. We were pleased as punch. It was all about creating civic pride and making sure everyone has been part of it and we achieved our goal.”

Judging for the national competition takes place a couple of weeks after the East Midlands in Bloom judging in July.

“It’s a big ask but we are up for it. The theme for this year is ‘Edible Britain’ – how you grow your own food. It’s a brilliant idea in the current climate and creates awareness that you can grow your own vegetables,” said Deborah.

“The town’s theme is ‘Incredible Edible Caistor’ and the group is planning a herbs and vegetable trail going all around the town.

“We are also going to get seed potatoes and help the school start growing their own vegetables. And the children are also going to have a tour around the crisp factory too.”

Though Caistor is a market town, it is classed as a large village for the In Bloom competitions because it goes on how many people are on the number of electors in the area. And with 2,304 people on the electoral roll for Caistor, it falls just under the criteria for a small town.

As well as the In Bloom competition, the group also holds garden competitions of its own and runs an Open Gardens event which attracts well over 300 people to the area.

The group also planted a commemorative orchard for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee last year with apples, damsons, plums, pears and cherries. And it has established a meadow of snake’s head fritillaries which are like giant snowdrops but burgundy in colour.

“It’s all about building on what we have already done,” added Deborah. “When we do these projects, we have the future in mind so they look nice year on year and are also low maintenance.”

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