On course for a bright future

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
April 2023

Melanie Burton discovers how Market Rasen’s rich history and heritage combines with ongoing plans for new developments.

Located as it is on the western edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the bustling market town of Market Rasen is a popular place with walkers, holidaymakers and day trippers alike.

With great routes and trails just five minutes’ stroll from the town centre, a caravan park at the heart of the town’s famous racecourse and a location close to the East Coast and historic towns and cities, it makes the perfect base from which to explore the county.

The high street is home to more than 50 independent shops and businesses and its market has been part of the street scene since the early 13th century and is still an integral part of the town.

Market Rasen also has a rich heritage and historically important landmarks to investigate which can be done with the help of the town’s award-winning heritage tour, originally launched in 2014, and enhanced and relaunched just a year ago.

And with West Lindsey District Council about to launch plans to invest in communities and businesses in the area, the future is looking rosy for towns like Market Rasen.

One of the things Market Rasen is famous for is its historic racecourse, as it is the only one still operating in Lincolnshire and has been located on the same site since 1924.

It is known as a premier summer jumping racecourse with a full programme of race meetings throughout the year, including Easter and Boxing Day.

Located at the heart of the racecourse is its caravan and camping park which offers holidaymakers the opportunity to stay on site and enjoy horseracing, championship golf, events and the picturesque countryside on the doorstep.

The town’s golf club, established in 1912, is one of the top 10 courses in Lincolnshire and was awarded Championship Venue status in 2021 after hosting the English Senior Women’s Amateur Championships.

The heathland course is both challenging and picturesque with a variety of natural hazards, including the River Rase which flows through the course.

The club has more than 800 members and there is also a driving range, other off-course practice facilities and a clubhouse with decking overlooking the 18th green.

At the end of last year, West Lindsey District Council’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) Investment Plan, which has a value of £4.7m, was approved by the government and it is now about to launch the operational phase of the programme.

Councillor Owen Bierley, Leader of WLDC said: “I am delighted we have reached this significant milestone in our preparations for local UKSPF delivery and I am convinced our diligent approach to utilising UKSPF will result in excellent outcomes for our communities and businesses.”

Director of Planning, Regeneration and Communities, Sally Grindrod-Smith, said: “We are now in a position where we have the authority to start to commission and deliver local activity and I anticipate the launch of schemes, including grant funds, from April onwards.”

Market Rasen wasn’t always the largest town in the Rasen area. It was originally known as East Rasen, with Middle Rasen being the more important location, and West Rasen following on from there but it became prominent when it was granted the right to a market. 

At one time in the 19th century it boasted nearly a dozen breweries or beer houses, dealers in coal, lime, sand and agricultural requisites, and manufacturers of items as diverse as tiles and washing machines/mangles. 

There were many inns/coaching houses, and the town was a centre for the carters from surrounding villages, who converged on the town for market days. 

Market Rasen has a variety of independent businesses that have been part of the fabric of the town for decades.

One long-established company is electronics shop Peter Rhodes, a family run business which was started in 1957 by Peter and Joyce Rhodes and is now run by son-in-law Roger Clark.

It has two showrooms, a large warehouse and an air-conditioned showroom with a large display of white goods, televisions and small electrical goods.

Prominent regional law firm Bridge McFarland, which was established in 1990, also has an office in Market Rasen and is the only full-time solicitors in the town.

It has just published its annual results which show a turnover of £10.7 million, up 18 per cent on the year to 30th April 2021.

Managing partner Stephen Oldridge said it was a pleasing set of results.

“Income has recovered well after the difficulties faced during the pandemic and has increased 18 per cent year on year. Increased activity in the property market really helped to drive this growth,” he said.

“Profit has remained similar to 2021 levels due to a corresponding 11 per cent increase in expenditure, as we invested heavily in staff and recommenced marketing and other activities that had been paused during the pandemic period.”

He added: “We understand the new challenges that everyone is facing at the moment, particularly in relation to the current cost of living crisis and we hope to continue to support our clients with excellent and fairly priced services throughout 2023.”

The roots of Bridge McFarland LLP stem all the way back to 1851. However, John Bridge helped to establish Keeble Hawson Bridge and Co in 1976, which began the firm of today.

In 1978, Paddy McFarland established McFarland and Co in Louth before opening in Market Rasen and Mablethorpe and following the opening of Keeble Hawson Bridge and Co, a second branch was opened in Lincoln in 1983.

As a result of independent success for both firms, they merged in 1990, bringing John Bridge, Paddy McFarland and six other partners together to create Bridge McFarland Solicitors.

Another business which is an integral part of the community is Stitch Witch, a yarn, wool, fabric and haberdashery shop in the centre of the town.

Not only does it sell all things knitting, embroidery, haberdashery and tapestry; it runs weekly groups such as “knit and natter”, “sit and sew” and crochet with experts demonstrating their skills and passing on tips and advice.

Relatively new to the Market Rasen street scene is independent florist Willow & Wildflower, located in the heart of Market Rasen, which was incorporated in 2019 by friends Verity Findlay and Jess Houlden.

Verity had worked in the industry for more than 14 years, achieving a number of awards along the way at Royal Horticultural Society flower shows across the country including Harrogate, Tatton Park and the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show in 2018.

Having completed her floral design degree in 2018 with first class honours, she joined forces with her friend Jess to set up the business and since opening its doors has also become a floristry tutor at Bishop Burton College where she learned all her skills.

Having completed her floristry qualifications in 2014, floral designer Jess worked in retail florists to gain some industry experience and also spent five years as a freelance floral designer before opening the shop with Verity.

Market Rasen’s former railway station building has been given a new lease of life after being chosen by Lincolnshire County Council as the new home for its day care centre for adults with learning disabilities.

LCC has agreed a long-term lease with the Market Rasen Station Community Project CIC to take over the building and turn it into a community day care centre, as the previous building failed to meet current needs.

The Grade II listed former railway station building closed in 1995 and was purchased by Lindum Group at auction in 2014. A Community Interest Company was formed to restore the building and bring it back to use.

The group secured a large grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, together with a significant contribution from Lindum and additional funds from the Railway Heritage Trust, Tesco, West Lindsey District Council, the Rotary Club of Market Rasen and Market Rasen Town Council. The restoration project was completed by Lindum BMS in 2019 and won a National Railway Heritage Award for its partnership work with local organisations including the town council, De Aston School, Market Rasen Racecourse and CLIP.

Emma Wardell, chair of the Market Rasen Station Community Project, said: “It is fantastic news that Lincolnshire County Council has decided to use the former railway station building as the new venue for its day care service in Market Rasen.

“We welcome the fact that the council is supporting this local landmark, helping to preserve the history of the town. The new lease agreement has secured the future of this beautifully restored Grade II listed building, creating accessible day care for those that need it and enabling local people to learn about its heritage.”

The council has plans for day centre clients to gain experience in serving the general public by running a café and for there to be public access to the heritage display area.

Mayor of Market Rasen, Councillor Stephen Bunney said: “If you look back around 10 years, it was a redundant, run-down building and we were at risk of losing it, which would have been a shame.

“Now the entire building will be put to use, with the café, which has previously been difficult to lease, and will be used for training and to develop skills.

“I hope the community exhibits will be available for visitors and the local community, so they can fully engage with the history of the building and our town.

“Two of the previous tenants will be staying in Market Rasen as well, which is more good news for our town. It is good news all round.”

Market Rasen Town Council has been recognised for leading its communities and going above and beyond its legal obligations.

It has been given a prestigious Foundation Award as part of the Local Council Award Scheme by the National Association of Local Councils.

In his letter of congratulation, NALC chair Keith Stevens said receiving the award was an excellent achievement showing that the council achieves good practice in governance, community engagement and council improvement.

“Furthermore this award shows that the council goes above and beyond its legal obligations, leads its communities and continuously seeks opportunities to improve and develop even further. Therefore the council is to be congratulated immensely.”

The Award Scheme report highlighted the council’s particular areas of strength, including its transparent information about council payments, which was highlighted as exemplary, and the adoption of the latest (LGA) Code of Conduct.

The Local Council Award Scheme is a peer assessed programme that has been designed to provide the tools and encouragement to those councils at the beginning of their improvement journeys, as well as promoting and recognising councils that are at the cutting edge of the sector.

It is through the sector working together to share best practice, drive up standards and supporting those who are committed to improving their offer to their communities that individual councils and the sector, as a whole, will reach its full potential. 

Indie pop sensation Tom Grennan, who was nominated for Best Rock/Alternative Act at the 2023 Brit Awards, is to be the headline act at Rasen Rocks at Market Rasen Racecourse this summer. The Bedford-born singer will be performing a full headline set at the outdoor venue on Saturday 19th August.

Brighton-born singer Gracey and indie newcomer Frankie Beetlestone will be joining him on the run of dates.

With his tracks ‘Little Bit Of Love’ and ‘By Your Side’ both being recognised in the top three most played songs of 2021, Grennan has cemented his position as one of the country’s best new acts.

“The last few years have been an absolute whirlwind,” said Tom. “Summer shows are some of my favourites, so I’m totally buzzing to see you all at Market Rasen Racecourse for the first time in August.”

Nadia Powell, general manager of Market Rasen Racecourse, added: “Rasen Rocks returns this summer with Tom Grennan. He is without doubt one of the UK’s most exciting artists and to welcome him to the

Rasen Rocks has previously been headlined by the likes of Tom Jones, Paloma Faith, Jess Glynne, Madness, Olly Murs, Kaiser Chiefs and Craig David.

Born out of a passion to produce high-quality chocolate that everyone can enjoy, Special Edition Chocolate opened in Willingham Hall, Market Rasen in 1990.

Rosanna Benn and her team have been at the helm of this one-stop choc shop for more than 20 years and share their desire to create quality varieties and flavours. With a background in teaching Home Economics and a self-confessed chocoholic, Rosanna has spent time in Venezuela to learn about chocolate beans and travelled extensively to further her knowledge and expertise, winning many awards along the way.

At Special Edition Chocolate café and shop, you will find a selection of more than 100 different kinds of chocolate, and everything produced is gluten-free and nut-free. The brand has also expanded its offering

By request, they can add a choice of more than 40 flavours to the dark, milk, and white chocolate bars and buttons. This extensive range includes Rhubarb & Ginger, Strawberry & Black Pepper, Lime & Sea Salt and Honey Crunch. They also come in different shapes and sizes, with unique shapes for weddings, Christmas and Easter.

For more information visit www.specialeditionchocolate.com

Owned and run by the Davenport family from Osgodby, near Market Rasen, this award-winning producer says its ethos is simple: contented grazing cows produce amazing quality milk, which with a lot of skill and expertise creates great tasting cheese.

Made on the family farm using milk from their herd of free range cows, Cote Hill has introduced a new flavour called Snowdrop. Based on the Cote Hill White recipe, it joins the brand’s established range of cheeses, which include Cote Hill Red, Yellow, Blue and Cote Hill Lindum.

These popular cheeses are all made by hand using the morning milk which goes directly from the cow to vat and is not pasteurised, allowing the cheeses to develop their unique flavour.

Visitors to Cote Hill Cheese can also enjoy an exciting niche shopping experience at The Cheese Shed @ Cote Hill Farm, where the cheese vending machine is stocked with Cote Hill cheeses plus Lincolnshire Poacher cheese and butter, as well as local provisions.

There is also a coffee vending machine, which uses freshly ground coffee from Stokes Tea & Coffee and the producer’s own fresh milk to create raw milk lattes, with raw milk in glass bottles also available to buy.

For more information visit www.cotehill.com

Photographs: Mick Fox

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