Funding brings further improvements to market town

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
March 2022

With a history dating back to Roman times and its unique location, Caistor is often referred to as the ‘gem’ or ‘jewel’ of the Wolds. By Melanie Burton.

It is one of the most important conservation areas in the whole of the West Lindsey district and is situated within easy reach of the Lincolnshire coast, Humberside International airport, the county’s major towns and cities and the motorway networks.

Described as the northern gateway to the Wolds and nestled on the hillside along the Viking Way, Caistor is a pretty market town awash with Georgian and Victorian listed buildings, archaeological finds and an ancient monument.

With its quaint market place, fringed by quirky independent shops and cafés, Caistor has its origins in a Roman army ‘Castra’ and its narrow streets still follow the layout of the original military camp.

The market square lies at the heart of a conservation area containing 56, mainly Grade II, listed buildings, making it one of the most important in Lincolnshire, as well as the district.

With a strong community spirit, beautiful surroundings and a transformative town project, there is no wonder Caistor is such a desirable place to live and that its housing market is thriving.

“We have a self-sufficient, proud community who look after each other and that spirit envelops itself everywhere,” explained Caistor ward councillor, Councillor Angela Lawrence, who is also vice chairman of West Lindsey District Council (WLDC).

“Residents never have to leave the town if they so choose. We have an excellent amount of local and quality shops, highly-rated schools and an incredible amount of history, heritage and leisure attractions.”

It is all thanks to the Townscape Heritage Initiative, which took place 10 years ago, that Caistor is enjoying a new lease of life and sense of pride.

According to ward councillor Councillor Owen Bierley, who is leader of WLDC, it was the transformative turning point for the town.

“Caistor went through this restoration project on the town and it completely transformed it. The scheme was completely transformational and the benefits are still in evidence today.

“The success of the market and the incredible amount of local, independent shops which sell products that people can buy nowhere else has all come on in leaps and bounds since the work was done in the town centre.”

Key buildings such as the former Magistrates’ Court House, which is now a charity shop, and the old Methodist Church, now an arts and heritage centre, underwent renovation and are now regarded as major assets within the town.

Caistor Arts and Heritage Centre accommodates the local library and heritage timeline and has a café and sunny terrace.

Upstairs you will discover local history displays, the well-stocked public library, and an exhibition gallery.
Dedicated to promoting arts and supporting local artists, the centre hosts two exhibitions each month, one in the Gallery room upstairs, the second in the café and stairwell.

The town is also lucky enough to have its own Community Cinema which was set up in 2018 following a crowdfunding campaign, and grants from the Lincolnshire Coop, West Lindsey, Caistor and District Lions and Tesco.

This, along with sponsorship from local businesses, raised more than £10,000 for equipment.

The cinema usually shows a film once a month either at Caistor Town Hall or occasionally outdoors in Caistor Park in the spring and summer. But over lockdown, it moved to only having open air and drive-in screenings.

Caistor town councillor, Councillor Michael Galligan said the town’s pride in its surroundings was a major attraction and keeping the town clean, tidy and litter-free were of paramount importance.

“From May to the end of October the town is adorned with beautiful flowers all planted and maintained by Caistor in Bloom volunteers,” he explained.

“When Caistor is in bloom it is incredible and I believe that community spirit is key, when everyone comes and ‘pulls on the oar together’ things happen and Caistor in Bloom is a massive example of that.

“We have an incredible amount of volunteers with various other groups, all of which help to produce overall better results and shared goals for the town, particularly so during the pandemic when we had 60 volunteers delivering food parcels. You would have to go a long way to beat the community spirit of Caistor.

“People have seen things improve and now they have joined in that enthusiasm. Nothing flourishes more than success and we are beginning to see more and more people becoming inspired by the great annual incremental improvement in our lovely town.”

There is a great selection of shops and businesses in and around the town so whatever the locals want and need is right there on their doorstep and it also has a flourishing post office.

For instance Drake’s Drum offers a selection of antiques, collectables, furniture and art to help homeowners create special and unique interiors.

Moriarty’s deals in rare and collectable books, and specialises in children’s literature and crime fiction. It also has a range of antiquarian books and fine bindings.

The delightfully named Pig & Poke is a home interiors and gift shop business with its very own coffee bar. It offers a unique and inspiring experience in the heart of Caistor Market Place and is an ideal place to enjoy locally homemade cakes, tea, coffee and cold drinks in a cosy and relaxed atmosphere.

With an outdoor seating area as well, it is perfect on a sunny day for the small groups of cyclists and walkers that visit the Wolds.

Being located in the Wolds makes Caistor a popular place for holiday makers who come to the area to explore what Lincolnshire has to offer from its coastal resorts to its countryside, which is recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Caistor Lakes’ multi-award winning leisure park is an independently owned site offering adult-only touring, luxury lodges and holiday homes and is an ideal base for visitors to the county. Guests can enjoy three well stocked fishing lakes and a platinum multi-award winning restaurant, bistro, bar and grill as well as seven acres of the picturesque Wolds. In fact everyone is welcome in the restaurant, whether staying on site or just passing through.

Caistor Lakes is also introducing four new lodges to the five-star leisure park, which will be new deluxe state-of-the-art models and will offer a premium holiday experience with the added luxury of a private Jacuzzi covered hot tub and multi-room air conditioning.

And there are plans in the pipeline for another caravan and leisure park to be built on land to the south of North Kelsey road which would also include a pub, restaurant, shop and supermarket.

Wolds View Touring Park, which is located close by, is also popular with holiday makers, especially those who want to avoid the busy seaside resorts and larger towns and cities.

It offers tranquil touring and luxurious glamping just for grown-ups in picturesque surroundings, with excellent facilities throughout, including underfloor heated wash-rooms, heated outdoor taps and the latest washer/dryers – not to mention an on-site coffee house.

Caistor’s popular Market Place is benefitting from new street furniture and new equipment for the market to support stall holders.

West Lindsey District Council was awarded a share of the Reopening High Streets Safely (RHSS)/Welcome Back Fund (WBF) scheme via the UK Government and the European Regional Development Fund, to help boost the look and feel of high streets.

The Market Place will now have additional seating and new picnic benches will be placed in the surrounding green space, along with new bins and cycle racks.

A new outdoor information board to keep local people and visitors up to date with the latest events and activities will also be installed.

Caistor Town Council are investing part of the funding for 10 new gazebos, 10 tables, a new canopy over the market equipment storage area, as well as new banners to advertise the market.

Carl Thomas, Caistor Town Clerk, said: “The improvements to Caistor, brought thanks to this funding, will continue to enhance the town for residents, visitors and businesses. So many people work so hard to make Caistor so welcoming and the improvements enforce this work.”

Market traders in Caistor meet weekly in the market square, which is in the heart of the conservation area, containing many Grade II listed buildings.

Market organiser, Councillor Jayne Bowman, said: “Caistor and the surrounding villages have an amazing wealth of local produce and crafts. The new market tables and gazebos will enable people from our community to bring their wares to market without the need to purchase or transport the bulky tables, plus the gazebos will offer protection from the sun and rain!

“We are very keen to promote and support our local traders, and reduce the carbon footprint in this vital step to regenerate the local market.”

The market is held every Saturday from 8am to 2pm.

West Lindsey District Councillor, Councillor Angela Lawrence, who represents Caistor said: “During the Covd-19 pandemic our market was vital in providing key produce to local people.

“The traders attend in all sorts of weather to support their regular customers and the new gazebos and tables will make a huge difference to them.

“The town already does a lot of work to make the centre presentable with hanging baskets and planters and so to be able to add to this by introducing more benches and cycle racks is just wonderful.”

In addition to the street scene public realm improvements, new sensor taps and infrared flushes have been installed at the public conveniences in the town as part of a wider scheme to improve the facilities across West Lindsey. This is also funded from the Welcome Back Fund.

Plans have been put forward for another caravan and leisure park to be built at Caistor.

A request for a screening opinion has been made to West Lindsey District Council for a proposed leisure and tourism development on land south of North Kesley Road.

Screening opinions usually precede full planning applications and assess whether specific reports will be needed as part of the development package – in this case, an Environmental Impact Assessment.

The park will be developed in three phases but once complete would have 350 static caravan plots, a two-storey pub and restaurant, a convenience store/supermarket, a two-storey leisure centre, a coffee shop, three fishing lakes, an ornamental pond and an ornamental lake.

The screening opinion would involve the extraction of up to 400,000 tonnes of sand which would be transported to Welton Quarry for use in concrete production.

The mineral extraction and associated site remediation is expected to take place over a four-year period and the sand will be replaced with quarry fines and stone.

The request has already received around 50 responses from local residents concerned over the impact of an increase in noise and traffic as well as the loss of the landscape and identity of Caistor.

Natural England has recommended that advice be sought from ecological, landscape and soils advisers, the local record centre, recording society or wildlife body to establish what environmental impacts the development may have on habitats, local wildlife sites or protected species – while an archaeological report says it has the potential of significantly impacting the historic environment including impacts on below ground assets of archaeological interest, the setting of above ground heritage assets as well as historic landscape character.

A resident who lives near the proposed site said the village did not have enough parking and already had traffic issues and that the site would risk losing evidence of Roman history around the area.

“I’m truly worried this development is going to change Caistor into a holiday camp,” he said.

Not all comments received by WLDC in relation to the application were against the proposals. Some residents felt it was a positive thing for Caistor.

One said: “I feel this could have a positive impact on the area. If open to the general public, the leisure centre, restaurant and pub could be a perfect central point for local families and communities. I embrace the change.”

Others thought it was a good idea.

“I think this is a fantastic idea! It will bring more job opportunities and visitors to Caistor. The water sports will be epic! And by leisure centre I hope that means a swimming pool as I would definitely be a regular customer,” one commented while another agreed saying: “I think this is a fantastic idea and would be brilliant for the expansion of Caistor, creating jobs and more leisure area for our enjoyment. We keep building houses but not creating the jobs/shops/leisure that goes along with it. I really hope this goes ahead.”

WLDC has referred the application to Lincolnshire County Council because any application to extract minerals from the site is considered a ‘county matter.’ And constitutes an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

The archaeological report also stated: “This is a sensitive location for the historic environment situated on gently rising land on the edge of the historic town of Caistor, with its designated Conservation Area and nationally important Roman remains designated as a Scheduled Monument.

“The Lincolnshire Historic Environment Record includes many known archaeological finds and features within and adjacent to the proposed development, which indicate that there is a high potential for heritage assets of archaeological interest to survive below ground here from prehistory through to the Roman period.

“The scale of potential ground impacts involved in the proposed development, particularly from the mineral extraction/lake creation (but also from other buildings, roads, and services) would mean that the destruction of archaeological remains is all but inevitable.”

It advised that the Environmental Impact Assessment should contain sufficient information to enable an informed planning decision to be made regarding the potential impacts on the historic environment.

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Caistor Lakes Leisure Park provides 28 adult-only touring pitches and 16 luxury lakeside lodges along with their own private hot tubs, beautiful pond side views and immaculate landscaped gardens. The privately owned site, set in the idyllic Lincolnshire Wolds, also boasts three well stocked fishing lakes, two of which are open for day ticket holders.

New for 2022 is The Ugly Duckling Restaurant at Caistor Lakes Leisure Park. The newly refurbished restaurant is open 7 days a week and offers a new comfy lounge area where you can switch off and relax with a cocktail or two and some light bites. The Ugly Duckling also offers a brand-new, mouth-watering menu including their popular Sunday roasts, which you can enjoy in their welcoming dining area.

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Photographs: Mick Fox

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