Busy month for best-loved town

Words by:
Glynis Fox
Featured in:
September 2015

Stamford is preparing for an exciting few weeks when it will welcome visitors from destinations worldwide to the annual Burghley Horse Trials and the town’s second Georgian Festival.
The events promise to start and end the month on a high note, by injecting extra buzz and vitality into a part of the UK which is traditionally a magnet for both tourists and shoppers.

The world-famous Burghley Horse Trials take place from September 3rd to 6th, getting the month off to a flying start for sporting fans and shopaholics.

Stamford’s second Georgian Festival (the first one took place two years ago) is certain to draw more people to the town for the main event, which runs from 25th to 27th September. There are also curtain-raiser events on 24th September.

The Burghley Horse Trials, featuring dressage, cross country and showjumping, attracts an international field of riders and a phenomenal following. The spectacle was recently named in the Financial Times as the eighth largest sporting event in the UK, by attendance. (The aggregate figure for 2014 was 166,000 people.)

This year the central area of Burghley Park will be partially closed off to pedestrians and unauthorised vehicles, as a safety precaution, as the event virtually entails building a small village!

The restriction will be in place until the event starts on 3rd September and will be reinstated again, from 7th to 18th September, to allow the site to be dismantled.

Apart from the Trials being a real highspot in the equestrian calendar, there are lots of other aspects for visitors to enjoy, including a ‘shopping village’ – with more than 600 traders – and a food walk.

If you are looking for luxury goods, bespoke furniture, rural crafts and handmade gifts, there is plenty to catch the eye.

Stamford itself, of course, is a great place to go shopping all year round, particularly if you like browsing and buying against a backdrop of architecturally interesting buildings.

And the town’s Georgian Festival shouldn’t be missed, if you want to soak up the essence of a time when the town was really growing and starting to make a name for itself. This year there’s a great blend of attractions in the crammed festival programme and, as its events manager Suzanne Lewthwaite said, it won’t be surprising if the number of visitors heading for the extravaganza tops the number who turned up on the Saturday of the 2013 event.

The Festival is funded and organised by South Kesteven District Council and the Town Council is also involved. The festival organisers are promoting its Town Hall Tours and it has allowed The Meadows area to be used during the event, also putting in funding for the Bull Run.

“Last time around, the footfall on the Saturday was 22,000 people and a lot of the independent traders said they had their best Saturday, particularly the cafes,” said Suzanne.

On Thursday 24th September, a bumper weekend gets underway with Victory for Nelson, an opening concert given by the Burghley Voices in St John’s Church in Red Lion Square, while the town’s Arts Centre theatre will be screening the wild comedy The Beaux’ Strategem (The National Theatre Live). But these performances are just the start of a non-stop event, which promises to be even better than last time around.

“There is much more happening this year, including attractions on the Sunday, because we have had longer to organise the event,” said Suzanne.

“On both the Saturday and Sunday there will be a Street Market in Broad Street, with free street entertainment, and it will run from 10am to 4.30pm.

“This year people will also have the opportunity to enjoy Mail Coach rides on both days between 10am and 4pm. The half-hour rides will leave from the Cattle Market car park and take in the sights of Burghley Park.”

As an alternative, people can choose to take an horsedrawn omnibus carriage ride.

During the action-packed weekend, there will be opportunities to go on walking tours with Blue Badge guide Jill Collinge and take a look behind the scenes in Stamford Town Hall.

Anyone who fancies seeing a bit of justice meted out, will enjoy Trials and Tribulations with the Galleries of Justice in the Hall’s Old Courtroom. Performances on both Saturday and Sunday will feature reconstructions of a real life trial which took place in Stamford in 1749.

During the weekend, members of the Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards, along with a selection of Georgian traders will be found on The Meadows. Children’s attractions will include a fairground ride.

Saturday evening sees the return of the famous Stamford Bull Run – a carnival-style re-enactment, which winds its way through the centre of Stamford, ending up at The Meadows.

Key characters in this colourful cavalcade, which involves lots of community groups, include the bull, bullard and horses. The event starts from about 6pm and culminates with the burning of the bull. Later in the evening there is a firework display.

Other attractions over the weekend include talks by the television presenter and chief curator at the Royal Palaces, Lucy Worsley and Sedan Chair Racing (Sunday) on The Meadows, organised by the Stamford Rotary Club.

Richard Olsen, who is chairman of Stamford Chamber of Commerce (part of the Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce), said events, such as the Burghley Horse Trials and the Georgian Festival are hugely important.

“These attractions generate a reason for people to visit towns and cities, gain new experiences and spend money in the local economy,” he said.

“We are all creatures of habit and half the battle is getting local residents to engage in local events. We all think nothing of going somewhere to experience something new, yet there is so much sitting on our own doorsteps that we fail to experience and take for granted.

“Within the equestrian world, Burghley is one of only six leading ‘three-day events’ classified by the FEI in the world. It is at 4-star level (CCI) and forms part of the three events in the Grand Slam of Eventing, bringing in visitors from all over the world to experience Burghley, Stamford and the surrounding areas.

“This event raises Stamford’s profile immensely and brings new customers to businesses in the town and surrounding area.”

This year’s Georgian Festival has been expanded, using feedback from shopkeepers and residents in the development of the programme.

If your ideal recipe for great retail therapy involves browsing colourful markets, tracking down quirky individual shops and dipping into the multinationals, you can do it all in Stamford.

What’s more, this is a destination that’s always worth visiting because its popularity attracts new entrepreneurs from miles around. Vacant shop units of the ‘right size’ don’t stay empty for long.

From individual fashions to stylish shoes, beautiful flowers, impressive antiques and limited edition watches, shopping in Stamford can be a very rewarding experience.

Stamford Chamber of Commerce chairman, Richard Olsen said: “Business-wise, retail occupancy rates are at ninety-nine per cent, unemployment is in the few hundreds and commercial businesses are expanding.

“Major construction is also taking place in Empingham Road, bringing more new housing to the area, as well as a potential new industrial estate.”

Apart from shopping, there’s plenty of sightseeing to be done in Stamford, which has 600 listed buildings and five medieval churches, and there’s entertainment on offer too, at venues such as the Stamford Arts Centre or Corn Exchange Theatre.

Fortunately, the town has some fine hotels, so there’s no excuse for not choosing to stay overnight – although you’ll probably have to act fast if you are thinking of visiting during the Horse Trials or Georgian Festival.

One of Stamford’s popular places to stay – or even just enjoy a meal – is Candlesticks Hotel and Restaurant. Candlesticks has built up a reputation for friendly family service over the past forty years, under the ownership of the Pinto family.

Over the past five years Manuel and Maria Pinto’s son, Nelio, has been at the helm of the business, which employs a team of about ten people and which welcomes everyone from tourists to business travellers and wedding guests.

The original building dates back to 1730, but today offers every modern comfort. There are eight bedrooms, all of which are ensuite, and the restaurant offers an extensive menu featuring classic English, French and Portuguese cuisine.

Candlesticks also offers special wining and dining evenings and people can expect a unique experience – after all Nelio is an international wine judge!

“We try to offer a couple of dates a month and limit these occasions to about twenty people. Diners can try a variety of different wines, matched to their three-course meal, and then discuss them. Sometimes a winemaker also gives a talk,” said Nelio.

Nelio is one of 300 judges worldwide and mainly judges events in London and sometimes in Europe.

“A lot of people stay with us overnight and have breakfast. We gets lots of repeat business and many people also appreciate the fact that we have a car park for their use,” added Nelio.

Businesses in Stamford are being given the opportunity to attend a Chamber of Commerce event, designed to help them to achieve greater success.

‘Grow Your Business through People’ will encourage participants to reflect on where they are now and plan for moving forwards. It will explore the attributes and qualities their workers need to support business growth and what they can do to make this happen.

The session, which has been developed by the Chamber’s Learning and Skills Sector, takes place at the Borderville Sports Facility on Tuesday 6th October.

It will feature a keynote address by the Greater Lincolnshire LEP Chair, Ursula Lidbetter, and South Kesteven District Council (SKDC) Leader Councillor Bob Adams.

The full morning event will also include two interactive workshops and local case studies, such as Cummins and RAF Wittering.

The event has been sponsored by SKDC, New College Stamford and University Centre Peterborough.

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