Community spirit thrives in Caistor
Local residents, community groups and volunteers have come together to offer support throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, as Barbara Young finds out.
As a picturesque, historical market town located at the northern edge of the Wolds, Caistor dates back to early Roman times and features many notable Georgian buildings making it popular with visitors keen to explore its local heritage, including the Viking Way which runs through the town.
However, over the past 12 months, the town’s focus has been to pull together to offer valuable support for those in need within the community, with the local council, businesses, volunteer groups and pro-active individuals all rolling up their sleeves and getting involved.
“When the pandemic first began, we saw very early on that especially the elderly and vulnerable would need support,” says Cllr Steve Critten, who also helps run the local food bank. “We set up a volunteer group and created a CIC [Community Interest Company] with Rebecca Axcell and myself as directors to manage this with support from the local town council.
“One of the main reasons for setting something official up was that I could see the potential of the vulnerable being scammed by the unscrupulous.
“The response was heart-warming with the number of volunteers reaching almost 60 and supporting 100-plus individuals. Initially, we collected donations of the hard-to-get items such as toilet roll and some essential items in the town hall when shopping for the vulnerable.
“In April we had so much support from the community that the ‘essentials store’ was overflowing. We then approached the primary school and suggested we could help the struggling families with a food parcel each week and so the food bank began.”
Caistor’s food bank received generous donations from individuals, as well as local businesses, including frozen seafood from a local factory and trays of eggs from a local supplier – in fact so much so that this also meant items could be shared between local groups.
“At one point we were issuing 15-plus parcels a week. Later, the demand reduced and we closed the town hall for donations, but the Co-op allowed us to have a basket to donate in-store.
“We then joined forces with The New Life Church as we were receiving large donations from the same groups anyway, so all donations then went straight to them. They prepared our parcels during this period and our volunteers would deliver them.
“Now that demand is rising again, we are looking at working with a group called Community Action For All and reopening the food bank in Caistor.”
Steve says he believes that Caistor prides itself on old-fashioned family values and close-knit groups that work together to make the town special.
“We all want what’s best for the town and its people. All our groups tend to work together when we put on events such as Caistor Goes, Caistor in Bloom, Lions, The Rotary Club and Caistor Cares (now Lincolnshire Cares), but working to help each other has come to the fore even more in these difficult times.
“I think Caistor had a close community anyway, but what I have found is that the younger generation have wanted to do their bit as well and I hope the volunteer group can continue and bring the generations together to support each other.”
Always popular, Caistor’s Saturday market has kept going, albeit on a reduced scale.
“The Saturday market is open for essential items with up to seven stalls a week, including Sweetiebelles, Yulia Millushin bakery and Woody’s wild bird food,” says Steve.
“When we came out of the first lockdown, we had 14 plus stalls selling goods and it was well attended every week. It seems more and more people are looking to shop local and support local businesses. In fact for those who aren’t able to travel, the market has been essential.”
Looking forward, residents remain hopeful that Caistor will bounce back post-lockdown.
“Personally, I believe those businesses that do survive will go from strength to strength once we get out of lockdown,” says Steve. “Our community have seen the value of local businesses. We have some wonderful small businesses not just around the market place, South Street and Horse Market, but further out down Brigg Road and Caistor Top as well.
“The community spirit and events that Caistor have are second to none, such as the Caistor Goes event, beer festival, firework display and now the community cinema doing regular outdoor showings.
“The Wolds are on the doorstep, perfect for cycling or walking with great history in the town. The Arts and Heritage Centre displays some interesting articles with others held by Caistor Heritage Trust, which is currently doing interesting online talks on the market place.
“The market will be expanding and local groups are eager to organise events for after the pandemic in order to bring our community together even more.”
Serving the community
Steve explains that further ideas are being formulated to improve some of the neglected areas in the town.
“The town council have also worked with the sports and social club to set up a CIC in order to further plans for development of the building. This will help with funding applications. It supports many groups such as the well established bowls, tennis, cricket and football teams, as well as the ever expanding Caistor Running Club and newly established walking football club. Hopefully this will further enhance the facilities for the town.”
One business which has already gained recognition for serving the community is the town’s Post Office, run by postmaster Martin Sizer and his partner Kaye Lee. Martin also serves on the local council and is a governor at the local Caistor Grammar School, as well as second vice president of the Caistor and District Lions.
The couple, who moved from Grimsby, live on site with their son Luke and have been managing the Post Office for the past 13 years which is run alongside their successful card and gift shop supplying helium balloons for all occasions, as well as a dry cleaning service.
Last year they received a Community Engagement award and an invitation to the Queen’s Garden Party, which they hope to attend next year.
“During the pandemic we have supported our community as always and have remained open throughout,” says Martin, who has been shortlisted along with 11 other candidates to join the main board of the Post Office as a non-executive director.
“To assist our elderly and vulnerable customers, we have also been opening at 8am when it is quieter and they can feel safe. This has encouraged them to have access to Post Office services without feeling at risk.
“During the first lockdown we also opened for businesses on a Sunday to help dispatch their goods by mail order while businesses were unable to open to the public.
“Caistor has many active community groups helping to make it a great place to live.”
Caistor blooms again
Formed in 2009, the Caistor in Bloom committee is a group of dedicated and pro-active volunteers dedicated to enhancing the beauty of the historic attractive market town through floral features and gardens, both public and private.
It aims to bring together interested groups and individuals to discuss and implement a programme for Caistor’s floral enhancement, environmental improvements and varied community projects.
The town has won numerous prestigious awards and accolades for its floral displays and its community spirit. It has attracted many visitors through its wonderful annual array of floral displays and magnificent open gardens and has achieved Gold and Category winner on three successive occasions.
As a result, Caistor in Bloom, which works “glove in hand” with Caistor Town Council and local businesses in seeking sponsorship and funds, has twice been invited to participate at the highest level in the Britain in Bloom national competition, obtaining a Silver Gilt award on both occasions.
Each year the result of the group’s efforts provides a stunning display of contrasting colours throughout the town for everyone to enjoy during the seasons.
“2020 was a very challenging year for Lincolnshire and all the In Bloom organisations across the country due to the pandemic,” says Michael Galligan, and events such as Open Gardens and other community events had to be cancelled.
“However, Caistor in Bloom was one of the few who managed to generate a good display across the town, although it was curtailed to about 50% of the previous year’s floral displays.
“There were also some new initiatives such as the wonderful display of floral baskets around the cenotaph, while at Redhills Close, which is a senior citizens’ housing estate, a number of large flower planters were installed by Caistor in Bloom thereby lifting the mood and raising morale for the residents of the estate.
“Caistor in Bloom is instrumental in erecting and decorating the magnificent Christmas tree (one of the best in Lincolnshire) which stands proud in the Market Square every year. This extends the community spirit through the year and lifts civic pride and warms the heart of residents and visitors alike during the festive season.”
Looking to the future, Michael Galligan says sustaining the great level of commitment required by the Caistor in Bloom volunteers will always be an ongoing challenge due to the amount of work involved all year round in planning, organising and maintaining the annual floral programme to its present high standard.
“There is a wonderful volunteer base in Caistor and when the occasion demands such as big clean-ups, or the planting up of flower planters, the community turns out in force with at times as many as 40 people involved.
“Although 2021 will continue to be challenging, Caistor in Bloom will maintain its dynamic approach in developing new projects such as barrier baskets on railings, a multi-tier flower tower in Market Square and new Art in the Landscape projects together with restoring the magnificent centrally located ‘Pigeon Spring’ to further enhance the town.
“Caistor in Bloom will continue to motivate and inspire in order to further enhance community spirit within the town, as well as encouraging more people to volunteer, even in a small way, to help make Caistor a better place in which to live, work and visit.”
Your own bolthole in the Lincolnshire Wolds
Planning a break this year will still have its challenges. A holiday home provides the freedom to ‘get away from it all’ whenever you like. Nettleton Park offers tranquil surroundings and activities for all the family.
Nettleton Park, near Caistor, has seen enquiries from people wanting to buy their own holiday home up by 30%.
Managing director, Samantha Heap explained: “Most of the people we spoke to just wanted to be secure in the knowledge that they would be able to get away this year.
“They want to be able to put a date in the 2021 diary and have something to look forward to without having to fight to secure a holiday when restrictions are lifted.
“Ownership provides the freedom to ‘get away from it all’ whenever you like – for holidays, weekend breaks or just overnight.”
Tucked away in acres of woodland, this tranquil setting well off the beaten track is ideal for relaxing family holidays or weekend breaks.
The facilities at Nettleton Park include an indoor swimming complex with a gymnasium, sauna and solarium, an executive nine-hole golf course, all-weather tennis courts and a bowling green, while fishing enthusiasts can enjoy three large individually stocked fishing lakes.
The kids will also find Nettleton exciting with plenty of space to explore in safety and have fun on the extensive adventure playground. Or they can join mum and dad in the TV lounge and games room for pool or table tennis. And all these facilities are for the exclusive use of the park’s holiday home owners.
Nettleton Park is beautifully landscaped and blessed with an abundance of wildlife. Recent additions include a network of pathways to create delightful walks through its woodlands. The park is perfectly placed to enjoy all the attractions that Lincolnshire has to offer including the famous seaside resorts and its delightful market towns and villages.
Buying a holiday home may cost less than you think. The new and pre-owned fully furnished homes start at just £20,000 and offer an investment for life.
The park is part of the Don Amott Leisure Group which has been established over 65 years and owns a total of five holiday parks in Lincolnshire. The company’s year-on-year investment has without doubt contributed to its success.
Samantha added: “During the pandemic we have been working even harder to improve all our parks with an emphasis on making the outdoor facilities even more enjoyable, safer and totally secure.”
If you wish to discuss buying a holiday home at Nettleton Park, or to arrange a private tour, call Dave Pope on 01472 851501. Or you can take a virtual tour now on www.donamottparks.com/nettleton-park
Formed initially with the aim of moving forward a project at the old Co-op building at 2-4 Market Place, the Caistor & District Community Trust has been taking a “holistic” view of the town in order to generate momentum in other areas in need of development, with support from WLDC and Caistor Town Council.
“Funding for feasibility into its development was granted from Heritage Lottery Fund and The Architectural Heritage Fund as well as great support from Heritage Lincolnshire, Lincolnshire Co-op, Caistor Town Council and West Lindsey Council,” explains Cllr Steve Critten.
“We are now in the process of applying for the development costs. This would be a fantastic facility for the town, as well as improving the look of the iconic Georgian market place.
“The 2-4 Project will incorporate an element of accommodation for five-plus holiday lets depending on the final layout. This was identified as a need after consulting with LCC. They had designed cycling routes around Lincolnshire and the Wolds but bypassed Caistor as an end destination due to its lack of accommodation. Hopefully this will be rectified with the development of 2-4.”
One of the Trust’s founder directors, Don Morgan, expressed a concern about the old council depot at Mill Lane.
“At Mill Lane, after consultation with ACIS, the owners of the land, we received funding from Homes England for a feasibility study into affordable housing on the site and this has developed into an eight home project with a small number of parking spaces for town residents,” explains Steve. “The area has now had all the buildings demolished, already improving on the previous eyesore and a full planning application will be imminent.”
Themed hampers feature best of local produce
Packed with love and chosen with care, Hampers by The Hollies offers a range of the best food from local Lincolnshire farmers and producers, ideal as a gift or special treat.
Launched in January 2021 by “local lass” and entrepreneur Sophianne Kent, who named the business after her home in Kirmington, this specially selected range of goodies are beautifully presented in elegant gift boxes, or luxurious hamper baskets and delivered free to your door the next day.
“I wanted to showcase the great produce on our doorstep and was delighted to find an array of Lincolnshire artisans and farmers making wonderful treats,” explains Sophianne, who says she wanted to support the local economy and encourage buying local.
Hampers by The Hollies offers hampers for everyone and all occasions including Mother’s Day, Easter and birthdays. Popular ones being the Heritage hamper and the Cheese and Wine Time gift basket.
“Lincolnshire is famous for being the agricultural heartland and we’re always on the lookout for quality local producers. Our local suppliers include Ovens Winery in Harrington, No.12 Chocolatier in Kirton in Lindsey, Leya & Buster Candle Co in Ulceby and of course the Lincolnshire Poacher Cheese company.”
For more information visit www.hampersbythehollies.com
Lincolnshire Life readers receive a 10% discount by using ‘LL10’ voucher code at checkout.