Life along the edge

Words by:
Glynis Fox
Featured in:
September 2015

Old and new blend in perfect harmony to create Lincolnshire’s picturesque and thriving cliff villages.
Together they form an attractive cluster of destinations, spaced at regular intervals along an escarpment known as the Lincoln Edge. They are also close to the Viking Way and the old Ermine Street.

Waddington, Harmston, Coleby, Boothby Graffoe, Navenby, Wellingore, Leadenham and Welbourn are all within easy reach of Lincoln and Grantham.

All have their own distinctive character and charm. Some are vibrant community hubs, while others have a quieter nature. Many retain traces of their fascinating history and all were mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086.

Welbourn is built under the escarpment rather than on it, so this welcoming, pretty village, with its lovely duck pond, is largely on the level. Much of it lies in a conservation area.

It has a number of street scenes which reflect its history. For instance, the Co-op Cottages – a stone-built and slate-tiled terrace of five cottages – are where Sir William Robertson, a famous son of the village, was born.

Stately Welbourn Manor – a late medieval stone building standing in its own grounds – has survived over the years. Today it is a nursing home offering respite care.

The nineteenth-century Blacksmith’s Forge, which served many surrounding farms also still stands, with all of its original equipment. Volunteers today give smithing demonstrations.

At Castle Hill, to the north of the village are the earthwork remains of Welbourn Castle. It would once have dominated the surrounding area. In 1998 Welbourn Parish Council received a grant from the Heritage Memorial Fund to buy Castle Hill Field and villagers have put much effort into preserving this historic site.

Clerk to the Parish Council, Malcolm McBeath said: “We do our best to maintain this medieval site, which is known as a ringwork because of its historical significance.

“Welbourn has the benefit of the A607 passing close by the village without actually going through it, so we can preserve a lovely village atmosphere. We have a thriving shop/post office and a good local pub, the Joiner’s Arms, which has just changed hands.”

Welbourn has a good primary school and a large secondary school named after the reputed Field Marshal William Robertson, who served in the First World War. Mr McBeath said many of the villagers work outside of the village, but still in the locality.

“Househam Sprayers in Leadenham is an international crop spraying company and there is also a lot of work in the area for people who work in the light engineering firms which have contracts for North Sea oil rigs.”

Welbourn, in common with other local parish councils, is busy working on its Neighbourhood Plan – a national initiative looking at easing the countywide housing shortage.

“There is a pressure to add more houses but we have to strike the right balance by keeping the unique nature of the village,” added Mr McBeath.

Many historians believe that nearby Navenby was a significant staging point on the Roman Ermine Street. Historically, there was brief period when Navenby achieved market town status. It received its Charter in the eleventh century from Edward the Confessor, later reverting back to a village.

Navenby is a small hub of commercial activity. It has a well-known artisan bakery and a busy butcher’s shop, as well as an eclectic mix of other retail outlets. You can also eat out at establishments such as the King’s Head pub or Macy’s Brasserie.

The Venue, a relatively new addition to the village, serves as a community centre and community office. Among its facilities, it has a main hall, pre-school room and a club room. Activities taking place at The Venue range from carpet bowls to yoga classes, community choir sessions and ninjitsu, along with bridge and drama club meetings.

Clerk to the parish Council, Ruth Keller said The Venue continues to go from strength to strength: “It has been a success ever since it opened and we recently hosted an Outreach Activity Day in its car park. The team from The Venue brought along a mobile climbing wall, mobile skate park, free bound and play outreach with activities for all.”

One of Navenby’s best-loved attractions, Mrs Smith’s Cottage, is currently closed while structural works are assessed for renovation.

Coleby, which is home to about 500 people, is an ancient village which knew Roman, Saxon and Danish settlers before the Norman Conquest of 1066. Today, it has a lively community spirit and there’s more going on than at first meets the eye.

The village boasts two pubs: The Bell – which is situated in a sleepy cul-de-sac not far from the Grade 1 listed Anglican Church, which is dedicated to All Saints – and The Tempest Arms.

Clerk to the Parish Council, Sue Makinson Sanders said: “Coleby is a village with a whole host of community activities. We have a bi-monthly gardeners’ club, our car boot sales remain ever popular and we have our Harvest Festival to look forward to.

“We also push the boat out for our Annual Coleby Ball which takes place in a marquee on the Playing Fields on 17th October.

“The idea for a ball began with the dawn of the new millennium and it proved a big hit. It is a proper black-tie affair and this year we have a live band, disco and a three-course meal.”

Another community-inspired initiative that has really taken off is the coffee-and-library session that is held on the second Wednesday of each month. Villager, Lynda Fletcher is the driving force behind this venture.

“It was while visiting friends that I saw a similar event taking place in their village and I thought, ‘What a good idea’. It fills a social need in the village and we get together over proper coffee and have cookies and cakes and swap books,” she said.

Lynda secured a real coup for the library club last month when bestselling author Stephen Booth gave an informal talk to the group.

“Ours is definitely not a ‘shush, shush’ library. It’s about chatting over good coffee and books and recommending new titles to each other. I am a big fan of Stephen Booth’s Cooper and Fry crime novels, so are some of the other people in the village, so it was really exciting when he said he would come over and chat to us about his work,” she said.

Wellingore has the Viking Way running through it and its largest building is Wellingore Hall – the eighteenth-century home of the Nevilles, who abandoned their ancestral home at Aubourn to move to their new dwelling.

Wellingore was also the home of Second World War poet John Gillespie Magee when he was a Spitfire pilot serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force, and where he flew from on the day he died. Gillespie is particularly remembered for his acclaimed sonnet ‘High Flight’, penned a few months before his death.

Wellingore is home to The Marquis of Grand and Red Lion pubs, and other small businesses, which attract people from miles around. Its lively community activities include Books and Butties and a Spinners and Weavers Group.

On 5th September, Wellingore Memorial Hall plays host to the Cliff Villages’ Garden and Produce Show, a traditional country event with a twist.

Harmston was once a largely agricultural community and Harmston Hall was by far the grandest home in the village. It was built in 1710 as a manor house for Sir Charles Thorold, a former Lord Mayor of London. Today the village pub still bears the Thorold name.

In 1930 the nature of the Hall changed completely when it became part of a mental health hospital complex. It closed in 1990 and eventually the whole site was bought. It became a private residence and an housing estate was also developed.

One of the largest and busiest of the cliff villages is Waddington which with its hilltop location – and a lower section off Brant Road – can seem more like two different places.

Many people think of Waddington as being self-contained, thanks to its numerous shops and other businesses. On the doorstep, is one of the UK’s major air bases, RAF Waddington, which was founded in 1916. Over the years it has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors to its thrilling airshows. Alterations and renovations to its runways and facilities have led to a temporary ‘break’, but many people hope the shows will soon be back.

Leadenham is another busy village, with a variety of businesses. Its name is originally thought to have come from the Anglo-Saxon ‘Leodan’ and ‘Ham’ for homestead. At one time, much of the village belonged to the Reeve family, whose family seat was Leadenham House.

Today the village is a popular stopping-off point for those wishing to sample the food and drink served at The George, which is well-known for its collection of more than 700 whiskies, collected over the past thirty-five years.

Leadenham also boasts something completely different from its neighbours, a polo club. It opened in 2007, providing great facilities for people interested in taking up the sport, as well as experienced players.

Leadenham Polo Club has a purpose-built laser levelled field and a selection of ponies, brought over from Argentina. The clubhouse also has overnight facilities.

Perhaps the smallest of the cliff villages is Boothby Graffoe. Its Grade II-listed Anglican Church dedicated to St Andrew is its dominant feature and to the west of the village lies the earthwork remains of Somerton Castle.

With over twenty years of experience in the interior design and soft furnishings industry, when Heather Hocking took the bold step of opening her own studio she knew what she wanted to offer her customers. Her ethos of affordability, quality and individual, top-class service has seen her go from strength to strength and as she approaches her second anniversary a visit to Aitch Interiors is a must.

Open Tuesday to Friday 10 till 5 at No 4, The Stables, Wellingore Hall it stocks a wealth of products from fabric and wallpaper companies including Sanderson, Morris & Co, Osborne & Little, Art of the Loom, Clarke & Clarke and many more.

One customer said: “There is always a friendly and attentive welcome from Heather at Aitch Interiors. We found her charming, helpful and full of creative and inspirational ideas – she helps you realise what you want and then delivers it for you.

“Her studio is always a joy to visit with a fine and ever expanding range of furnishings and materials that would grace any home. We have been overjoyed at the work she and her team of professionals have done for us and they have our unreserved recommendation.”

Call into Aitch Interiors and experience an ‘Aladdin’s cave’ of furniture, fabrics, wallpapers, table lamps and occasional chairs in the calming envionment of Wellingore Hall.

Navenby Business Network started life in May 2014 and members meet regularly to share ideas and discuss a range of topics.

Chairman (and a founder member) David Clarke said the group has already grown to have fifty-five members, but it is keen to expand and welcome more over the coming months.

“We meet on the last Tuesday of the month in the upstairs room at The Lion & Royal in Navenby, at 6pm, when people have the opportunity to introduce themselves and hear a presentation from one or two other members,” said David.

“We also have a discussion about a topic of interest, which can be anything from pensions to social media, and we end with time for networking.”

Members include a mix of business owners, including those running home-based enterprises. They include internet marketing, interiors and antiques specialists, beauticians, hairdressers, photographers and a veterinary practice.

Leadenham is home to one of the best-known of the cliff village pubs: The George Hotel. Run by the Willgoose family since the 1970s, it is famed for its collection of more than 700 whiskies – with the most expensive wee dram costing £500 a tot!

Mike and Karin Willgoose’s collection not only features Scottish and Irish whiskies, but others from around the world, including whiskies distilled in Japan and India.

The George also has five letting rooms and serves breakfasts, lunches and evening meals every day – including a Sunday carvery featuring five different meats.

The hostelry, with its popular Stable Bar venue, is also well-known for hosting everything from weddings to arts and music events, one of the most popular being A Day of Lincolnshire Folk – which took place at the beginning of August.

Mr Wildgoose said: “The George Hotel continues to be very busy and this year we played host to 600 people at the folk festival.”

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