Town prepares to give warm welcome
There is a renewed sense of community in Market Rasen with businesses, organisations and residents working to ensure that the town can welcome back visitors safely in the coming months, as Melanie Burton reports.
Market Rasen can boast of being the home of Lincolnshire’s only racecourse which has been part of the fabric of the town for more than 170 years.
It attracts thousands of visitors to the town every year through its race events, summer shows and campsite. Although the past year has seen it close its gates to the masses and run its racing programme behind closed doors, there is now a light at the end of the tunnel with the Government’s proposed roadmap to bring the country out of lockdown which includes the reopening of racecourses from next month.
Racing fixtures staged from 17th May will be able to welcome up to 4,000 spectators and indoor conferences and events of up to 1,000 people will also be possible.
The dates are not set in stone and the lifting of lockdown relies on certain Government criteria being met. But with the end of lockdown in sight, events are already in the diary at Market Rasen Racecourse, ready for the off when the day arrives.
This includes four afternoon race cards, an evening programme and weekend racing plus its summer feature, the Betway Summer Plate event, which is the showpiece of the national Summer Jump Season.
Of course the lifting of restrictions and lockdown will also mean that shops and businesses can finally reopen. Many of them have played a big part in keeping the residents of Market Rasen well served with food deliveries, takeaways and supplies throughout the three periods of lockdown.
The community also stepped up and pulled together, which has led to a change for the Market Rasen Town Partnership.
Councillor Stephen Bunney, who chaired the Partnership, said the change was an important one because during the pandemic the town had worked together as a whole to ensure its residents were well cared for and supported, so it was now more of a community partnership.
“What we discovered through the pandemic was the sense of community working at all sorts of levels,” he explained.
“Working with Market Rasen Action Group we found more people joined in from the shops, the council, charity organisations like the Lions and the Rotary Club, churches, members of the public and representatives from local charities such as the Eleemosynary charity, which helps people in need. Working as a community the group is better named Rasen Community Partnership and it will be reforming as that.
“We are an umbrella body keeping an eye on everything that is going on and promoting Market Rasen both now and for the future visitor economy.
“During the first lockdown it was the independent family shops that helped out. Those that were able to trade really did support the community working throughout doing deliveries and takeaways.
“We wanted to make sure they are recognised for that so as we moved forward we made sure they didn’t lose out.
“It is the coming together that is the message to stress.”
Councillor Bunney said there were two phases to the operation. The first was to respond to the immediacy of the Covid situation and then it was to move forward post-Covid.
“We are still in the first phase but we are beginning to plan for the future,” he said.
He said right at the beginning it was clear there were two or three organisations running food banks in the town.
“We are still separate organisations but we are working together giving food to the public and making sure those resources are shared appropriately,” Councillor Bunney explained.
“Once a fortnight a colleague collects the food from Lincoln to bring into the town and gives some to the New Life Church, which then produces food parcels to give out.
“We want to keep the established food banks going because when we come out of this they are going to be there on a permanent basis.
“And because the schools in particular weren’t able to meet, we supplemented those school families, relieving pressure on the existing food bank.
“We also recognised there was a need for a uniform bank/swap shop, so one was set up through the summer and that also got going again ahead of the schools going back in March.”
It is not just the food banks that the Community Partnership has been concerned with – the issue of loneliness hasn’t been overlooked. Councillor Bunney explained even though there was a good community base in the town, over the year there have been people left on their own and in need of support. The Partnership has been a point of contact keeping an eye on people and keeping their spirits up.
“There is a shopping scheme, a prescription collection service and we have a befriending service too.”
Another thing the partnership has done and is planning to do again is help lift the mood in the town by giving out gifts for Easter.
“At Christmas there is a tradition in Market Rasen for present giving on Christmas Eve in the market square with Santa. Obviously it had to be cancelled but we were able to add a bit of Christmas spirit by giving families hampers and goodies for the children,” Councillor Bunney said.
“We are going to do a similar thing for Easter with a goodies box of hot cross buns, flowers and Easter eggs.”
Obviously there is still a way to go before all restrictions are lifted and some semblance of normality can resume but the Partnership is already looking ahead and preparing for when that time comes.
Councillor Bunney said one of the Partnership’s aims was to try and get the visitor economy going. Having more events and promoting Market Rasen’s attractions would hopefully help achieve that.
“We want visitors to know there is more to Market Rasen than a racecourse,” he said. “There is a lot going on in Rasen and we have attractions and active groups that people know about but they need to be a collective.”
One such attraction is Wild Pines Park which offers one of the largest ropes courses in the UK, with challenging and exciting activities for all ages.
Situated in the beautiful woodland of Linwood Warren, Wild Pines Park has five courses, 21 zip lines and was voted in the top five in the UK.
“We have to make people aware of what is here, so that when people visit they get a good experience,” Councillor Bunney said.
“We will be pushing attractions like the ropes course and the fishing lake and we are promoting local walks such as the historical trail looking at architecture.
“There are eight walks around the town, all with leaflets, and we are trying to bring everything together to make it a good lasting sustainable project.
“We want to highlight the town and surrounding area more, so that people will come and visit.”
Rasen in Bloom will also be launched this year following on from two initiatives the partnership established last year.
“We introduced hanging baskets around the town and did a similar thing at Christmas with ‘Brighten up Market Rasen at Christmas’,” Councillor Bunney said.
“We had lots of things planned that had to be cancelled but we managed to get the streetlights up and this year we are launching Rasen in Bloom. New planters will be placed at the entrances to the town and the market square and hanging baskets will be put around the town again to give a bit of colour to the area.”
Councillor Bunney added: “We like the idea of parties working together so we are renaming the group Rasen Community Partnership – ‘Rasen’ because it is not just Market Rasen, there is also Middle Rasen and West Rasen, and ‘Community’ because that is what it is all about.”
VINTAGE TEAROOM INVITES YOU TO STEP BACK IN TIME
Launched in 2016, the popular Vintage Tearooms in Tealby offers customers a taste of bygone days, serving up a selection of classic sweet and savoury favourites within a unique setting.
Set over two floors in the heart of the Lincolnshire Wolds, owner Jennie Fox and her dedicated team are excited to unveil the recently refurbished upstairs room which was originally themed around the 1940s.
“I loved the look, but felt after five years that we were due for a change,” explains Jennie, whose business was awarded a Gold Citation at the Taste of Excellence awards in 2017/2018. “My first vintage love was 1920/30s style clothing and decor and many of the items in the room were already pre-1940 so it was easy to go back in time a little further.”
The new look room now features a dramatic ‘decoesque’ geometric wallpaper feature wall from Zoffany, which has been teamed with dark green walls, cocktail chairs in teal with pink clam cushions, crisp white tablecloths and lots of gold, which gives the room a decadent feel alongside old family photos and Agatha Christie novels.
“There’s something for everyone: downstairs is light, bright and clean with ideal seating for walkers and is also dog-friendly (with free ‘puppaccinos’), while upstairs is more formal, perfect when you want an excuse to dress up.
“Our homemade cakes are a mixture of modern bakes and traditional classics, with rainbow cake, lemon sponge and Bakewell tart among the most popular. Our sandwiches, salads and quiches are light, tasty and made from local produce, including Lincolnshire cheeses and sausages, and we also offer breakfasts.”
Vintage Tearooms is currently open Friday to Sunday for takeaways, but Jennie hopes to open for outside seating from 12th April, subject to weather and restrictions. “Fingers crossed we will be able to welcome people back inside on 17th May.”
Customers can choose from a Decadent Tea £18 (booking required), Standard Afternoon Tea £14 and Midweek Special £11 per person.
For opening times check Vintage Tearooms on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Although venues like Market Rasen’s Festival Hall are playing the waiting game to see if they can reopen in a month’s time, they are busy preparing for it and will be ready for when the time comes.
The Hall, built in 1972 and owned by Market Rasen Town Council, serves the town with a range of facilities with a main hall, meeting room and large catering kitchen and bar.
Normally it can be hired for wedding receptions, formal dinners, children’s parties or discos and there is also a large stage area which makes the venue an ideal theatre. But at the moment it is being used by the National Blood Transfusion Service and the food bank.
Faye Lambkin-Smith, Market Rasen Town Council’s community manager, said all being well it will reopen on 17th May but the decision will be made by the town council and it will go by what the Government says.
“It has opened and closed several times over the past year and is completely shut at the moment but we are working towards it and waiting for the Government guidance.”
The Town Council utilised the opportunity provided by lockdown closures over the past year to undertake internal decoration and repairs and extensive work has been carried out to ensure it is Covid safe with measures in place such as increased cleaning of the hall and frequent sanitising of touch points, provision of hand sanitiser and masks, a new one-way system, NHS Test and Trace app check-ins and provision of a dedicated safe area should any user fall ill.
Faye said: “If we can open on 17th May we will do but the decision will have to be made by the council.”
Prior to Covid, work was being carried out on plans to unlock the historic heart of Market Rasen through a Townscape Heritage project.
Councillor Stephen Bunney, who is a Market Rasen town councillor, West Lindsey district councillor and also chair of the newly named Rasen Community Partnership, explained that West Lindsey District Council was backing the project.
It was looking at utilising a £200,000 capital programme allocation to develop a small-scale Townscape Heritage project which would act as the catalyst for the regeneration of the town centre.
The idea followed an unsuccessful bid by Market Rasen Town Council, supported by the District Council, to be considered by Historic England as a High Street Heritage Action Zone.
Although the expression of interest was not successful, it was felt it had demonstrated that there was real potential to unlock the historic heart of the town through targeted regeneration.
Councillor Bunney said: “There are a lot of ideas on how we want to see the development and how the heritage needs to be developed, particularly reviving redundant buildings and the market place.
“We have to see how we can use it for the benefit of everyone.”
He said WLDC will bring in a team to get the project going and lead the partnership but local input would be included, regarding what the town wants to see in the market place now and in 30 years’ time.
“It will take time but if we do this project we will have a great place to live in three years’ time and in 30 years’ time.”