Preserving the charms of Woodhall Spa

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
December 2017

Regarded as one of Lincolnshire’s most attractive villages and set amidst magnificent pine woods, it is renowned for its peaceful and relaxing atmosphere.
But look beyond the trees and you’ll find a vibrant and self-sufficient community with much to offer residents, businesses and visitors alike.

With a plethora of fine hotels and guest houses, and a wide variety of attractions including two top class golf courses, a unique cinema and several aviation heritage sites associated with the 617 ‘Dambusters’ Squadron, there is no wonder it is a must-see destination.

However, a recent surge in large dwelling planning applications in the village is causing concern for Woodhall Spa Parish Council and the community.

“Current approved or submitted applications involve more than 950 new homes in a village of approximately 1,800 homes at present,” said parish council chairman David Clarke.

“Whilst welcoming controlled and appropriate development, the council sees the current situation as gross over-development, which can only have an adverse impact on the appeal that the village has for both residents and the many tourists drawn to the village from all over the world.

“The charm and historic characteristics that define Woodhall Spa are in danger of being eroded by this uncontrolled over-development.”

He said a lack of adequate parking, lack of capacity in the Victorian-age drainage infrastructure, congestion in the village centre, over-demand on the educational and medical infrastructure and a sense of loss of quality of life are existing concerns which can only be made significantly worse by large-scale over-development.

“The ‘Jewel in the Crown of East Lindsey’ is in danger and there doesn’t appear to be anything the community can do about it,” said Mr Clarke.

Charm is certainly a big feature of Woodhall Spa and visitors flock to the village for its characteristic attractions from the woodland area itself, with Jubilee Park outdoor swimming pool and caravan park and Woodland Country Park, to its Cottage Museum, Kinema in the Woods and its wide range of independent shops, eateries and hostelries.

Though the poor weather in the second half of this year’s season impacted considerably on income forecasts for Jubilee Park, the trustees are confident that with careful pruning of expenditure they can keep the park on track and they look forward to a better season next year.

“There were many positives in 2017- the Dog Show, the SO Festival and Elves and Fairies event were all new and all very successful, the organisers deserve a special thank you,” said Jubilee Park manager Joe Stanhope.

“We also have some excellent new volunteers and our swimming lessons are more popular than ever.”

Although Woodhall Spa’s Jubilee Park swimming pool is now closed for the season, the park remains open for everyone to enjoy the other facilities.

Work is underway on a busy end of season maintenance programme throughout the park, particularly in keeping the aging and crumbling pool complex buildings, which are becoming ever costlier and difficult to maintain, in a useable state.

“Plans to replace them have been submitted to numerous possible funding sources, as yet without success. This will be a major focus for the trustees in 2018,” said Mr Stanhope.

One of Woodhall Spa’s more popular gems is the Kinema in the Woods, which continues to go from strength to strength.

“We’ve had a great year and have also celebrated our 95th anniversary,” said manager Phillip Jones.

“We had a few special events to commemorate the occasion. Back in May we showed Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid which is believed to have been the first film ever shown at The Kinema when it opened its doors on 11th September 1922.

“We also screened a short Chaplin film which was accompanied by Alan Underwood at the Compton organ. Then for the birthday weekend itself we put on a Saturday Matinee screening of The Wizard of Oz at pocket money prices followed by a black-tie gala screening of Casablanca.

“Stand out films have been Beauty & The Beast, Dunkirk, Victoria & Abdul and we are very excited about Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which is coming out on 14th December.

The Kinema has also continued its collaborations with Jubilee Park this year, offering several Film & Swim events including Jaws at The Kinema followed by a midnight swim at the park’s outdoor pool as well as a family screening of The Little Mermaid followed by an early evening swim.

“We’ve continued to offer outdoor screenings at Jubilee Park as well – the highlight being a screening of The Dambusters for the Woodhall Spa 1940s weekend,” said Phillip.

“Other special events have included late night Pyjama Parties (Love Actually coming up in December), a Halloween screening of The Exorcist and our ever popular Down Memory Lane organ shows.

“We were also delighted to welcome Penelope Keith to The Kinema for filming on Channel 4’s Village of The Year programme.”

The Kinema has also begun to offer subtitled screenings on Monday evenings to improve accessibility to all areas of the community and screening a lot more smaller titles including Ferrari: Race to Immortality and Earth: One Amazing Day.

“We’ve also expanded our Live & Event Cinema showings of The National Theatre and The Royal Opera and Ballet and we intend to continue to offer plenty of these in 2018,” he added.

“Also coming up for next year we should be seeing the completion of two new car parks to improve the parking in the local area and we’re looking forward to working with Jubilee Park again, as well as The Petwood Hotel on some RAF anniversary screenings.”

Woodhall Spa is also the home of English Golf, having the National Golf Centre located here and two golf courses including the Hotchkin Course which is consistently rated among the world’s finest heathland golf experiences and ranked 25th in Golf World magazine’s World Top 100 Golf Courses.

A contemporary classic and the perfect complement to the Hotchkin Course is the Bracken Course which was created by Donald Steel, one of Britain’s foremost golf course architects of the modern era.

Golf was first introduced to Woodhall Spa in 1890 when a nine-hole course opened for play. The Golf Club was instituted in 1891 and flourished until 1895 when the land that the course was built on was required for building.

A new site was hurriedly found and another nine-hole course was laid out. The village was extremely popular for its spa waters and golf proved to be another attraction.

In 1902 it became clear that the Golf Club would have to find another home as the land was required for town expansion once again.

Local landowner and prominent member, Stafford Vere Hotchkin, offered a sandy tract of land off the Horncastle Road for the building of an 18-hole course – the same site as today.

Harry Colt was employed to redesign the course in 1911 and his recommendations took three years to complete. By 1914 the course routing was the same as it is today, and the length had increased to 6,400 yards

Hotchkin continued to improve the course at Woodhall Spa through the 1930s and virtually kept the course open on his own during the Second World War.

When he died in 1953 his son Neil continued his father’s legacy through the second half of the century and in an effort to safeguard the future of the club and the course Neil sold the facilities to the English Golf Union in 1995.

The Union also secured enough land to build a second course and extensive practice facilities. The original course, now rated as one of the finest golf courses in the world, was aptly renamed ‘the Hotchkin’ when the second course (the Bracken) opened for play in 1998.

If you are searching for somewhere different to celebrate the festive season, you need look no further than the unique Tea House in the Woods at Woodhall Spa.

Up until three years ago, it was the Ristorante ll Parco Italian restaurant, but then partners Natalie Leech and Stephen Sleight took it over and reverted it back to a traditional tea room.

The oldest tea room in the village having been built in 1906, it was managed by the sisters of the then Superintendent of the Spa Baths, Dr Williams, until they bought it outright in 1913 and served dainty delicacies and sold tasteful fancy gifts including their own embroidery.

“We do traditional afternoon teas but we are also very busy as a restaurant as well,” said Natalie, who used to be conference banqueting manager at Woodhall Spa’s Petwood Hotel.

“Everything is homemade from locally grown and sourced produce and as it is a busy restaurant booking is essential.”

The Tea House in the Woods is open Tuesday through to Sunday, serving lunches and traditional afternoon teas with homemade cakes and Tuesday to Saturday evenings as a restaurant.

Woodhall Spa is home to Peter Scott Shoes, which is Britain’s smallest shoe shop. When Woodhall Spa had its own railway station, the shop was a booking office, and was the last building on the platform before the railway line diagonally dissected The Broadway.

This explains its unusual shape which is only three feet deep at one end and led to the property being known as the ‘Woodhall Wedge’. Customers have to view the displays in single file at this end of the shop!

During its life it has seen service as a bicycle shop, an electrical retailers, a jewellers and even a bank.

The shop opened in 1999 and over the years has gained a reputation for stocking shoes with style that fit as well as they look. Customers regularly travel from Lincoln, Louth and Boston for brands like Hotter, Rieker and Softline.

Until 16th December they have a ‘buy one, get one at half price’ offer on all slippers.

Bursting with character and history, Petwood is truly unique among hotels in Lincoln and the surrounding area.

The elegant hand-carved staircase and extensive oak panelling typify the old world charm of the place, while guests can enjoy discovering features such as the Squadron Bar and immaculately kept gardens. The original features and historic ambience of the house are sympathetically maintained in harmony with comfortable rooms. A taste of nostalgia with the best of the present, one might say.

Take a well earned break and spend some quality time with family and friends eating, drinking and being merry this Christmas and New Year.

There is something for everyone at the Petwood Hotel this festive season.

From Yuletide breaks to Christmas parties and seasonal afternoon teas, visit the Petwood for just a few hours or stay for a few days and discover the magic that is the Petwood at Christmas.

Petwood Hotel, Stixwould Road, Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire LN10 6QG, Tel: 01526 352411.

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