Making new connections for a thriving community

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
November 2021

Falling just outside the boundary with Cambridgeshire and just inside South Lincolnshire, there are a delightful group of historic villages which are collectively known as The Deepings. By Melanie Burton.

Just eight miles north of Peterborough, seven miles east of Stamford, and five miles south of Bourne, it comprises Market Deeping, Deeping St James and West Deeping.

Deeping St Nicholas is also part of the Deepings but it spreads eastwards towards the larger fenland market town of Spalding.

With an attractive, historical town centre, the Deepings has grown into a popular residential community with many residents boasting a proud ancestral heritage.

Residents in the Deepings have been able to have their say on how the area is developed over the next 15 years by overwhelmingly supporting a Neighbourhood Plan for Market Deeping and Deeping St James.

The plan was formally adopted by South Kesteven District Council in June following a referendum of residents a month earlier, which saw 90% of those that voted in favour of the plan.

“Our aim is to create functional, well-integrated new neighbourhoods by designing places that everyone can visit,” the Plan states.

“This new place will connect people through new routes and strong visual links. Residents will live among and enjoy abundant green space and large trees.
“A range of homes will ensure that living here appeals to as wide an audience as possible, so that a new community is formed.

“These new neighbourhoods will be calm, connected streets with good access that will encourage people to walk and cycle, and new links will mean people can move around sustainably.”

The Deepings have been highlighted for a thriving voluntary sector and seem to have a very good community spirit while the Deepings Business Community (Formerly Deepings Business Club) is keen to help drive and/or support initiatives whose aims are to benefit the community as a whole. It has already developed a Love Local campaign (Love Deepings) with the aim to retain local spend and attract visitors.

Market Deeping is the largest of The Deepings followed by the village of Deeping St James. It is a picturesque market village rich in culture and history, situated on the southern edge of the county. Dotted with stone buildings dating back to the 17th century, the town provides the perfect backdrop to its weekly market which has been held in the town centre since at least 1220.

Market Deeping is particularly famed for its wide range of restaurants on offer and has two notable fish and chip shops: The Boundary, which won the East of England Fish and Chip Shop of the Year award in 2007, and Linfords which was one of seven runners-up in the National Fish and Chip Awards in 2012. Additionally, the town has Italian, Thai, British, Nepalese, Indian and American restaurants, and a rustic themed wine bar.

There are regular bus services to Bourne, Stamford and Peterborough, making Market Deeping a suitable destination for visitors on foot.

Market Deeping offers a range of independent retailers, a small supermarket and an industrial estate offering an array of services and industry to the local community. But though boasting many local amenities the area retains an unspoilt historical country outlook with a welcoming feel and low crime rate.

A mile up the road is Deeping St James which is the next largest village in the Deepings and is home to the largest church. The Grade I listed Anglican Church of St James is based around a now lost 12th-century Benedictine Priory, destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

This picturesque village lies on the river Welland, in the middle of rich agricultural land. It has a population of nearly 7,000.

Also located close to the village is Deeping Lakes Nature Reserve, also known as Deeping Gravel Pits, which is a local nature reserve with an area of more than 180 acres.

The largest lake was excavated in the 19th century and since developed naturally while the two smaller lakes date from the 1990s. In 1848 the site was used as a brickworks. Gravel extraction started in 1870. The large lake and one formerly known as ‘the Mere’ were quarried to provide stone for the Great Northern Railway. The Mere was originally transformed by its owner, Richard Thompson, who planted trees and added fish stocks to the lake, which became a tourist attraction.

The Lake and The Mere were designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1968. The large lake was purchased by Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust in 2003 and the site is known for its wildfowl and waterbirds as well as rare plants.

Although the separate cut for the Stamford Canal did not start until upstream of Market Deeping, Briggin’s lock (or the Deeping High lock) was an important part of the Welland Navigation, and is still in place in Deeping St James but is not navigable.

West Deeping is the smallest of The Deepings group of villages situated around the A1175 road, with a population of 277.

The Deepings have a long and rich history as thriving communities and fortunately many buildings remain today as testament to that proud heritage. Both Market Deeping’s fine Georgian Church Street and Market Place reflect the impressive growth of the Deepings, with a combined population of over 2,000 by 1801.

The Deepings continued to develop in the 19th century. The river trade and the two bridges made the Deepings vibrant and wealthy. The 1960s saw another period of rapid expansion, filling the fields with houses, businesses and services.
In 1998 the bypass opened and eased the traffic through these ancient settlements, helping to preserve their ancient heritage.

The Deepings continue to thrive and to be independent, proud and friendly communities.

The parish church of St James in Deeping St James is within the Diocese of Lincoln. The village also has a Roman Catholic Church, two Baptist Churches and a Methodist Church.

The Deepings boast four primary schools and one secondary school, which also houses the Deepings Leisure Centre.
Throughout the Neighbourhood Plan consultation process, many issues have been raised to be addressed in a way that will contribute to achieving the overall vision: ‘By 2036 Market Deeping and Deeping St James will have grown as a vibrant community, embracing local characteristics’.

Market Deeping has got its Post Office back seven months after it closed following the resignation of the temporary postmaster. It reopened early in October in the Spar shop on Goodsey Lane offering 74 hours of Post Office service a week, which are significantly longer opening hours than before.

Customers of main UK banks can access accounts at the new branch and services include bill payment, cash withdrawals and foreign currency, postage, home shopping collections and returns.

Matt Hatfull, Post Office provision lead, said: “We are delighted to be restoring Post Office services as we know how important a Post Office is to a community.”

Residents from The Deepings have been asked to get involved in celebrations for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Buckingham Palace has announced plans to celebrate the weekend of 2nd-5th June next year by lighting a “chain of flames” across the world. It is thought that more than 1,500 beacons will be lit throughout the UK and UK Overseas Territories, and one in each of the capital cities of Commonwealth countries in recognition of The Queen’s 70-year reign.

The palace says it hopes the beacons will “provide a lasting reminder of this historic moment in the history of The Queen’s reign” and any communities taking part will receive a certificate of thanks.

There are three types of beacon that residents could band together to build – a free-standing beacon with bottled gas, a brazier with a metal shield or a bonfire beacon.

Official guidance suggests that beacons could be built by local craftsmen, or adopted as a project by a school or council.

A Palace spokesman said: “This could well be the last chain of beacons lit during The Queen’s reign, so we want to make it the largest and most dramatic the world has ever seen. We do hope therefore, that you will help us achieve this by taking part in lighting a beacon at 9.15pm on June 2nd, 2022.”

Deepings Leisure Centre has been given a lifeline after South Kesteven District Council voted in favour of exploring proposals to invest around £6.3 million to save and improve it, securing improved leisure facilities for the next 25 years.

After listening to the views of the local community and their desire to retain the existing leisure centre building for future generations, the Leader of South Kesteven District Council, Councillor Kelham Cooke, put forward revised recommendations to the Extraordinary Council Meeting.

The revised recommendations came after a new initial assessment made by Paul Weston Architects and Chartered Quantity Surveyors Castons Cost Consultants estimated an investment of £6.3 million could not only bring the building back into safe operation but could improve the facility and secure a good standard of leisure provision for the next 25 years.

Leader of South Kesteven District Council, Councillor Kelham Cooke, said: “The Deepings Leisure Centre is an important asset at the heart of the local community.

“After listening to the many heartfelt stories and concerns from local people since the Cabinet was asked to review the building condition report, it is apparent this building means far too much to the community to allow it to close without exploring every possible option.

“Patching up the building was simply not a viable or sensible option, so we commissioned a further expert assessment to consider whether further investment could not only fix the immediate health and safety concerns and save the building from closure, but also provide substantial improvements for the local community and significantly extend the building’s life.

“I am hopeful that the further investigations can deliver the best possible outcome – securing a good and improved leisure centre in the Deepings for many years to come, as quickly as possible, and retaining the building that means so much to the community.”

The Council vote confirmed that the Deepings Leisure Centre will remain closed due to the known health and safety risks and a full structural survey will be completed, and refurbishment options brought forward in order to assess the level of work necessary to remedy the health and safety issues, and further extend the operational life of the current Leisure Centre.

While the final decision on the investment has not yet been made, the vote will offer hope to the community and clubs that use the facility. If the investment is finally approved the leisure centre will, however, need to remain closed for approximately 12 months while the necessary investigations and works are procured and completed.

Opportunities will continue to be explored to redeploy LeisureSK staff during this time.

Lincolnshire County Council has confirmed that The Deepings School will also be supported to ensure they have a suitable venue for exams and PE lessons in the short term.

Work will also continue to ensure outdoor leisure activities on Linchfield Road Playing Fields carry on while the leisure centre building is closed. The centre had been forced to remain closed due to serious health and safety concerns since 27th July, where the rapid deterioration of the building was highlighted after heavy rainfall caused significant damage to the roof, widespread water ingress throughout the building, and lights in the pool hall were affected.

An initial building condition survey estimated that more than £1.2million worth of remedial work would be required just to bring the centre back into safe operation. This included a complete replacement of the roof structure as well as replacing the original oil boilers, one of which was already beyond repair.

A Deepings family-owned farm reached a remarkable milestone recently by raising £2 million for local wildlife conservation.

Vine House Farm at Deeping St Nicholas, includes a huge 100-acre field of sunflowers. The Farm, which is run by farmer and conservationist Nicholas Watts and his family, has been raising money for The Wildlife Trusts for the last 14 years.

This year, thanks to its mail-order customers, Vine House Farm has announced that it has raised an incredible £2 million in donations through sales of their seeds.

The black sunflower seeds are used by the farm in their wild bird food mixes along with other seeds like millet and canary seed, which are also grown on the farm.

Thanks to hedges, ponds, and wildflower margins at the sunflower field edges, the family-run farm is also a haven for flocks of wild birds, including declining tree sparrows and red-listed linnets and lapwing.

With every sale of their home-grown seed mixes, the family donates 4% to The Wildlife Trust. This is used by a network of Wildlife Trusts to support wildlife conservation projects in the local area and around the UK.

Lucy Taylor, manager at Vine House Farm, and Nicholas’ daughter said: “Our partnership with The Wildlife Trusts has long been very important to us. Along with the practical measures we take on the farm to, for example, to reverse the trend of declining songbird numbers; a percentage of each purchase of Vine House Farm bird seed goes to support

Wildlife Trusts, enabling a greater conservation impact across the country.

“The Wildlife Trusts have always been the obvious choice for us to champion, and it’s been a proud time for me, my father and all our family to be able to reach the two-million-pound milestone. Now we look forward to the future and being able to eventually reach five million and more.”

Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts said: “Through their own love of wildlife, and working for nature, Nicholas Watts and his family have enabled many other people to experience the joy of nature in their homes and gardens and in doing so to provide fantastic support to the work of Wildlife Trusts.

“Vine House Farm’s magnificent long-term support for The Wildlife Trusts means we’ve been able to restore wildflower meadows, and wetlands, and enable more people to feel the health and wellbeing benefits of connecting with nature.

Customers of Vine House Farm who are feeding their garden birds are playing an important part too, helping wildlife thrive to support nature’s recovery.

“We are extremely grateful to Nicholas and his family for their support and look forward to working with them for many years to come.”

Nicholas Watts said: “Summer sees adult birds moult, shedding their old feathers and growing new ones, which takes a lot of energy, so birds still need feeding. Sources of natural food, like insects, are declining, and in dry weather worms retreat deeper into the soil. Putting out plump sultanas, soaked in water, means young birds can get vital moisture.

“Watch who visits your garden, whether they’re ground feeders or prefer perching on trees or shrubs and offer a variety of food, so each bird gets what it needs from seeds to suet, or mealworms.”

Consistently voted one of the top 10 fish and chip shops in the UK, Linfords Traditional Fish & Chips is a multi award-winning shop in Market Deeping which offers a wide choice of quality menus for all tastes.

As well as perfectly cooked traditional fish and chips (with a gluten-free option), you can choose from the special Kids’ menu, enjoy juicy Southern Fried chicken, succulent burgers with a choice of filling, as well as sausages plus a selection of Grasmere pies – and why not add their delicious homemade mushy peas?

Linfords offers cod, haddock and plaice cooked in three different ways; fried in the traditional light golden batter, floured or simply steamed. All fish is sourced from well managed and sustainable waters of the Barents Sea, north of Norway, the North Atlantic, off the coast of Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Their chips are prepared daily from potatoes grown in the fertile Lincolnshire fens.

Open for Click & Collect, as well as walk-ins, Linfords is open Monday 4pm-8.30pm, Tuesday to Thursday 11.30am-2pm and 4pm-8.30pm, Friday and Saturday 11.30am-9pm and Sunday 12pm-8pm. For more information visit

Photographs: Mick Fox

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