Making the most of town’s assets
Grantham offers the best of both rural and urban worlds, being surrounded by peaceful countryside whilst having access to excellent rail, road and air connections. By Melanie Burton.
With an expanding town centre, indoor shopping centres and edge-of-town retail outlets, Grantham has plenty to offer visitors, workers and residents alike.
As the town slowly recovers from the impact of the pandemic, the future looks positive with High Street regeneration, road network improvements and new businesses all on the cards.
A bid for more than £5.5m of funding to regenerate Grantham’s town centre was secured by InvestSK and South Kesteven District Council from the government’s Future High Streets programme to help reinvent Grantham’s high street and boost the vitality of the area.
The proposals include transforming the access gateway into the town, converting empty retail units into new homes and workplaces, and investing in other vital infrastructure and public realm enhancements.
Councillor Kelham Cooke, chairman of InvestSK and Leader of South Kesteven District Council, said: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create the next phase of Grantham’s growth, making it an even better place where people want to live, work and visit.
“Grantham has so many incredible assets but, like many towns, it faces challenges. The Future High Streets programme will boost our local economy and provide a better quality of life and experience for all.”
Traffic congestion has been a big issue in Grantham but work on the final section of the town’s £102m southern relief road is underway. When opened, it will stretch for 3.5km, linking the A52 at Somerby Hill to the A1. Lincolnshire County Council expects to have the entire relief road open by the end of 2023. The project aims to reduce congestion, disruption, and delays; create a safer, more attractive and accessible town centre; provide opportunities for growth and reduce carbon emissions and noise pollution.
CONSULTATION ON RAIL CONNECTIONS
One reason for Grantham’s popularity is its easy access to neighbouring towns and cities thanks to its location on the A1 road network and the East Coast mainline rail service.
Being on the Liverpool-Norwich and Skegness-Nottingham lines too means east-west travel is easy and the high-speed rail service means it takes around 20 minutes to get to Peterborough and just over an hour to travel to the capital.
Currently the town benefits from 33 trains each weekday to London King’s Cross. But London North Eastern Railway is proposing a new timetable from May 2022 and commuters from Grantham have been given the opportunity to have their say.
The key proposals would see Grantham benefit from 40 trains each weekday to London King’s Cross, 16 trains each day to Darlington and Newcastle, up from three a day, and a new hourly service to York.However, there is also a proposed reduction in trains each weekday to Stevenage – from 26 to 18 trains per day; Newark North Gate – from 17 to 12; and Retford – from 11 trains to five.
LNER trains from Grantham to Newark are proposed to run every other hour and the Grantham to Retford service is proposed not to run during off-peak hours but will be served by a Hull Trains service every other hour.
David Horne, LNER managing director, said: “The consultation gave us the opportunity to hear the views of customers and communities across LNER’s route on the proposed improvements we’d like to make from next May, including faster services and more seats between London, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh.
“We are confident of the future of long-distance rail travel on the East Coast route and that, by delivering to our customers the full benefit of our new trains and upgraded tracks, we can help level-up and connect the country, protect the environment and support our communities and destinations.”
A report will be published by LNER on the responses given during the consultation and any changes the company will make in response from May 2022 or later timetable changes.
MAIN EVENTS FOR AUTUMN
As well as the retail offer, Grantham also has a vibrant food and drink scene with an array of cafés, bistros and restaurants, which are all now working hard to get back to business as usual, and events which attract thousands of people to the town such as the biannual Gravity Fields Festival, which celebrates one of the world’s greatest thinkers, Sir Isaac Newton who was born in the area. Like many events, it fell victim to the pandemic and last year’s event was postponed. Consideration was given to it taking place this year but for a number of reasons SKDC decided it was better to leave it until 2022.
That said, the town has still been able to enjoy an entertaining autumn season of shows and screenings for all the family at arts venues in the district.
Councillor Rosemary Trollope-Bellew, Cabinet Member for Culture and Visitor Economy at SKDC, said: “Surveys across the country have all indicated just how much audiences have missed attending live performances and shared experiences. Audience support will play a huge part in the successful recovery of the sector following the period of closure.”
There are big names heading to Grantham this season too with the return of Meres Live events at Grantham’s Meres Leisure Centre including Jason Manford (16th October) and Milton Jones (12th November).
More laughs are guaranteed with the return to Grantham of the Funhouse Comedy Club and La Voix, the UK’s most glamorous musical comedy performer (29th October).
Drama also returns to the Grantham stage with Death by Design ‘A Comedy with Murder’ (Guildhall Theatre, 14th-16th October), presented by St Peter’s Hill Players.
And a new generation of explorers is set to discover Grantham thanks to a major national and international tourism project.
The town, along with Stamford, is highlighted as a destination on the Explorer’s Road – a project promoting quintessentially English cultural and historic attractions along the A1 from Newcastle to Hertfordshire.
Originally aimed at the international market, the project was hit by air travel disruption during the pandemic so is now focused on domestic tourism.
The route is funded by the Discover England Fund and includes 16 local tourism sites including gardens, stately homes, tours of Stamford, Grantham Museum, hotels and visitor cottages, luxury glamping, an alpaca farm and a specialist horse carriage driving business.
Councillor Trollope-Bellew said: “The Great North Road is a route travelled by the English for 2,000 years. The Explorer’s Road highlights reasons to turn off the beaten track and discover the wealth of amazing local places to visit in a Covid-safe manner, some of them truly unique and best kept secrets.”
The Explorer’s Road is being promoted by the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative (NGI), which has partnered with London North Eastern Railway (LNER) to offer rail travel options alongside state-of-the-art online booking for visitor locations.
PLANS FOR DOWNTOWN DESIGNER OUTLET VILLAGE
Grantham’s retail offering has been given a massive boost with the news that it is to get a new £125 million designer outlet centre on the edge of town.
In partnership with Freeport Retail, Downtown wants to redevelop its existing site at Gonerby Moor, off the A1 north of Grantham to build the Downtown Grantham Designer Outlet which promises to create about 1,700 jobs and bring 107 individual designer outlet stores to the area.
Alongside the 107 shops, there will be 1,789 car parking spaces, a tourist information and visitor centre, training centre, offices, cafés and other leisure facilities.
Managing director of Oldrids and Downtown, Richard Broadbent said: “We are delighted that our plans for a £125m designer outlet centre, which could create more than 1,700 jobs, have been approved by South Kesteven District Council’s planning committee.
“Working in partnership with Grantham there are many opportunities to build strong relationships with local tourist attractions and venues. This will ensure that the local economy benefits from the millions of visitors to the area each year.
“Our plans are to redevelop the site at Grantham to facilitate the introduction of a 220,435 sq ft Designer Outlet and to consolidate and enhance the existing retail offer.”
The proposals also include a brand new railway station creating a seven-minute travel time link to Grantham Town Centre, a new park and ride service and new indoor leisure provision bringing new attractions to the area.
Founded in 1804, Oldrids & Downtown have a proud heritage spanning more than 200 years. Starting out as a draper’s store in Boston the company has continued to grow and innovate over time.
Oldrids & Downtown were one of the first businesses in the UK to develop edge of town retailing in the 1970s. This application is the second for a retail village in Grantham following that made by Rioja for a £100 million designer retail village between the A1 and Spittlegate Level which is now under construction.
Just under a fifth of the first phase Grantham Designer Outlet Village is already under offer to some of the UK and the world’s most desirable brands.
The second phase is set to bring a further 50 internationally recognised brands.
Grantham Designer Outlet Village will be the UK’s only premium outlet with a visible frontage and direct access from the A1 – the UK’s third busiest highway – and owners Rioja says it is expected to attract 3.5 million visitors annually.
Grantham is lucky enough to have its very own World War 1 memorial park which is officially one of the very best parks in Britain.
Having earned a prestigious Green Flag Award for the sixth year running, Wyndham Park has a mix of large areas of open land and formal grounds, and a multitude of leisure and social opportunities. Its town centre location next to the Riverside Walk means it is hugely popular with both locals and visitors.
In 2018, Wyndham Park Forum and park owner South Kesteven District Council received support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund for a project aimed at restoring the park to its former glory as a First World War memorial park.
The park and its features underwent major refurbishment with a new visitor centre, enhanced landscaping and refurbished memorial buildings.
The formal park and play areas cover almost 10 acres of the site and the River Witham is a major feature of the park running the length of it from south to north.
There is also a sensory garden, an outdoor water play facility, a model boating lake, a bowling green, tennis courts, outdoor table tennis tables, a gym and a café.
It also has a memorial sculpture commissioned to mark the centenary of the Great War 1914-17, an arch built in 1935 as a memorial to the men who trained at nearby Belton Park and a shelter built in 1929 which houses a memorial to all Grantham military personnel who died in World War 1.
And the tribute to our war heroes continues with one of the latest additions to the park being the Grantham’s Heroes Commemorative Orchard which was officially opened in September to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem (17th-26th September 1944) as one of the local military connections which prompted the orchard planting.
Covid-19 has prevented an official ceremony since 75 trees were planted in March 2020 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII.
But benches have since been installed with information boards explaining Grantham’s role in WWII milestones, including the iconic 617 Squadron Dambusters Raid co-ordination from nearby St Vincent’s Hall and D-Day American action from giant airfields around Grantham.
Another board illustrates the local build-up and training of airborne troops before their assault on the Rhine bridges, immortalised in the film A Bridge Too Far, with a Visitor Centre display by the Barkston Heath Research Group.
More than £15,000 was raised through crowdfunding co-ordinated by South Kesteven District Council, which leases the land from the National Trust and itself contributed £5,615.
Councillor Annie Mason, SKDC Cabinet Member for People and Safer Communities said: “The orchard is a long-term project but we are looking forward to events such as apple days and community involvement in the future.
“We are hoping that individuals, businesses and schools who donated and planted trees can come and see how well it’s developed as a living tribute to British forces and our wartime allies.”
Ian Simmons, chair of the Wyndham Park Forum, whose volunteers care for the orchard, said: “The orchard has created an amazing public open space and an information and education tool for important events that we should take pride in.”
Originally donated to the people of Grantham by the Crown, the area the park occupies was known as a Belton Fields, then Slate Mill Recreation Ground.
Wyndham Park was opened in 1924 as the town’s war memorial and named in honour of Lt Hon William Reginald Wyndham, 1st Life Guards, who was killed in action in 1914.
As well as its Green Flag status, the park also received Green Heritage Site accreditation last year from Historic England in recognition of its heritage management and maintenance and was awarded Centenary Fields status in 2019 by Fields in Trust which works with the Royal British Legion to protect parks and open spaces in perpetuity to honour the millions who lost their lives in WW1.
50 YEARS AT HARLAXTON MANOR
Harlaxton College, the overseas study centre of the University of Evansville, marked its 50th anniversary with an anniversary open day at Harlaxton Manor.
Since September 1971, Harlaxton Manor near Grantham has hosted thousands of students each year from across the United States of America. Students enjoy a semester living and studying in a beautiful and inspirational setting while learning about British life and culture.
As well as a private celebration for staff, students, volunteers and alumni, Harlaxton Manor hosted a spectacular 50th Anniversary House & Gardens Open Day on 26th September.
For one day only, visitors were able to discover each of the manor’s magnificent state rooms as well as its ornate hallways, imposing lobby and it’s awe-inspiring central staircase – for the first time since 2019.
A team of Harlaxton College student ambassadors guided visitors around the manor, sharing insights into its history as well as sharing their experiences of learning at the manor.
Holly Carter, principal of Harlaxton College said: “We’re very excited to be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Harlaxton College. For half a century, the University of Evansville has cared for this amazing manor, welcoming thousands of students to live, learn and make wonderful memories in these incredible surroundings.
“Of course, we couldn’t have succeeded without the ongoing support of our staff, volunteers and local residents, especially the local community who have been so welcoming to all the students and visitors. I’d like to thank them for all that they’ve done and continue to do.
“Although we’ve loved inviting members of the community to explore our grounds and gardens since Covid restrictions relaxed, we’ve not been able to let visitors inside the manor itself, until now. On 26th September, that changed and we opened the doors to host our first full open day in two years.
“As we look ahead to the future, we hope to create new opportunities for learning, supporting our local community, improving sustainability and caring for the manor’s amazing historical and environment assets. We’re also exploring new ways for people to experience and appreciate Harlaxton Manor and we’ll be sharing details of new events and activities soon.”Harlaxton Manor was built in 1851 for Nottinghamshire businessman and landowner, Gregory Gregory.
Having had several owners throughout its history, and having been used by the RAF during World War Two, the manor welcomed its first students as Harlaxton College in 1971. In 1986, the manor was given as a gift to the University of Evansville by its then owner, Dr William Ridgeway, enabling its continued use as an overseas study centre.
To learn more about the manor, its history and about other upcoming events visit www.harlaxton.co.uk
You can also learn more about the student experience at Harlaxton College at www.harlaxton.evansville.edu
A TASTE OF INDIA
A hidden gem in the centre of Grantham, The Leaf, which has earned a coveted five-star rating from Tripadvisor, prides itself on offering an authentic taste of southern Indian cuisine specialising in many favourite crisp, aromatic and tangy recipes from Kerala, alongside Indo-Chinese and north Indian dishes.
Known by India’s discerning foodies as “God’s own country”, the region of Kerala in southern India is considered as the source of some of the world’s most famous and flavoursome dishes and the dedicated team at The Leaf, which seats 60 diners, more than deliver on helping diners explore the many options on its mouth-watering authentic menu, where every dish is cooked with care.
Don’t miss its special Christmas menu! Ideal for vegetarians and vegans, as well as meat-lovers, The Leaf’s experienced chef/owner Ram Kumar works his magic with a fusion of flavours featuring chicken, mutton, beef and fish, together with a variety of seafood accompanied by a wide wine selection, for a complete Indian dining experience – but not as you know it!
The Leaf, 15 Westgate, Grantham NG31 6LT
Reservations Tel: 07833 338900
BOUTIQUE ACCOMMODATION AND SPA FOR BUSINESS OR LEISURE
If you’re looking for the ideal place to unwind, relax and rejuvenate while also enjoying comfortable spa facilities, Honington Grange, home to four luxurious self-catering cottages just outside Grantham, is the latest ‘go to’ retreat.
Owned by the Coney family, visitors can now also benefit from a range of beauty treatments, including microneedling from a leading London trained therapist, CACI treatments from a top therapist with over 30 years’ experience, as well as sports and holistic massages from the highly experienced team.
The cottages, which have been tastefully converted from stone barns and buildings to provide sumptuous boutique accommodation, comprise three luxurious two-bedroom holiday homes plus nearby April Cottage with three bedrooms with all the comfort and flexibility of self-catering for visitors.
The cottages are packed with contemporary comforts such as underfloor heating, leather sofas, fur throws and tartan furnishings with flatscreen TVs, Wi-Fi, fully equipped kitchens, hotel quality bathrooms, laundry facilities, stylish crockery, cutlery and modern glassware. Large patio doors open onto private patios and lovely garden and courtyard views providing a stylish home from home.
Across the peaceful courtyard, you will find two inspiring meeting rooms providing a great setting for daytime business meetings, with the oak-trusses of the conference room and the modern glass-walled boardroom connected by the reception atrium. They are also perfect rooms for small special occasions, wedding receptions, christenings or parties.
The cottages are available, for short breaks and longer lets for business or to bridge between house purchases by arrangement.
For more information visit www.honingtongrange.co.uk or contact Tracey or Wendy at Honington Grange on 01400 259429 for availability and bookings.
THE RISE OF TANGIBLE ASSESTS
In the wake of several lockdowns, investing in high end luxury watches has never been bigger and the brand on everyone’s lips is Rolex, with some new models fetching over five times their original price. Pre-owned watches have been their own entity in regard to investment.
There are few luxury watches in existence more widely regarded as wearable investments than the Rolex Submariner.
With the majority coming to a standstill throughout the lockdown periods, the watch world was buzzing with sales of pre-owned watches increasing.
2020 was a huge year for Rolex, discontinuing all existing 40mm models of the Submariner and rolling out a whole new line of models with 41mm cases.
Another model to catch the eye of collectors and investors alike was the newly 2020 released 41mm version of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual, available in a range of retro vibrant colours – the turquoise blue version of the 41mm ref. 124300, nicknamed ‘The Tiffany’, catching most attention with demand vastly outweighing supply.
Photographs: Mick Fox