Alford mill to set sail once more

Words by:
Julie Sayed
Featured in:
September 2022

Arts and traditional crafts, a strong sense of heritage and community spirit combined with modern businesses make the town a perfect place to explore. By Julie Sayed.

‘A Destination Not a Drive Through’ is a recent initiative by Alford Town Council to encourage more visitors to the town. Located at the foot of the Lincolnshire Wolds, an Area of Outstanding Beauty, it lies between Mablethorpe, Louth, Spilsby and Skegness, on a route that is often passed along by visitors, being just seven miles from the East Coast.

Almost all the shops, pubs and eateries are found around the town centre and its bustling market trades on Tuesdays and Fridays between 9am and 2pm. Alford is also a town steeped in history, with its windmill and St Wilfred’s Church, which has stood on its current site since 1150, a prominent feature of the town scene.

“Our ‘Destination Not a Drive Through’ campaign is one of the ways in which the Town Council hopes to encourage more people to explore what the town has to offer,” said the Town Clerk, Dr Lynnette Pryke.

Towards this end, the Town Council has been working hard to improve and promote the incentives to visit this thriving location.

“We have recently been able to introduce free car parking in all our car parks after taking over control of the car parks from East Lindsey District Council. We believe it is quite an achievement.

“We have already seen an increase in trade because of this and it’s something we hope to build on.

And of course at a time like this, when people are tightening their belts due to the cost of living crisis, it’s nice to be able to offer one way for people to save a little money.

“At the end of June we [were] also able to re-open the Sail Shed Café at Alford Windmill.”

MILL RENOVATION PROJECT
Alford Windmill is a Grade I listed five-sailed windmill built in 1837 by Alford millwright Sam Oxley. It stands at over 30 metres high and has six floors. In its heyday it was capable of grinding four to five tonnes of corn a day. It has a firmly established place in the town’s heritage.

Dr Pryke explained: “The windmill had previously been closed for about three years but on the 28th of June the café was re-opened after the Town Council took over the responsibility of running the windmill from Lincolnshire County Council.

“It had been in a sorry state for some time but the Town Council have now just begun a massive regeneration project to restore it to its former glory. We opened the café straight away and customers will be able to follow the journey of the restoration project.

“Currently the onion dome which usually sits on top of the windmill is on the floor, so you are able to see such a huge dome at close quarters, which is quite unusual.

“This is a major renovation project and will probably take about two years to complete. Meanwhile visitors can enjoy handmade produce in the café. Eventually we hope to open it all year round but for now, after the summer months we will play it by ear as to when it opens.”

The windmill renovation project is just one of the many activities in a town which is bouncing back after the pandemic. The Corn Exchange arts venue hosts theatre shows, comedy and music performances each month, Alford Pottery has recently celebrated 50 years of craftsmanship, and there is plenty for the community to get involved with.

Dr Pryke said: “The town has a lot to offer. We have lovely memorial parks, there is the Corn Exchange, Alford Manor House to explore, a thriving Craft Market, shops and we even have stocks in the Market, to which I keep the keys.

“We are a very pro-active council and we have a lovely community. It’s a great place to raise children, in a kind of Enid Blyton childhood.”

One of the major landmarks in Alford is the Manor House, reputed to be the largest thatched manor house in the country. Manned largely by volunteers, visitors are able to wander round this Grade II listed building, which was built to a traditional H plan in 1611.

The Manor House also has a delightful walled garden, a tea room and to the rear is situated the Museum of Rural Life, which is home to many of Alford’s historic artefacts. It is also a popular venue to hire for occasions such as weddings.

Throughout the year there are also a number of larger events in Alford that draw in the crowds. In mid-August the town held its major 1940s weekend complete with an RAF flypast, and artisan craft markets are regularly held. Lincolnshire Day will be celebrated on 30th September with a Lincolnshire menu in the Manor House tea room and as ever there will be special Christmas events on the calendar.

COMMUNITY AND CRAFTS
Craft enthusiasts will already be familiar with the popular Craft Market, formed in 1974, and which has expanded and grown in stature ever since. It showcases the work of Lincolnshire craftsmen, makers and artists in disciplines such as ceramics, wood, iron, glass and textiles.

As well as regular opening days in the town, the Craft Market holds special events such as the August Bank Holiday Festival of 27th-29th August. There will be craft stalls in the Alford Manor House Grounds, a Big Marquee and entertainment from the likes of Banjo Bob, Punch and Judy, plus live acoustic music and street theatre.

“Over the years the Craft Market has continued to build upon its success. In 2015 we had the opportunity to open a shop in a corner plot and this is now a cornerstone for the Craft Market,” said Lynne Le Voi, secretary of Alford Craft Market.

“In 2016 we took the opportunity of converting a near derelict building behind, to turn it into a Craft Centre offering pottery classes and jewellery making all year round. And in a further expansion, last year we opened a gallery called Alford Art, which is a very smart gallery as you would expect, even down to the white floor, and features not just painting but sculpture, ceramics and other bits.

“The Craft Market continues to promote interest in crafts and hosts regular pottery classes with classes also aimed at children. Since The Great Pottery Throw Down, we have seen increased interest in the art. We also have Kate Snookes, a silversmith who holds classes in sterling silver and recently added gold to the repertoire.

These creative outlets are not just aimed at enthusiastic hobbyists and independent artists, but the younger town residents as well.

“We actively encourage children to be more involved and during the Covid lockdown distributed 700 craft kits to children in the town as a way of helping parents who were having to home-school in those times.”

being and the forming of the Town Partnership, which now has a charity shop as a way of raising funds for projects such a better quality Christmas lights for the town.”

As it now looks ahead to the busy autumn and Christmas seasons, Alford is showing itself to be a destination not to be missed.

ALFORD CORN EXCHANGE – YOUR IDEAL EVENTS VENUE
Whether you’re looking to organise a special celebration, wedding reception, conference, or recreational classes, the Alford Corn Exchange is the perfect venue to host a variety of public and private functions.

Here you will also find regular weekly events such as craft markets, antique fairs and special artistic performances popular with both locals and visitors alike.

Built in Italianate style in 1856, the stunning Grade II listed building located on the central market place recently underwent extensive restoration, including the installation of air-conditioning in addition to a number of distinguishing features, including a beautiful central lantern, a stage with lighting and wireless PA system, and a sprung dancefloor made of maple wood.

The adjacent fully licensed Theatre Bar and café area also features a fully refurbished kitchen with full facilities for food preparation and a serving hatch to the main hall.

“Please contact us and we will help you to make a success out of your plans.”

For more information visit www.alfordcornexchange.co.uk

SPECIALIST CARE AT ASHTREE HOUSE
Situated in the quiet village of Withern, Ashtree House is a well established assistant living facility, which prides itself on offering outstanding personalised care for the elderly.

Owned and run by Lisa Floyd and her experienced, caring team, Ashtree House specialises in dementia, especially advanced and challenging behaviours, and also provides palliative/end of life care.

“This is the only care home we own which means that all our attention is focussed on our residents,” explains Lisa.

“We are open to visitors again and also reintroducing day care and bookable respite care, which we did prior to Covid. This is a great way for people to try the home and plan for the future, while also giving their carers time off and a change of scene from their usual daily routine and helping to prepare families for permanent care. 

“We also work closely with the Lincolnshire Care Association, chaired by Melanie Weatherley MBE, which has been a great support through Covid and moving forward with ensuring we are supported and that care homes have a voice.”

To find out about Ashtree House Residential’s tailor-made programme of care contact Lisa Floyd or Ashley Vine tel: 01507 450373 or email enquiries@ashtree-house.co.uk

AT PEACE WITH NATURE
Saying goodbye to a loved one in the tranquillity of a wooded meadow offers an alternative choice for the bereaved, as well as many benefits for wildlife.

Ideal for people of all faiths, Birdsong Green Burial Site offers a simple, environmentally conscious option for those looking for a quiet, peaceful resting place.

Situated near Alford, between the villages of Willoughby and Sloothby, Birdsong burials take place in a meadow and a tree is usually planted as a memorial so that over time the site develops into species-rich native woodland.

Services usually take place at the graveside, or in the rustic green oak shelter, and can be secular or religious and entirely tailored to the individual.

Plots are available for burials and ashes. Graves are hand dug and burial takes place in a biodegradable coffin. An adjacent plot can be reserved where family members wish to be buried alongside each other.

The grounds are maintained with a light touch, allowing nature to flourish, with areas of long grass, native wildflowers and a variety of ages and species of native trees.

Although the site is not usually staffed, visitors are welcome at any time, with meetings at the site by appointment.

For more information visit www.greenburialsite.co.uk or phone 01507 466644.

Photographs: Mick Fox



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