Double award for village’s volunteers

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
July 2018

Community spirit plays a vital part in the success of any town, parish or district and the Lincolnshire village of Heckington proves that point to a tee, as Melanie Burton discovers.
Though classified as a village because of its size and population, Heckington’s character, fabric and facilities make it seem more of a small town. It boasts a variety of independent businesses, a diverse range of tourist attractions and easy transport links including its own railway station. But it also has a wealth of enthusiastic volunteer groups that work tirelessly to ensure its name is known far and wide. Their efforts have certainly paid off.

Its annual village show is the largest in the country attracting more than 30,000 visitors to the area every year and its windmill is the only eight-sailed windmill in western Europe, as well as the sole survivor of just seven such mills built in the UK.

Both are run by volunteer groups which have been rewarded this year with a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

George Bell, programme editor of the Heckington & District Agricultural Society, which runs the show, said it was a source of pride to have created a weekend show where visitors can connect with their rural roots, discover the sounds, sights and taste of an English summer and buy something memorable.

“At the heart of this are the people who make it happen – local people, most with a day job but all motivated to put on a great event because they want to,” he said.

“They bring with them their own skills and talents – as you might expect – but commonly they also draw on help from their partners, children and friends (and even their children’s friends) all of which is also freely given to make the weekend the success it has become.

“The result is an amazing mix of talents from graphic design and music to hands-on construction and traffic management.

“Heckington’s long history gives the magic a further twist by creating generations of helpers, stewards and organisers which means an accumulation of expertise and knowledge gained by putting on the show, taking part, taking the family and passing it on.

“It’s quite a thought, but there are family names associated with the show this year that were involved – perhaps in a very different capacity – more than 100 years earlier.”

This year’s show is the 151st and is taking place on Saturday and Sunday, 28th and 29th July.

It welcomes back the popular Knights of Nottingham to re-enact their medieval jousting tournament complete with Game of Thrones style skulduggery.

There is also the chance to come face-to-face with the Imps motorcycle display team interspersed with high quality showjumping, a grand parade of livestock and the energetic, if noisy, vintage tractor drive.

The first day is rounded off with a Grand Firework Concert which reaches a Last Night of the Proms style finale with Sleaford Concert Band but begins with more of a Glastonbury feel thanks to the return of the fabulous Abba tribute band, Waterloo Live.

The show is set in the remains of the historic Parkland originally associated with Heckington Hall – a Grade II listed building and the only example of its kind in the area.

“It may seem hard to believe but for many people it is not the ring, but the vast grounds that draw them to visit,” explained George.

“They are filled with trade stands, displays, activities, action, food to eat or take home and enthusiasts sharing passions – many with strong Lincolnshire roots.

“There will be special activities marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One which include a working replica tank in the Heritage Zone. And there are more peaceful pursuits available such as spinners and weavers, steam sawmilling, cookery demos and a traditional horticulture marquee to name a few.”

Villager Sarah O’Brien said the show was no ordinary village event. It was more like a county show.

“It usually attracts about 30,000 visitors but at last year’s show there were 32,000 over the two days and it increases year on year,” she said.

“Everyone loves coming and it takes over the whole village. All the houses are decorated with bunting and most of the village organisations do something at the show. It is great and a real community event.”

Another example of Heckington’s community spirit is the success it achieved in the Lincolnshire Best Kept Village competition last year. It won its category (Large Village) for the first time since 1985. However, it now means the village is in the Winners’ Category this year, competing against all the other winning villages and towns in Lincolnshire from the past three years.

Judging takes place in August and work has already started on making Heckington look even better than last summer.

“Plans are underway for flowers and plants to add a dash of colour to some of the key roads and a new village sign has been ordered to show off our Best Kept Village status,” explained Sarah O’Brien. Next on the list is repainting the railings at the village hall and the Heritage Centre.

“It is thanks to several people who have already volunteered their help, have contributed ideas and who have started on the task and also thanks to the many villagers who make their gardens look fabulous at this time of year.

“We are fortunate to have some wonderful community facilities in Heckington – the Windmill, Community Swimming Pool, Pavilion and sports field to name but a few – as well as a beautiful historic church and some thriving truly local shops and businesses. Plus, of course, the Heckington Show.

“All of these contribute to making Heckington a match for any village in Lincolnshire in terms of the ‘visit-ability’ factor. The Best Kept Village project can help us to make our village clean, tidy, colourful and welcoming for all residents, visitors and the judges.”

During the judging process in August, the judges will look at gardens, allotments, community amenities, business premises, roads and paths, as well as the overall appearance and evidence of community participation.

“Everyone in the village can do something to make a difference whether it is doing a bit of extra gardening or painting to make a property look even better than last year, or picking up a few bits of litter as you walk around the village,” said Sarah

“As the saying goes ‘every little helps’.”

Another project that has been formed by a group of local people is Project Heckington 100 which brings together ideas and initiatives to pay tribute to the men and women of Heckington and other local villages, who never came back home from the war.

The project will be covering a series of events from July to Remembrance Day in November and a major undertaking of the group is to produce a cascade of thousands of poppies to produce an everlasting memorable display in St Andrew’s Church.

The village is also awaiting news next month regarding a National Lottery Bid, which will mean another exciting project will be announced concerning the church.

Another group in the village which is all about community spirit is Heckington Young Farmers which is a great rural youth organisation for those aged between 10 and 26.

Potential members don’t have to be farmers or from a farming background but having a love of rural life and agriculture is an advantage.

“Heckington YFC is a club run by the members for the members,” explained strategic development manager Kate Knight.

“It is one of sixteen Lincolnshire Young Farmers’ clubs and this coming year we hope to market Heckington to the wider audience and include members from the surrounding area.

“We will be appointing a new chairman, secretary and treasurer along with other key roles so it is a great way for young people to develop many skills.

“There are great opportunities to support local charities, work with local businesses, travel, compete and of course make new friends and have a varied and dynamic social life.”

Excitement is building in Heckington as its 151st show draws ever closer. But it is not the only reason the village community is over the moon.

Two of its major attractions have picked up a prestigious national award.

Both Heckington & District Agricultural Society and Heckington Windmill Trust have received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. It 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.

Show chairman and chairman of the Windmill Trust Charles Pinchbeck said: “It is a tremendous recognition of the truly exceptional dedication and service of the whole Heckington Show team and a tremendous honour for us all.

“The nomination was full of praise for the energy and commitment of the Heckington Show team. Our ‘can do’ attitude means we have put on shows when flood and pestilence have stopped so many others.

“The dedication of the team, across generations and in many individual cases over decades was particularly highlighted.

“This is a double celebration for our village, as the Windmill Trust has also received the award and we believe this is the first time since 2012 that any organisations in Lincolnshire have received the award, which is a testament to the truly unique spirit to be found in our community.”

Heckington Windmill Trust was described as “hugely impressive as a voluntary organisation… making an excellent job of caring for a very special part of the nation’s heritage” and “providing inspiration and lessons to other voluntary groups”.

Members of the Trust, Charles Pinchbeck, Jo Lewin and Mike Hardy along with Sarah Grant the Heckington Show general secretary, attended the Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in May to receive the signed certificate from the Queen.

An English Crystal with the logo insignia will be presented to the Show by Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for Lincolnshire on the first day of this year’s event – Saturday 28th July.

Heckington’s Windmill is a unique landmark attraction and a magnet for visitors, being the only eight-sailed windmill in western Europe and the sole survivor of just seven such mills built in the UK.

Thanks to a £1.2 million Heritage Lottery grant, the mill has undergone a regeneration programme which has seen it redeveloped into a first-class visitor centre in and around the original Victorian mill buildings.

The mill was originally built as a five-sailed mill in 1830 by Edward Ingledew of Gainsborough for Michael Hare.

Following a severe thunderstorm which blew off the cap and sails, it was repaired in 1892. The repairs were carried out by John Pocklington using a cap and eight sails from a windmill in Boston.

The bricks from the Boston mill were recycled and used to build the mill house that stands at the front of the site.

Heckington mill ceased work in 1946 and deteriorated until it was purchased by Kesteven County Council in 1953 and made safe. The mill underwent restoration in 1986 and further major repairs were carried out in 2004.

The original eight sails that you see at Heckington today were not built for the tower that now stands on the site. The cap overhangs the tower bricks, confirming that it came from a different mill.

When the new sails were fitted in 2014, it was the first time that all eight sails had been replaced since it was installed in 1892.

John Pocklington purchased the mill tower and bakehouse for £250 in 1891 and the Pocklington family lived at the mill for more than 100 years.

At the height of its working life, the mill frequently worked around the clock. Forty sacks of grain (five tonnes) per day were often exceeded.

The delightfully abrupt arrival of summer early has been a joy for most. We’ve got outside, lost a few pounds, found our summer wardrobes and allowed thoughts to turn early to Wimbledon, strawberries and cream, barbecues, days at the beach – and for many, to thoughts of Heckington Show.

The competitive Saturday programme of sport is a case in point. Scores of primary school children sprint and cycle their way to glory knowing they are the warm-up act for the national runners and riders who follow. For a spectacle the 10-mile Road Race will really take some beating this year with a full 300 runner entry signed before the end of May.

The adult cyclists will compete for prizes over a range of distances from 800m to 8km with a new addition this year in the form of an ongoing points accumulation to identify the overall Victor Ludorum.

The main ring with its grandstand and banked sides is the ideal amphitheatre for everyone to take the chance to enjoy Heckington’s headline performances. This year the show welcomes back the popular Knights of Nottingham to break up the sports programme on show Saturday. On Sunday, it’s your chance to come face-to-face with the Imps motorcycle display team as well as high-quality showjumping, a (very) grand parade of livestock and the energetic vintage tractor drive.

If you’re visiting on Saturday, remember to stay on for the Grand Firework Concert which reaches a Last Night of the Proms finale.

It may seem hard to believe but for many it’s not the ring, but the vast grounds that draw them to visit. They are embroidered with trade stands, displays, activities, action, food to eat or take home and enthusiasts sharing passions – many with strong Lincolnshire roots.

Bring friends and family of all ages along for this special event on 28th and 29th July. You can buy tickets on arrival or in advance and there’s still time to take part – look on the website where you will find all the information and latest news for this year’s show.

Lincolnshire Life will be returning to the Heckington Show this year, with a stand in the Heritage Marquee. Pop along and say ‘hello’.

Chattertons, solicitors and wealth managers, will be exhibiting and invite show visitors to stop by their stand for complimentary light refreshments. Chattertons have offices located across the county and are at the show to support not only Heckington Show but also to demonstrate their commitment to the vibrant communities in the local area.

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