Town with untapped potential
“A small town with a big heart” is the best way to describe the historically important Victorian and Georgian town of Caistor.
Nestled just off the busy A46 Grimsby to Lincoln road on the Viking Way, you could be forgiven for thinking Caistor is a quiet, picturesque rural village. But it is officially classed as a small market town, with a population of around 2,600.
2016 saw the town’s Neighbourhood Plan officially adopted by West Lindsey District Council. It creates a vision for the future and sets out what residents and the town council want to see in the area from now until 2031.
But the focus for Caistor has been its involvement in the joint initiative between East & West Lindsey to promote the Lincolnshire Wolds as a tourist destination and establish Caistor as a Gateway to the Wolds.
The plan aims to maximise the ‘untapped potential’ of the Lincolnshire Wolds as a visitor destination.
Developed in partnership with the business community and East Lindsey, West Lindsey and North East Lincolnshire Councils, the Destination Plan sets out a programme of actions that seek to develop the visitor offer in the Lincolnshire Wolds and further promote what the area has to offer.
As part of the work, the Love Lincolnshire Wolds branding has been launched to give the Wolds instant brand recognition along with the website – lovelincolnshirewolds.com – a hub of information for visitors.
The Lincolnshire Wolds is a rolling landscape of outstanding natural beauty and is surrounded by a number of distinctive historic market towns including Caistor.
The Wolds is a popular visitor destination for couples, families and retirees who come to the area for walking, cycling, relaxation, markets, heritage and nature reserves.
Caistor has plenty to offer the visitor itself with a history dating back before Roman times. It is unique in its architecture and location, nestling on the hillside at the edge of the Wolds and having fifty-six Grade II listed buildings, two Scheduled Ancient Monuments and more than 160 significant archaeological finds.
Caistor’s historic Parish Church has secured a large Heritage Lottery grant to preserve the building and the heritage within it. The church has been an important part of Caistor life for many generations and the ‘Preserve, Share, Understand’ project aims to carry out essential conservation work to the main roof of the church, which is suffering from damaged and rotting timbers.
Another side of the project is to provide better educational opportunities for visitors and local schools.
The town’s Walkers are Welcome group, together with Market Rasen and Horncastle, held the national Walkers are Welcome conference to showcase walking in the area to national delegates.
Although Caistor did not enter the East Midlands in Bloom Competition in 2016 it did pick up an award. So impressive was its floral wagon display at the entrance to the town that it received a special award.
Another change in Caistor over the past year which has proved popular with the locals is the library being situated within the Caistor Arts & Heritage Centre.
The library is manned by local volunteers who are available each day to offer help and guidance during your visit. It has an excellent selection of books and literature on local history and if you cannot find the book you are looking for it can be ordered. The library also offers free internet access via the People’s Network (PN) computers and the centre provides a free Wi-Fi internet connection.
A Big Lottery Grant of £43,000 was used to create the state of the art Arts and Heritage Centre from a derelict chapel. The centre is now playing a big part in the new Wolds Destination Management scheme.
One highlight of 2016 for the centre was the archaeological dig it organised to give local school children and members of the public the chance to get ‘hands-on’ in Caistor.
The dig was led by Community Archaeologists from Bishop Grosseteste University and was supported by the centre and the Down Your Wold Project as part of British Archaeology week.
During the three days of digging at Cromwell View in Caistor, an area adjacent to the suspected location of the town’s Roman Wall, more than 250 people were shown the basics of archaeology including trowel techniques, finds cleaning and identification.
Caistor’s heritage has remained undiscovered for so many years and this project provided the opportunity to tell the story about Caistor.
In the centre there are interpretive panels about Caistor’s past including a massive print of the 1907 Ordnance Survey map and a six-metre-long timeline describing Caistor’s history from 8000BC to the present day.
Councillor Barker said: “The Arts and Heritage Centre do a lot of children’s craft activities as well and it is a very good place for everyone to meet and have a chat. It is proving very popular.”
2016 ended in entertaining style for town residents thanks to the Caistor Amateur Theatre Society (CATS) who put on a production of the pantomime Sleeping Beauty.
CATS was founded in October 1991 and since then has produced a total of fifty different productions including pantomimes, which always attract large audiences.
“The pantomime was very well attended,” said Councillor Barker. “CATS also stage a number of other productions each year, including farces, murder mystery dinners and musical variety shows.”
CAISTOR IN BLOOM
Caistor is often described as ‘picturesque’ with its array of floral displays, pretty gardens and tree-lined streets and it is all thanks to the hard-working Caistor in Bloom team. They are the people who come up with the planting initiatives throughout the year, which ensures the town is awash with colour.
Though they didn’t enter the East Midlands in Bloom competition in 2016, it was still a good year for the group.
“Our aim is to make Caistor a beautiful place in which to live, work and visit for everyone,” said chair of the group and town councillor Deborah Barker.
“It has been a very successful year for Caistor in Bloom. We won the Best Front Piece category for our wagon display at the entrance from the A46 even though we didn’t enter the East Midlands in Bloom competition.
“That was a huge surprise and we were very pleased about it. It was a lovely gesture.”
The church has just held another very successful Christmas tree festival, where it asks local companies and businesses to sponsor a tree.
“It is a good way for the church to raise funds. Next year we are entering the East Midlands in Bloom and the Best Kept Village competitions in the market town category. We have won it four times and we have won the Past Winners Category too,” said Deborah.
The Caistor in Bloom group also organises big tidy-ups around the town to keep the area looking neat and in tiptop condition and it is also behind the big bulb giveaway, which guarantees attractive and colourful floral displays the following year.
Deborah explained: “Around January / February we get all the entries in for the competition and make plans for the year ahead. In May, the plants go out to the schools and this year, although it was a year of consolidation, it has seen a new concept in that several Friends of Caistor in Bloom have grown wallflowers from seed to plant in our planters over the winter months to provide a little colour over this period.
“Also in January we are organising a wassail, the blessing of the fruit trees, so when it comes to autumn they are blessed with lots of fruit. The Morris men do a dance and raise a toast to the trees.”
CAISTOR ARTS AND HERITAGE CENTRE
Caistor’s Arts and Heritage Centre was the result of the Village SOS scheme, which was launched by the Big Lottery Fund in 2009 to seize on the challenges and opportunities faced by people living in rural communities and televised by the BBC.
The scheme saw more than 160 innovative village projects come to fruition, from community shops to a community forest company.
Caistor’s Arts and Heritage Centre is one of only two of those projects still in existence.
But though the town’s heritage is a major part of the centre, it is not dwelling in the past and has firm plans for this year to play a major part in putting Caistor and the Wolds on the destination map.
Though it has been home to the town library since the centre opened in 2009, it has just marked the first full year of running the library.
“We have just had a whole year where we have successfully run the library itself,” explained centre manager Steph Dale.
“It is a volunteer-run library and we are trying to attract more volunteers so we are about to launch a ‘Become a Friend of the Centre’ scheme to encourage people to volunteer or make a contribution.
“We are about to become a charity and we are entirely self-sustaining financially so we are looking for as many people as possible to either volunteer in the library, the café, the office or the art group or heritage group, where we do local history projects and have artefacts brought in.”
The volunteers benefit from lots of social interaction, training where they can learn new skills and four social events a year.
“The centre has an annual programme of exhibitions, workshops, events and talks about the region,” said Steph.
One to watch out for is an exhibition of Islamic Culture and Art coming to the centre in March. “It is a little bit different for Lincolnshire,” said Steph.
The other focus for the centre this year (2017) is the Love Lincolnshire Wolds Destination Management Plan project.
“Our aim is that we will become a Gateway to the Wolds visitor centre during the year,” Steph explained. “We are currently applying for funding to create visitor information about the Wolds.
“We have some space upstairs, which will be utilised and a whole wall of visitor information will be created. It will be an additional facility for us, so visitors can come here, find out what there is to do in the Wolds and go out and explore.”
“Our volunteers will receive training in tourist information so it is quite an exciting year ahead for us.”
WOLDS VIEW TOURING PARK
Visitors looking for a peaceful, relaxing camping weekend need look no further than the Wolds View Touring Park on the outskirts of Caistor. On the edge of the Wolds, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the touring park offers guests a child free experience, as Lincolnshire’s only 5 star adults only parks.
The park itself prides itself on their eco-friendly approach, with their shower and toilet blocks being built in 2013 using new air source technology.
In the New Year the park will open their first camping pod, with all the home comforts you could expect including a king size bed, microwave, kettle and fridge.
The park has 40 standing pitches for motorhomes and caravans and 20 grass pitches for camping. Each pitch has its own 16 amp electric hook-up and with heated elements on their fresh water taps throughout the park, you can enjoy the facilities all year round.
Onsite guests can access the shop and café, perfect for those looking for a full English. The laundry room has coin-operated washer, dryer and dishwasher facilities with a rentable fridge freezer.
The site is also accredited with a CaSSOA Gold Award for their onsite storage compound, with twenty-four-hour security.