Award winning village puts on a show

Exciting times are on the cards this year for the quintessential Lincolnshire village of Heckington as a decade of hard work comes together and it marks another major milestone in its history, says Melanie Burton.
Redevelopment work is finally complete on the site of its historic eight-sailed windmill, the only working one in the world, its annual show continues to be the biggest village show in the country and it is hosting a major national cycling event to mark 150 years of grass track cycling in the village.

The windmill project has been running for ten years following the purchase of the historic buildings and land around it from the Pocklington family, who owned it for nearly 125 years.

The site has undergone a £1.6 million regeneration scheme which included a new shop, ticket office, exhibition space, toilets and tea rooms, which have been restored to their original glory.

And all the hard work has paid off with another prestigious award – this time for its high quality improvements.

Heckington Windmill has been given the title of Project of the Year at the East Midlands RICS awards, beating off twenty-four of the region’s most impressive and community beneficial property schemes for the top honours. It also won the Building Conservation category, where it beat The Lawn in Lincoln into first place.

The prestigious annual contest – sponsored by Sika Building Trust – celebrates the region’s most inspirational initiatives in the land, property and construction sectors that are having a significant positive impact on the communities they serve. The highly acclaimed Project of the Year accolade is presented to the scheme which demonstrates overall outstanding best practice and significant benefit to their local area and wider economy.

The judging panel felt the project team behind Heckington Windmill – including Sherriff Tiplady Associates and Cowper Griffith Architects LLP – had not only regenerated the only working eight-sailed mill in the world, restored the historic nineteenth-century buildings into a new visitor facility, shop, ticket office and exhibition space, maintaining their historic character, but at the same time had secured a sustainable economic and environmental future for the mill.

Chair of the judging panel for the RICS Awards, East Midlands, Will Evans of EI Group plc said: “The judges were extremely impressed with Heckington Windmill Trust’s commitment and enthusiasm to retain and preserve the historical features of the Grade I listed windmill and outbuildings.

“The sympathetic repairs and meticulous planning has not only ensured the mill has been returned to full working order but it has also created an inclusive, interactive experience.

“The project has secured the future of a key local landmark, and created a destination for visitors and the local community to enjoy for years to come.”

The RICS judges also described Heckington Windmill as a worthy Building

Conservation winner because not only is it the only eight-sailed windmill in the world, but English Heritage has now deemed it as an example of how windmills should be preserved.

As a notable landmark for the village, judges were impressed not only by the approach to restoring the nineteenth-century buildings back to original condition, using traditional and sympathetic building techniques, but the project team’s commitment to ensuring the community were involved not only in the restoration itself but formulating a legacy for generations to come.

The awards come just under a year after the Windmill Trust, the organisation behind the mill project, received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service which is the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK, to recognise outstanding work done in their own communities.

Created in 2002 to celebrate the anniversary of The Queen’s coronation, it is the MBE for volunteer groups.

Charles Pinchbeck, chairman of the Heckington Windmill Trust, said the project had gone very well.

“It is really exciting after the awards the project has won over the last two to three years,” he said. “The group won the Queen’s Award a year ago and now the Project of the Year award.

“We are having a lot of visitors to the site and through the mill, approximately 30,000 people a year which is fantastic.

“A lot of local villages enjoy the tea rooms. It is a very good place to be and is a fantastic focus for visitors who enjoy the character of the place and like the welcome we can give them.”

The Tea Rooms are located in The Miller’s House and serve cakes, snacks and light lunches when the windmill is open. All produce is made using locally sourced produce and cakes are made on site using its own stone-ground Heckington Windmill flours.

Fresh tea and coffee is served, or you can choose to have a beer from the brewery and sit in the garden or courtyard with spectacular views of the windmill.

The renovated Miller’s Parlour – with its Edwardian furniture and décor – is a real showstopper together with The Miller’s Study – a 1930s gem and the garden room with access to the enclosed rear gardens.

“Visitors stop in their tracks when they see the Miller’s Parlour and think it is a fantastic place with its Edwardian character,” Mr Pinchbeck said. “It is not a museum – everything in it is there for people to touch and have a go hands-on, which is why it is a hit with all ages.”

The mill does a lot of its own grinding and nearly all the cakes are baked in the on-site bakery.

“We made a ton of cakes last year on site,” Mr Pinchbeck added. “Volunteer groups come in and do all the baking with our flour for people to enjoy with their cup of tea.”

The project was formally signed off at the beginning of the year and this is the first season with all works finally complete.

“It is an exciting time for us,” Mr Pinchbeck explained. “The project is finished and the first meeting took place in Nottingham ten years ago. It is a great feeling.”

Heckington Windmill Trust was founded in 1981 and was previously known as The Friends of Heckington Windmill. It has around 200 members.

With so much heritage around in the village it seems fitting that Heckington is home to Heritage Lincolnshire, a local charity working to conserve the rich history of the county for the benefit of people who live and work in the area.

As the most active Building Preservation Trust in the East Midlands it has experience of securing funding for the conservation of historic buildings at risk and it offers a range of opportunities for education, volunteering, and leisure activities, all of which encourage people to explore the heritage of the area and to become actively involved in its conservation.

Heritage Lincolnshire, based in The Old School in Heckington, celebrated its 25th anniversary as a registered charity in 2016.

Over the years it has achieved an incredible amount including raising £25 million, saving eight historic buildings from dereliction and its participation in the annual Heritage Open Days has seen visitor numbers rise to more than 25,000.

Heritage Lincolnshire has recently achieved the Investing in Volunteers Quality Standard, recognising the excellent work they do with volunteers.

Liz Bates, just before she left office as chief executive officer of Heritage Lincolnshire, said: “The team is delighted to have achieved this quality standard in recognition of our commitment to our volunteers. Heritage Lincolnshire has seen a significant increase in the number of people wanting to get involved in the conservation of the county’s rich heritage and we benefit hugely from their expertise and contribution. We hope that this quality standard will encourage others to work with us and we look forward to celebrating our achievements together in the future.”

Investing in Volunteers is the UK quality standard for all organisations involving volunteers. Investing in Volunteers aims to improve the quality of the volunteering experience for all volunteers and for organisations to acknowledge the enormous contribution made by volunteers.

Heritage Lincolnshire was assessed against a range of best practice standards and proved to excel in all aspects of working with its volunteers

Heckington Show 2019

There can be few better antidotes to this period of national political uncertainty than Heckington Show.

That sense of certainty begins with the date – always the last weekend in July, which this year is the 27th and 28th – and gains stature from the fact that 2019 will mark the 152nd Show. Better still, this splendid weekend is put together entirely by a team of volunteers who bring expertise, enthusiasm, even passion to their parts of the show but who also accept responsibility and put in the long hours to ensure visitors have a great experience and want to come back next year.

The show’s chairman, Charles Pinchbeck and general secretary, Sarah Grant have led the team for some 25 years and the strong growth both in visitor numbers and the essential scale of the show mean they must be doing a lot that’s right. They would be generous enough to credit the wider team but their eye for picking new members and encouraging the evolution of new ideas is where it all starts. The storm which tore through the grounds on the eve of last year’s show provided perhaps the sternest test yet for them and the whole show community but working through the night, the grounds were made safe and despite a few gaps and adaptations, the show went on.

We’re almost a year on now and needless to say the show still goes on but as Charles himself says, “we came through a tough test in 2018 and are stronger for it – but that doesn’t mean we won’t welcome more benign weather this year.” And, given what the show offers, everyone will welcome some perfect summer days. For a start there’s always the Grand Firework Concert on Saturday evening featuring the usual Proms-style firework finale but also introducing the band Gladness, who will energise the crowds with songs from Madness’s back catalogue as the sun goes down. Entry is included with the Saturday show ticket but it’s also possible to go along for just the concert. Saturday also brings a feast of sport with children’s races, athletics including the spectacle of the 10-mile road race and track cycling on what may well be Britain’s oldest cycle racetrack – it is known Penny-farthings hurtled round the banked ring in the 1890s. This Olympian theme continues through Show Sunday with national standard showjumping which includes the prestigious Area Trial.

These fill the ring between some great headline attractions. New for 2019 is Horse Boarding, which (a bit scarily) looks to combine the X Games with the Epsom Derby, who will star on Saturday along with the Silver Stars Parachute Display team – skydivers are always a favourite but keep an eye on times as when they are down, they are down. Sunday sees the return of the Big Wheelie Fire Engine, promising as ever noise and some real engagement with the younger visitors.

Heckington Show would not be complete without big traditional show contributions. Livestock classes bring scores of sheep and cattle, donkeys and heavy (Shire) horses and as ever the layout gives visitors a chance to get close, have a chat with the owners and see what it takes to prepare a show champion. The largest marquee at the village end of the grounds still hosts a horticultural show with prizes for entry. Categories range from perfect produce to bake-off standard cakes, to art both floral and painted in format. Every part is a show in itself, you are sure to find so much more around the grounds – food and drink, living history displays, all-day music, a dog show, fairground rides, antiques, rural crafts, activities and of course trade stands. You can buy everything from a garden sculpture and clothing to a new car or garden shed.

The show has a very comprehensive website where you can get a full picture and buy tickets for either/both days. You can also find out how to take part – not everyone can win, but you can still say I made that, that time is my personal best, that’s one of our herd, we trained that dog – and thousands of visitors can enjoy your contribution. It’s a weekend that brings people together – family and friends, visitors, competitors, organisers and helpers – all in one rather amazing Lincolnshire village. There must be something here that our politicians and leaders might learn from – let’s hope it doesn’t take them 152 years to realise.

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