Village counts down to a glorious summer

Woodhall Spa has hidden depths and unless you are in the know you can miss just how much this destination has to offer, writes Julie Sayed.
Visitors frequently comment positively on how clean and well-kept the village is, especially the main street. Here you will find traders like the traditional butcher and baker, as well as good old-fashioned hardware stores, which have disappeared from so many high streets. Woodhall Spa is also home to the smallest shoe shop in Britain.

Peter Scott Shoes is unmissable to anyone who walks down The Broadway. The shop is owned by Philip Simmons, who has been in business since 1999.

Peter Scott Shoes stock quality brands such as Hotter, Rieker and Softline.

“We try and stock shoes that are that bit different and I think this is part of the reason we have been so successful for so long,” said Mr Simmons.

Peter Scott Shoes marks its 20th anniversary this year and Mr Simmons says this event will be celebrated, but no firm plans have yet been decided upon.

“We are open every day except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year and, as an inland resort, I think Woodhall Spa is getting busier. We get many return visitors.

Unlike so many other places there never seems to be an empty shop in the village. I think part of the reason it thrives is because most are independent traders, nice small shops and people like that.

“I think people like to find that ‘little bit of traditional middle England’, sort of Heartbeat country – although I appreciate [that’s] Yorkshire, it’s that feel people like and that keeps on drawing them back.”

Mr Simmons also went on to say that events, like the forthcoming 1940s Festival Weekend in July, bring large visitor numbers to the town: “I think we are expecting up to about 50,000 visitors.”

Woodhall Spa is ideal if you want to do your weekly food shop, get your hair restyled, order your newspapers, buy shoes, a new dress or find a great read. You can do it all – and much more, besides.

Huckle Buckle Boutique, also on The Broadway, is well worth dipping into if you are looking for the latest summertime fashions and accessories, while the Polka Dots Gift Shop on Station Road is another Aladdin’s cave – for gifts, crafty items, knitting wools and cards galore.

Avid bookworms will be in seventh heaven when they visit The Book Fayre. Stocking new and classic titles across the genres, the shop also sources out-of-print titles and has a secondhand section at the back of the building. They also carry a range of branded gifts and offer areas where you can sit down and relax over tea, coffee and cake.

The former Just Desserts, a popular ice cream shop on the Broadway has recently been taken over and given a new lease of life by Anthony Sharpe, who has rebranded and refurbished the business under the name of Woodlands Café.

“We spent the first two weeks after taking over, by transforming the interior to a sort of modern, slightly industrial look, which has caused a bit of a stir in the village. I wanted [the shop] to look a little different to everything else but not so different as to be at odds with the lovely atmosphere and feel of Woodhall Spa,” said Mr Sharpe.

Mr Sharpe grew up in Newark but visited Lincolnshire on a regular basis both to stay and to help out at a hotel in Skegness, owned by his grandparents. After leaving school he spent seventeen years in the army before embarking on a career in London.

He said: “I had long wanted to set up in business and felt drawn back to Lincolnshire, which I know so well and where I have family and friends, so when Just Desserts become available I felt it was the perfect fit.

“The industrial theme is a bit different, but people have been positive about it and I hope we complement others business in the village. We serve light snacks, a great variety of cakes and, of course, we still sell ice cream that is made on site.”

Staff from the former Just Desserts have been retained and as the business, which is still in its infancy has slowly progressed, additional staff, including a manager, have been appointed.

“We are hoping to be able to extend our food offer as we progress, it’s very early days yet,” added Mr Sharpe.

At Bainland Country Park, another local business, Tennis Buddies, is going from strength to strength. Dave Williams, who runs the business, has been involved in the venture since it started around twenty-eight years ago.

He played for Great Britain in the Under 16s and the Under 18s and joined Tennis Buddies as a coach when it was first started by Belinda Chapman and Maria Wesson.

“I played Tennis Buddies’ opening Exhibition Match with Virginia Wade against Belinda and John Crump, who was then chairman of Dunlop Slazenger,” said Mr Williams.

For the last fifteen years or so, Dave has run Tennis Buddies on his own after the original partners moved on. Tennis Buddies has three tennis courts which for a large part of the year are covered by a large Air Dome.

“We tend to take the dome down in the summer months but having it means we are not hostage to the vagaries of the British weather and can play all year round,” he said.

Tennis Buddies has produced three players at Junior Wimbledon including Daniel Cox and Jade Windley. Jade has returned to the club as a coach.

Tennis Buddies is open to players of all abilities and offers Mini Tennis, designed to bring on the young hopefuls of tomorrow.

“We are coming up to our thirtieth anniversary, which is a great achievement and soon we are embarking on a new venture in another part of the county,” said Mr Williams.

Dave with Tennis Buddies is part of a consortium which will shortly be opening a new tennis centre in Lincolnshire. Work has just begun laying three courts in Dunholme, where the new Lincoln Tennis Academy will open its doors on 1st September.

Woodhall Spa has much more to offer by way of leisure activities. The outdoor pool in Jubilee Park is a great attraction during the summer months, as is the Park itself, which has recently fully refurbished its children’s play area.

Meanwhile, the ever popular Kinema in the Woods is the only fully functioning cinema in the UK to employ back projection, and also offers the experience of stepping back in time.

Similarly Tea House in the Woods is the village’s oldest restaurant, established in 1903. This lovely eatery retains much of the genteel air that its original owners instilled in the business.

A glimpse of life in the olden days can also be experienced on a visit to the quirky Cottage Museum, housed within a rare, early prefab iron cottage.

The Woodhall Spa 1940s Festival takes place again this year, on 7th and 8th July. Up to 45,000 visitors are expected to attend this popular event which consists of a wide variety of 40s ‘Home Front’ events.

For those wishing to extend their stay in the village, there are a variety of hotels to suit varying tastes and budgets, including The Petwood, famed for its connection with The Dambusters. Its gardens at this time of year are looking particularly spectacular. Alternatively, there are lots of caravanning and camping facilities in the area.

Maintaining its reputation as a destination for unique shopping and a peaceful retreat from the bustling cities, with events that revive past traditions, Woodhall Spa is definitely a destination to put on the calendar this year.

Woodhall Spa’s famous Tea House in The Woods enjoys a delightful leafy setting and is the perfect spot to relax over a refreshing cuppa, a light lunch or a delicious main meal.

Tucked away from the main thoroughfare, in Coronation Road, it’s a favourite with locals and tourists alike. So, if you haven’t yet visited, it’s well worth discovering this gem of a restaurant.

The Tea House is also conveniently close to the Spa’s much-loved Kinema in The Woods and some lovely walks too, so it’s easy to let yourself be tempted!

Owned by Natalie Leech and Stephen Sleight, the Tea House is 115 years young this year, but it still retains an air of its original Edwardian charm. However, you can expect to find a much more extensive menu than it would have once served.

This eye-catching building, with its lovely veranda – which is extremely inviting on warmer days – also offers plenty of indoor seating and caters for everything from morning coffee, through to lunch, afternoon tea and evening dinner.

It was first operated by the daughters of London clergyman and sisters of Dr Williams, the superintendent of the Spa Baths, who ran it for ‘the season’, before buying it outright in 1913. Apart from serving delicacies, they also sold hand embroidery and gifts.

Today, Natalie and Stephen primarily concentrate on offering a wonderful array of delicious food and great service – but the Tea House also offers Comedy Nights and celebrates other special occasions – which will include Woodhall Spa’s 1940s Festival on 7th and 8th July.

Natalie said: “We have had the Tea House for four years. We welcome a wide range of customers, including many visitors who discover us for the first time, and we are proud to serve an extensive menu which offers people plenty of choice.

“We are open from Tuesday to Sunday inclusive from 10am. We only close on Mondays. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, last orders are taken at 8pm. On Fridays and Saturdays, people can order until 8.30pm and on Sundays we close at 5pm.”

The Tea House, which has restaurant and lounge areas, can seat 70 diners inside, but it also offers more covered seating on the attractive veranda and casual table-and-bench seating in the garden area. There is also on-site parking.

But back to the food and a menu which caters to everyone from children to adults, including those with special diets and really spoils you for choice.

Lunch is a relaxed affair when you can tuck into sandwiches and sweets, or if you have a bigger appetite opt for dishes including Lincolnshire Sausage in Onion Gravy, Beer Battered Haddock or Ham, Egg and Chips.

Evening dinner choices include the Tea House’s famous Steak and Stilton Pie and, for the vegetarians, Wild Rocket with Cherry Tomato Gnocchi. Then there are the delicious Sunday Roasts and irresistible nursery-style puds – and of course, unmissable, creamy afternoon teas!

A specials board is running at both lunch and dinner, which features items such as Blade of Beef, Belly Pork and Grilled Salmon and those wonderful afternoon teas are served every day the Tea House in The Woods is open!

The Woodhall Spa Cottage Museum, managed by volunteers, has welcomed over 40,000 visitors since opening in 1987. Within this unusual corrugated iron clad bungalow, displays feature unique photographs of the area. The summer display features ‘Notable Names of Woodhall Spa’.

An active Friends group has a programme that includes ‘The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’ on Sunday afternoon, 10th June, for children with adults when family fun and games with stories can be enjoyed. Tickets cost £5 and are limited to 36 places.

‘We’ll Meet Again’ is a musical concert by the Lincoln Ukulele Band on the evening of Friday 6th July as a pre-1940s event. Tickets cost £5 and are limited. Last year was a sell out!

The usual ‘Music in the Garden’ on Sunday afternoons continues from July through August.

Enjoy a range of children’s craft activities during the school holidays for example ‘Play with Clay’ and ‘Fabric Fun’.

All this and more is waiting to be discovered at the small museum with big surprises!

Discover more by checking out the website for more information or email to reserve tickets.

Sadie and Russell, of RJ Hirst Family Butchers in Woodhall Spa have been enjoying an exciting few months. In October last year they scooped two coveted accolades: Retailer of the Year and for the fifth consecutive year, Highly Commended Producer at the Prestigious Select Lincolnshire Food and Drink Awards. This was followed on the same day by a Rural Oscar nomination in the national Countryside Alliance Awards.

In January they were invited to the Houses of Parliament by MP Victoria Atkins, to a Taste of Horncastle and Louth event. This was a wonderful opportunity to showcase their produce to MPs, peers, the media and DEFRA Minister George Eustace. This was alongside celebrity chef Rachel Green and other fantastic food and drink producers from Victoria’s constituency.

In February a Channel Four show Village of the Year was aired featuring Woodhall Spa. Russell and Sadie were thrilled to meet and do some filming with TV icon Penelope Keith. Russell showed Penelope how his multi-award winning Lincolnshire Sausages are made!

Russell and Sadie look forward to welcoming you to their shop, with lots of new delicious BBQ dishes and pies for you to enjoy and not forgetting the fantastic Forties weekend too!

Underwoodhall Antiques and Jewellery are focused on providing customers with the highest levels of satisfaction and will do everything they can to meet your expectations. With a variety of offerings to choose from, they’re sure you’ll be happy working with them. They will search the county for unusual items of antique and later jewellery. Their team is on hand to help you find the perfect piece.

For more information visit

Two events which attract re-enactors, enthusiasts and visitors in equal measure are being held over the same two days this year giving everyone an outstanding opportunity to enjoy these great summer events in one fantastic weekend.

Woodhall Spa 1940s Festival and Thorpe Camp 1940s Weekend will take place on 7th-8th July. Woodhall Spa alone attracts more than 40,000 visitors and with excellent parking and free transport between Woodhall Spa and Thorpe Camp – a journey of less than ten minutes – every visitor will have the chance to learn about the social and military history of the region, see exciting re-enactments, sing and dance along with the very best 1940s entertainers. Weather permitting, crowds will be able to gaze into the sky and feel the thrill of seeing the BBMF’s historic aircraft soar overhead. The Thorpe Camp weekend is vital to help support the future of the museum for generations to come.

This year’s festival will celebrate Life on the Homefront and there is a packed programmes of events – many of which are free – so be sure to book early. Highlights include The Flying Proms at St Peter’s Church on Friday evening, Remembering Al Bowlly at The Petwood Hotel on Saturday evening and a 617 Salute Ball at St Hugh’s School. There are also Tea Dances, drop-in Swing sessions, living history groups and a Pre-1950s Vehicle Rally.

Lincolnshire Life will be bringing our marquee for the first time this year to be part of the fun. You will find us at the Inn at Woodhall Spa, amongst the trade exhibitors. Do come and say hello.

Woodhall Spa is home to Peter Scott Shoes, which is Britain’s smallest shoe shop.

When Woodhall Spa had it’s 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 retailer, a jeweller’s 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. They try to offer a range that is just a little different from those seen in every high street. Customers regularly travel from Lincoln, Louth and Boston for brands like Hotter, Rieker and Softline, and their price promise means you are always sure of good value.

The traditional Lincolnshire building method of mud and stud travelled across the globe with settlers to the New World but its use in our county declined in favour of local stone and brick soon after. The artisan skills required for this type of construction are still used by local craftsmen for heritage renovations but what is believed to be the first mud and stud barn to be built in Lincolnshire for over 300 years has opened its doors as a unique wedding reception venue.

Located at Abbey Farm on the edge of Woodhall Spa, the traditionally built Lincolnshire Oak Barn has views over thirty acres of tranquil gardens and the Kirkstead Abbey ruin.

The story began in 2012 when some existing outbuildings were knocked down. Jo Nelstrop, owner and director of Abbey Farm Weddings explained: “My husband Will must definitely take the credit for the project management skills and vision in creating this space! The oak used to build the timber structure was all sourced from Lincolnshire woodland – Aswarby, Welton Woods and Southrey Wood. Once the oak frame had been constructed and erected the painstaking task of building the mud walls by hand began. Luckily the winter was relatively mild with fog and therefore drying times proved to be the hindrance rather than snow and frost. Local builder Billy Willmington is described as having “muscles on his muscles” after it took him around a week to put one thin layer of mud around the entire building. Once the ‘mudding’ was completed the handmade oak doors and window frames went in and the lime plaster was applied to the walls. There are some concessions to the twenty-first century, an underfloor heating system has been installed, run from a bio-mass wood chip boiler and a wood burner sits in the traditionally designed fireplace and can be used as an open fire. All of the artisan craftsmen who worked on Oak Barn are based in Lincolnshire and it’s been a really exciting journey with some great friends made along the way.”

Abbey Farm Weddings has been running since 2005 with an area on the farm previously being rented out as a marquee venue, so experience of weddings is plentiful. They can also recommend partners for high quality bespoke catering, flowers, cakes, dresses and photography.

Abbey Farm Weddings, Oak Barn is now available as a charming venue which oozes character and epitomises the current theme for rustic/country weddings. The small, charming St Leonard’s Church is situated on the farm and is the most romantic and picturesque of venues to marry in, or alternatively the beautiful National Trust property Tattershall Castle is close by and conducts civil ceremonies.

The Oak Barn can seat up to 110, and over 150 for evening receptions. The real fire within the Oak Barn and a fire pit outside the porch are other exquisite features of Abbey Farm, which just add more charm to the warm and welcoming atmosphere.

Bespoke weddings are limited at this unique venue so if you want to break the mould and create a special day entirely bespoke to your wishes enquire for further information at: Abbey Farm Weddings, Abbey Farm, Abbey Lane, Kirkstead, Woodhall Spa LN10 6UH

Mrs Jo Nelstrop: 07795 396979. Viewings by appointment only.

Views of glorious gardens make the Petwood Hotel the perfect spot to enjoy an afternoon tea or summer’s evening supper on the terrace. After a swim at Jubilee Park or a film at the Kinema, the Petwood is a great way to finish a family day out in Woodhall Spa.

To commemorate RAF100, the Petwood has sponsored one of the 100 Voices cycle trails. The Lincoln to Woodhall Spa stretch of the Tiger Moth trail follows the old railway line – now a safe cycle route. The trail continues on to Coningsby and RAF Metheringham before looping back to Lincoln.

Visit the Petwood Hotel for a fantastic programme of events this summer. The Woodhall Spa 1940s Festival on 7th-8th July, a classic car show with jazz on 12th August, live music on the terrace on Sunday afternoons in August, a special children’s theatre production of Pirate Pearl and the Big Blue Monster on Wednesday 22nd August and an outdoor theatre production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Sunday 26th August make Woodhall Spa and the Petwood Hotel the perfect summer destination.

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