Optimism on high street as funding is rolled out

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
October 2021

The historic market town of Horncastle has much to be positive about with a raft of improvements on the cards to help get the ‘high street’ back up and running safely. By Melanie Burton

The town is to receive £25,000 from the Government’s Welcome Back fund which aims to help councils return to high streets safely and build back better from the pandemic.

The fund will allow East Lindsey District Council and Horncastle Town Council to put in place additional measures to create and promote a safe environment for local trade and tourism, particularly in high streets as their economies reopen.

Proposals for Horncastle include improved signage around the town, and better signage explaining where to park and how to find other attractions/shops etc, an enhanced appearance in the town centre with new planters, litter bins and benches to make it more attractive to visitors, and intensive cleaning of the town centre to include railings, telephone boxes, pavements and removing graffiti from the bus stop.

It will also help fund £100 to improve signage in the new Tourist Information area within the Joseph Banks Centre, the production of 20,000 copies of a leaflet to promote the relaunched Joseph Banks Centre (natural science and local heritage museum, garden and tourist info), and marketing for the summer exhibition and heritage open days which took place in the summer at the Centre.

MP for Louth & Horncastle, Victoria Atkins commented on the funding saying: “This investment will help our market towns reopen, support our coastal communities and safely welcome shoppers and holiday makers in the coming months.

“It will help councils boost tourism, improve green spaces and provide more outdoor seating areas, markets and food stall pop-ups – giving people a range of safer options to reunite with friends and relatives.

“Our area will further benefit from additional hands-on support through the new High Streets Taskforce, a group of elite high streets experts who will visit the area to provide advice on how to ensure our high streets continue to thrive in the years ahead.”

Horncastle is one of 70 locations nationally to have been the first to benefit from an ‘Unlocking your Place Potential’ diagnosis, facilitated by a High Street Taskforce Expert, including a three-hour online workshop with key stakeholders from the community and a virtual tour of local high streets.

The support, mostly delivered throughout May and June, examined plans and gathered feedback as well as identified additional support from the Task Force to support high street transformation.

East Lindsey District Council’s assistant director for economic growth, Lydia Rusling said: “We worked with local businesses and communities along with the Institute of Place Management – who are a High Street Task Force Partner – to produce Horncastle’s Vital and Viable action plan.

“The added support of the Task Force will help bring lasting change for Horncastle’s High Street. The expertise will focus on helping the town’s businesses and communities recover from the impacts of the pandemic.”

The support has revealed a feeling of optimism across England’s high streets, despite the challenges of responding to Covid-19’s impact.

Task Force Experts highlighted many strengths across the locations visited, including local heritage and architecture, forward-thinking place leaders, an increased focus on unique, independent businesses, and many local plans for investment and development.

Chair of the High Streets Task Force, Mark Robinson, said: “The High Streets Task Force provides a tried and tested way for local place leaders and stakeholders to improve their high streets by drawing on new approaches and best practice from around the country.

“Our experts are also working with each town to learn what local recovery and transformation looks like. The right approach won’t be identical for every high street but we can provide some inspiration and reassurance to those putting in the hard work to deliver unique, modern town centres to match our changing lifestyles.”

East Lindsey District Council has launched a brand new website to help promote and celebrate all that’s wonderful about Horncastle. LoveHorncastle.com, an offshoot of the Love Lincolnshire Wolds website, gives local businesses and event organisers the chance to promote themselves free of charge and provide inspiration for things to do in the town for residents and visitors alike.

The new platform has been developed with support from a team of dedicated volunteers in the town and builds on ELDC’s commitment to help improve Horncastle’s online presence, a request made by the local community through its Vital and Viable programme.

Volunteers personally went out and visited businesses throughout the town to help spread the word about the web platform and encourage them to make sure their businesses and events are listed on the site.

The council’s Portfolio Holder for Market Towns and Rural Economy, Councillor Adam Grist said: “We saw through our Vital and Viable programme how important it was to the community that the town has a better digital presence, and this is a great platform to support that.

“I encourage our businesses in the town to complete a free listing and make sure they’re helping us shout about the wonderful things Horncastle has to offer.”

Horncastle sits at the heart of Lincolnshire and is known as a ‘gateway to the Lincolnshire Wolds’. Surrounded by countryside it is recognised for its outstanding natural beauty but it is also famous for its antiques, artisan shops and long-established independent traders whose families have been part of the fabric of the town for generations.

Businesses in the town are also going to benefit greatly from the development of a new Further Education College and Public Sector Hub on Horncastle’s Mareham Road which will create new learning opportunities in digital skills for youngsters.

The development will see a new education facility, operated by Boston College, built alongside a Public Sector Hub that will be home to East Lindsey District Council and partner organisations.

Having gained planning permission last year, work began in May following confirmation that the college had successfully secured more than £1.2m for the college campus aspect of the project from the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership as part of the Government’s Getting Building Fund.

Access to further and higher education within East Lindsey is currently limited and, by introducing a more accessible provision, local businesses will be able to readily access training to meet their skills needs, helping them to grow, increase productivity, and add value to the local economy.

Principal and CEO of Boston College, Claire Foster, said: “Our college’s purpose is to support the development of skills and the opportunities that education and training bring for people and prosperity.

“We look forward to working with our local communities to do just that – within a high quality facility and in this beautiful town.”

Alongside the college, the development will include office accommodation for East Lindsey District Council and their partners.

The council has already allocated £6.23m to the development, which will transform the way it does business and result in the sale of both Tedder Hall, Manby, and Skegness Town Hall for redevelopment.

It is anticipated that the council and their partners will take up occupancy of the building in September 2022.

Councillor Craig Leyland, East Lindsey District Council Leader, said: “The new college campus and hub will provide a huge boost to our communities, starting with the development itself and the commitment we’ve seen from contractors Willmott Dixon to invest back into the area.

“We’re also going to be bringing a much-needed education facility to East Lindsey by partnering with Boston College, which will provide our residents with access to quality further and higher education in the district.

“It will also prove beneficial to our businesses who will have greater access to individuals with the skills they need to help them grow.

MP Victoria Atkins added: “The investment in jobs, education and infrastructure through the new college and hub will help boost our local economy, ensuring that Horncastle continues to thrive in the long term and enabling accessible provision for all residents locally.”

The Joseph Banks Centre is located at 7-13 Bridge Street, Horncastle. The building dates back to the late 17th century and is Grade II listed. It has recently enjoyed a full restoration carried out by Heritage Lincolnshire, which was part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The centre hosts the Sir Joseph Banks Society with its internationally acclaimed patron Sir David Attenborough, together with Lord Waldegrave, Provost of Eton College. Its president is Professor Libby John, Pro-Vice Chancellor/Head of College of Science at Lincoln University. The centre runs and maintains the unique Joseph Banks tribute garden and is host to the new Lincolnshire Herbarium. It also focuses on Banks’ impact in Lincolnshire, nationally, and through him our close links with Australia, New Zealand and the Indian Pacific regions. The recent pandemic and lockdowns resulted in the closure of the gift shop in Horncastle and a concentration on developing the Society and its collections. To that end the Joseph Banks Centre has now been converted into something new and exciting.

New Natural Science Centre
“Our aim is to create a truly unique natural history and science centre in Lincolnshire, something that does not presently exist in the county,” explains curator Paul Scott.

“As well as our existing botanical collections we will seek to display objects from across the world representing the travels and work of Sir Joseph Banks. The centre also hosts Horncastle History & Heritage Society who maintain their archives with us and will be displaying objects, documents and pictures portraying Horncastle’s rich history.

“Our collections strategy and plans may take many years to come to fruition, but our intention is to try and have examples of all of the amazing natural history collections held by Joseph Banks at his London home 32 Soho Square. We will then use those collections to inform people not just about the past but also the present and in some cases the future.

“An example of how we will link Joseph Banks to the issues of today and indeed tomorrow is global warming and rising sea levels. Livelihoods across the Pacific Islands are highly dependent on subsistence agriculture and fishing, which provide the main source of food and income for the majority of rural communities. Climate variability and erratic weather patterns, and particularly extreme weather events, affect the ability of households to maintain their livelihoods – if your land and houses are being submerged you can only retreat or leave your island.

“People in Lincolnshire and other parts of the UK are not immune to the effects of rising sea levels, and I think many would be shocked to see maps of the county in 50-100 years’ time with much of its land lost to the sea.”

Love Lincolnshire Plants – The New Lincolnshire Herbarium
Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, this three-year project has created a partnership with the Natural History Museum in London, The Sir Joseph Banks Society, Lincolnshire Naturalists’ Union and the University of Lincoln to inspire a new generation of botanists; helping to safeguard our understanding of plants and the environment for the future.

This amazing project is helping to teach a new generation of botanists, conserving a historic herbarium and creating a new collection of Lincolnshire plants. This new collection is based within the Joseph Banks Centre and the Sir Joseph Banks Society’s role is to recruit and develop volunteers, equipping them with the skills required to identify, data log, mount and curate herbarium specimens. In the longer term the centre will be using DNA and genetic research to compare new and historic plant specimens. Many plants can be climate change indicators and provide useful data for the future.

Autumn is a busy time with high demands placed on cleaning equipment in agriculture and other sectors. Phillips Pressure Washers have a wide range of machines and the MAC Avant hot and cold pressure washer continues to be the most popular choice. A heavy duty, high specification machine designed for performance and long life, the Avant has been proven on farms and in a broad range of industrial applications.

Riseholme Park Farm is part of University of Lincoln Estates and Phillips are proud to have a long association with them. Matt Bagley, farm and estate manager, explained. “We have a range of equipment to keep clean as well as buildings and areas of concrete. The Avant purchased earlier this year is a great piece of kit. We were using it on multiple sites and needed it more and more so took the decision to purchase a second Avant. The service that we have had from Phillips Pressure Washers has been excellent, from the original enquiry right through to the engineers installing the Avants, and we value that very highly.”

Please visit www.phillipspressurewashers.co.uk to find out more about the full range of machines.

Wolds Wildlife Park in Horncastle recently welcomed two eight-year-old Bengal tigers to their new home, which has been specially created, with natural features to help mirror the tigers’ usual habitat and a large viewing platform.

Andrew Riddel and Tracy Walters were excited to welcome the tiger brothers, who spent three weeks slowly settling into their new surroundings.

“It has been 18 months since the sad loss of our Bengal tiger Syas, who left a huge hole here at Wolds Wildlife Park and it was always our intention to one day have more tigers, but we have been waiting for the right ones to come along,” explained Andrew.

“Assam and Bengal became available for re-homing last October so we put plans into action and designed a unique natural environment for them with some interesting features, but always ensuring that their welfare was paramount.

“The new purpose-built tiger enclosure provides them with a feeding pole, large rocks to climb on, high platforms, a pond and lots of big logs to enjoy a good scratch! In addition, there is a Land Rover half parked in the enclosure for the public to sit in and get up close and personal with our new big cats. This might not be for the faint-hearted, but it’s a wonderful experience for bolder visitors. We are also planning a public indoor viewing area so visitors can closely observe the newest members of our animal family.”

The wildlife park, which has its own on-site café serving delicious locally sourced food from suppliers, including East Coast Meats at Hagworthingham and Woodhall Spa’s delicatessen, is open every day in September from 10am-4pm, and every weekend in October, until the week beginning 25th October when it will open every day for half term.

Look out for the park’s annual night time Spooktacular Halloween weekend on 30th and 31st October, with lots of “spooky” activities taking place between 5pm-7.30pm, including a fancy dress competition for under-15s and over-15s, as well as the best family fancy dress.

Also, don’t miss the annual Christmas lights event at Santa’s grotto which is open from 18th to 23rd December, from 5pm-7.30pm, as well as Boxing Day 26th, 27th and 28th December, from 10am-4pm.

For more information and to book tickets online visit www.woldswildlife.co.uk

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If you’re looking to buy home-grown meat which is 100% traceable, take a trip to Field Farm’s shop in High Toynton, where you will find fresh cuts of home-bred lamb, pork from their own herd of Berkshire pigs, dry cured bacon, Lincolnshire sausages and burgers, plus home-reared Bronze turkeys, as well as free-range chickens and eggs and seasonal organic vegetables. In addition to their meat and vegetables, Field Farm Shop also supplies local cheese (Lincolnshire Poacher), jams and chutneys (Jenny’s Jams), and honey (Cosy Bees).

Owners Richard and Sue Smith, whose family has been farming here since 1956, use traditional methods of growing, harvesting and rearing home-grown stock, allowing customers to purchase healthy wholesome food direct from the farm.

“Every animal we rear grows at its own pace; studies show that slow-grown grass-fed meat is high in antioxidants, so not only does it taste great but it’s good for you too!” explains Richard.

“Our home-produced meats taste exceptional, each cut is succulent, doesn’t shrink when cooked and you can truly taste the outdoors.

“On the drive down the lane to our farm shop, you’ll see pigs, sheep and chickens in the fields; our customers love being able to see the happy life our animals enjoy, so they can truly see where their food comes from.”

As A family owned and run funeral directors based in Horncastle, specialising in bespoke funeral arrangements tailored to the wishes of clients, Respect Funeral Services offers a sympathetic, first class service with a flexible, friendly approach, including evening and weekend appointments, providing comfort and reassurance.

“We care deeply about what we do and have many years’ combined service and a wealth of experience and knowledge,” explains owner Kerry Kitchen. “This enables us to deliver a professional, personal service and through our experience both in the funeral sector, as well as in counselling and bereavement, we appreciate the importance of being able to say goodbye to a loved one in a dignified and respectful way.”

Opened in June this year, this independent business offers individual services at affordable prices, including green funerals and eco coffins, a variety of transport, as well as memorial items and masonry services through local stonemasons, which have been established for more than 200 years.

“We are available 24/7 for information, support and guidance, taking care of everything, relieving clients of extra worries and pressures and always going the extra mile,” adds Kerry.

For more information contact 01507 526697 or visit www.respectfuneralservices.com

Horncastle is renowned for its unique independent shops and traders which have helped put the town on the local visitor destination map for years.

Lincolnshire’s expanding Wolds Wildlife Park is carrying the baton attracting not only national interest but international interest as well.

Plans for the park suffered a blow when Covid-19 led to it having to shut down at the start of the tourist season last year. But the venue is quickly getting back on its feet as visitors return this season to see its collection of more than 200 animals, including lions, bears, zebras and a leopard.

Visitor numbers are expected to increase too following the arrival of two eight-year-old Bengal tigers named Assam and Bengal, who had been living at a private zoo in the Cotswolds until they found themselves in need of a new home back in October last year.

Luckily for them, Wolds Wildife Park have taken in animals from other zoos and circus environments before, so they set about creating a suitable environment for the tigers.

A life-long passion for animals from owners and founders of the wildlife park, Andrew Riddel and Tracy Walters, has shaped the park to what it is today and their work was featured in an ITV documentary called Britain’s Tiger Kings – On the Trail with Ross Kemp earlier this year.

The collection began in 2013. As the park began to grow many zoological professionals commended both Andrew and Tracy for the care given to their animals. They decided to open their gates to the public for two days in July 2018. On the success of this weekend, the idea of opening the park was born.

Photographs: Mick Fox

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