Village explores new era

Words by:
Glynis Fox
Featured in:
June 2014

Whatever your passion – be it caravanning, swimming, playing golf, enjoying retail therapy or eating out – Woodhall Spa has plenty to offer.
On first impression, a visitor could easily be lulled into thinking this is a rather quiet resort, with a genteel air reminiscent of a bygone era, and perhaps an ideal place for retirement. But a little research into Woodhall Spa’s facilities, from schools to shops, leisure and entertainment options, will soon change those perceptions.

There’s ongoing investment in leisure facilities and news of exciting, potential developments on the horizon too, because this is a destination that is continuing to grow.

One of the hottest topics of conversation is the Nelstrop family’s proposals to create a “lasting legacy” for the village – with an inland, 300-berth marina on its outskirts, potentially surrounded by 200 homes, a cafe/restaurant, offices and a boatyard.

Although it could take up to twenty-five years to come to fruition, the development would signal new rural jobs and boost Woodhall Spa’s profile as a tourist destination.

The entire project would depend on securing planning permission from East Lindsey District Council, as well as support from bodies such as British Waterways and English Heritage.

But back to today. Further investment has already taken place at the Woodhall Country Park, where facilities continue to be created as the holiday season gets in full swing.

It’s great news for an attraction which was only started in 2010, but which has quickly become a runaway success.

There have also been developments at Jubilee Park, just a stone’s throw away. This complex, which was formerly in the hands of the Parish Council, is now being steered into the future by a new not-for-profit company – Jubilee Park Woodhall Spa Ltd.

It’s an exciting time, as the company, which has leased the Park from the Parish Council, looks to put the popular attraction onto a stronger footing for the future.

Jubilee Park offers everything from caravan and camping accommodation, to an outdoor heated swimming pool, a play park, cafe, sporting activities and events.

If golf is your favourite sport, you should know that Woodhall Spa is home to The National Golf Centre, with its world class courses and an academy which is open to all.

People who prefer to go for a stroll or take a bike ride are encouraged to explore the three-mile long Spa Trail, which runs along the old Horncastle to Woodhall Junction railway line. Part of the Viking Way, it passes through woods and rolling countryside. Look out for some amazing sculptures on the way too.

Perhaps shopping, enjoying a leisurely lunch or even afternoon tea with friends is more your thing? If so, then Woodhall Spa has a bit of everything to offer.

Check out The Broadway businesses for fashion, gifts, footwear, flowers and more. When it comes to eating out, you are also spoilt for choice, with English, Chinese, Indian, Italian and Thai cuisine among the options on offer. Choose a private eatery or dine at one of the Spa’s impressive hotels, such as The Petwood or The Golf.

You don’t even have to travel far to see the latest films, just simply check out what’s showing at Kinema in The Woods. The Kinema offers a real atmospheric experience, with its traditional ice cream breaks ‘halfway’ through the film and you might even get the bonus of listening to the Kinema’s organ.

If you fancy a touch of nostalgia you can always check out the Woodhall Spa Cottage Museum, at the end of Iddesleigh Road. It opened in May 1987 – the same day as the dedication of the Dam Busters Memorial in Royal Square.

The museum, which is run by a team of volunteers, is packed with displays and information about the history of the village and its events diary is always worth checking out.

For instance, the Wartime Woodhall Committee is working with the museum – gathering knowledge, memories, letters, medals and details of Woodhall’s fallen in the Great and Second World Wars – ahead of an exhibition taking place at the venue from July to October.

Woodhall Spa has great wartime links, including The Dambusters Bar at The Petwood Hotel, where members of the famous 617 Squadron used to meet.

Organisers of the Woodhall Spa 1940s Festival are planning a fun-packed weekend for the whole family to enjoy on 19th and 20th July. Attractions include military and classic vehicles, living history displays, memorabilia and period trade stalls, open air concerts, vintage bus rides and a flypast by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

This crowdpulling event typically attracts between 3,000 and 4,000 people. The Petwood Hotel will also be getting into the spirit of things with talks, re-enactment briefings and light music.

Lincoln-based planning consultant Globe Ltd has been working closely with the Nelstrop family on its vision to create a multi-million pound marina complex on the outskirts of Woodhall Spa.

The proposal currently features an inland, 300-berth marina, potentially 200 homes, a cafe/restaurant, offices and a boatyard and it has been put forward by a well-known farming family, members of which live and work in the area.

Globe spokesman, Andy Booth said: “This is at a very early stage, but the Nelstrop family genuinely wants to create a lasting legacy for the village and to hear what members of the community think about it.

“This would be a quality, bespoke development, designed to complement what Woodhall Spa already offers, rather than to be in competition with its existing facilities.

“People using the marina would obviously use businesses already based in the village, which would also be positive for the local economy.”

Any firm proposals would respond to recommendations made in Woodhall Spa’s Neighbourhood Plan and the emerging East Lindsey District Council (ELDC) Local Plan.

With major work required to create the marina basin and canal, one of the keys to kickstarting this project is getting the green light for the new homes.

Exploratory talks have already taken place with ELDC in relation to hopefully gaining planning permission for this ambitious project.

It’s very much business as usual at Jubilee Park as users look forward to a great summer at this hugely popular venue.

But there has been a key development in its history because the Parish Council, which has run the park since 2011, has leased it to a new not-for-profit venture, Jubilee Park Woodhall Spa Ltd – which could eventually lead to it opening all year round.

Village residents, members of clubs within the park and regular users can now become members and have a say in what happens to the park. The company has also applied for charity status.

A spokesman for the Trustees said: “There won’t be any changes this season. Joe Stanhope remains as park manager and he’s recruited all the lifeguards and other people needed to support the swimming pool for the summer season.

“The benefit of the new structure and having a community company running the pool, gardens and caravan site, is that there is a lot more flexibility with regard to grant funding applications.”

A number of proposals are being explored and will be reviewed, with community input, over the coming months.

But it is clear that the new company faces challenges. When the Park was originally transferred from East Lindsey District Council (to the Parish Council), the authority (ELDC) provided funding support for five years. This runs out at the end of the year (April 2015).

“Last year was a good year for the park in terms of revenue generated, but costs were higher too. The Park made a surplus of about £10,000 last year, which included around £20,000 to £25,000 of support from ELDC, so in real terms it cost £10,000 to £15,000 more to run the Park than it actually generated. This was on the back of a really good summer,” said the spokesman.

“If nothing changes when the ELDC funding support stops, the Park will lose money every year. Having the new community company in control means that it is now in a position to look at ways of generating additional income to help support the Park and move to operating all year round, rather than the five short months which it does at the moment. This is essential to fill the gap that will be made by the loss of the ELDC funding,” he added.

With no let up in the popularity of the ‘staycation’ there’s little wonder that Woodhall Country Park is one of the area’s hottest attractions.

This five-star camping and caravanning site, which makes the most of its idyllic woodland setting, got off to a flying start in August 2010.

But the speed with which it clinched a string of highly-coveted awards has not seen members of its team resting on their laurels and this year there are even more facilities for visitors to enjoy.

Country Park manager, Ian Edmondson said: “This year holidaymakers have already been snapping up the chance to stay in our stylish Sky Lodge Camping, or Glamping, Pods. The six existing pods have proved so popular and captured lots of interest, that six more will be added this season.

“Eight new, serviced hard-standing pitches have also been created, in addition to the eighty which already existed. These are all serviced with a water supply and have electric hook-up points,” said Mr Edmonson.

“There are also twenty-five new dual-use grass pitches, which are suitable for large tents or caravans.”

The brains behind the park, Woodland Estates Ltd has also added an extra special touch: a fresh herb garden, allowing visitors to add even more flavour to suppers enjoyed in the great outdoors.

Woodhall Country Park was voted Heart of England Campsite of the Year for 2013 by the AA, which gave staff and visitors a major vote of confidence in this holiday facility.

That was after the Park’s high standards had already led to its recognition as Lincolnshire’s only 5 Pennant-rated site by the AA – an accolade it has managed to maintain. It has also been awarded the top five-star rating by VisitEngland.

The Park’s state-of-the-art facilities include sustainable buildings for essentials, such as toilet blocks. These have underfloor heating, powered by a biomass boiler.

“We are delighted to report that the park has become established to the point where we are attracting repeat business and our latest developments, including the camping pods, are set to increase this trend further,” said Mr Edmondson.

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