Village gears up for a characterful festive season
Woodhall Spa offers locals and visitors world-class leisure attractions, ideal for a day out or seasonal celebration. Glynis Fox highlights some of the longstanding businesses, as they prepare for the Christmas period.
Charm is certainly a big feature of Woodhall Spa, making it an increasingly popular tourist destination with visitors flocking 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.
Woodhall’s history stretches back to Victorian times, when thousands came from all over the country – and from further afield – to take advantage of the waters and much of the village’s Victorian elegance remains; so much so that since January 1991 much of the centre has been a designated conservation area.
It covers the late Victorian/Edwardian planned area of the village including most of the pre-existing development and it also encompasses a large wooded area to the north with the Petwood Hotel in the centre.
The village’s turn of the century genteel character is very much in evidence today with its ‘Arts and Crafts’ and ‘Domestic Revival’ style buildings and the broad tree-lined avenues.
The original spa baths survive, although they are currently derelict but their surrounding secluded wooded setting has become central to the informal recreation of the village.
The Kinema, the Tea House in the Woods and The Pinewoods are all visitor attractions found in the immediate vicinity of the former spa baths complex.
The recent history of Woodhall Spa has also been shaped by the presence of the British and Polish army in the village during the Second World War, although the stationing of the ‘Dambusters’ (made famous by the 1955 film of the same name) 617 Squadron at Petwood House, which was their Officers’ Mess during WWII, is perhaps better remembered.
The house was one of the grandest and most important houses in the village and its owners have played an important role in Woodhall Spa’s development. Now the Petwood Hotel, it is one of the best loved hotels in Lincolnshire and its acres of beautifully landscaped gardens are also one of the best gardens to visit.
Planned and executed according to Lady Grace Weigall’s lavish tastes by famous landscape designer Harold Peto, the gardens at the Petwood are open to the public all year.
During the warmer months the gardens play host to various events, including outdoor theatre and the famous Woodhall Spa 1940s Festival, which sadly had to be cancelled this year but is scheduled to be back on for 2022.
One of the most striking features for garden visitors today is the rhododendron walk, which bursts with colour in the late spring and delights guests today as much as those invited to Lady Weigall’s garden parties all those decades ago.
GOLF COURSE AMONG WORLD’S BEST
Even Woodhall Spa’s golf club has a story of its own and is more than just a golf club. As the National Golf Centre, it is the home of England Golf and has two magnificent courses – the Hotchkin and the Bracken.
The Hotchkin is currently ranked number 54 in the world (by Golf.com) and has recently been extensively refurbished by leading golf course architect Tom Doak. It is consistently rated among the world’s finest heathland golf experiences and is a favourite destination for golf breaks. The Hotchkin rose 12 places from its position two years ago in the American publication’s 2020-21 list of the greatest courses in the world.
The Lincolnshire course’s significant jump placed it ahead of some of the most iconic and alluring names in the game: Ballyneal, Kiawah Island (Ocean), Cape Wickham, Royal Lytham, Sawgrass, Whistling Straits, Bandon Dunes, Cabot Links, Bandon Trails, Barnbougle (Lost Farm) and Royal Melbourne (East) were all ranked below the Hotchkin.
In ranking the course at No 54, Golf’s new architecture editor – the highly-respected Ran Morrisset – said: “Harry Vardon left us much more than six Open wins and a grip. Woodhall Spa is his design legacy, an intriguing heathland/inland links blend, an oasis of tumbling terrain amid the surrounding flat fenland of Lincolnshire.
“Deep bunkers are its defining trait, along with plentiful gorse and a stellar set of par 3s. Credit architects HS Colt and SV Hotchkin for enhancing Vardon’s work and turning the course into one of golf’s supreme shotmaking tests.”
Doak’s work at Woodhall Spa centred around hundreds of trees removed, bunkers restored, created and filled in, and the encouragement of heather.
“We are naturally delighted with this ranking,” said Richard Latham, general manager. “To be so high in such a respected list is very pleasing and credit must go to Tom and his team – as well as our in-house staff who carried out so much of the renovation work – for improving the course to such a degree that this esteemed panel view us so highly.
“To be rated among the stellar names in world golf illustrates what I hope anyone who has visited us recently knows: the Hotchkin is a world-class golf course.”
The first nine-hole golf course was opened in Woodhall Spa in 1890, but only survived until 1895 when the land was required for building. A new site was found and another nine-hole golf course was laid out, but by 1902 it became clear that the golf course would also have to find another new home as the land was again required for the expansion of the spa town.
Local landowner Stafford Vere Hotchkin, offered a sandy tract of land off the Horncastle Road to build an 18-hole course. The course was designed by Harry Vardon and was formally opened for play on 24th April 1905. It was remodelled in 1911 by Harry Colt, and again by Hotchkin himself in the 1920s.
Womersley House was built by the Hotchkin family, which was instrumental in the development of the adjoining Hotchkin Golf Course – now the headquarters of the English Golf Union, who bought the course in 1995 to set up the National Golf Centre.
WINTER GLAMPING EXPERIENCES
Woodhall Spa is a popular holiday destination and has a wide choice of places to stay from historic hotels and traditional B&Bs to caravan parks and glamping sites.
In fact it’s newest glamping site, Treetop Hideaways, has just been named as one of the best in the UK, having been listed in The Times’ guide to the ultimate winter glamping sites. Having only opened this summer, the site comprises six, adults-only treehouses which sit around a pocket of little lakes in the Lincolnshire Wolds, offering the ultimate return to nature.
Set amongst 17 acres of mature, rhododendron woodlands, the romantic treetop hideaways for two provide quiet solitude in natural leafy surroundings, and a dreamy sanctuary any time of year! Each treehouse is unique, with a different style and feel, reflecting its namesake. The thoughtfully designed interiors combined with luxury living, offer a calm, magical self-catering experience for two.
One of the village’s long established caravan parks is Jubilee Park caravan and camping park located just five minutes’ walk from the centre.
Set amongst some of the most beautiful woodland areas in Lincolnshire, it is adjacent to the heated outdoor pool and paddling pool.
Another site in Woodhall Spa that offers caravanning and glamping stays is Woodhall Country Park. It opened in 2010 having been originally designed with Natural England. Today it retains its mixture of woodland, wetland meadows and lakes – providing an array of habitats for the local wildlife and fauna.
Starting out with just touring and camping pitches, the park has added to its accommodation portfolio over the years, with pods, hideaways and luxury lodges, to create what is today a unique 5-star holiday park, offering something for everyone.
It has been awarded and maintained a 5-star status from Visit England and five Gold Pennants from the AA.
In 2018 it was awarded the honour of Best Large Lodge Escape destination in the East of England by Hoseasons – having achieved the highest scores in independent customer satisfaction surveys in the region.
It has been a difficult 18 months for venues such as cinemas but Woodhall Spa’s iconic Kinema in the Woods has something to look forward to in 2022. It will reach its centenary milestone, having first opened its doors to filmgoers on 11th September 1922.
The Kinema started life as a sports and entertainment pavilion dating from the late 19th century and sat in the grounds of The Victoria Hotel, overlooking tennis courts, croquet lawns and gardens – until the hotel burned down in 1920.
Sir Archibald and Lady Weigall bought the hotel ruins including the sports pavilion in 1922 and, with the assistance of Captain Carleton Cole Allport, transformed the site into a cinema. The Pavilion Cinema (as it was then known) was only the 68th cinema to be opened in Britain.
The first film to be shown was intended to be The Lion Eaters, however the film failed to arrive and a Charlie Chaplin film was shown in its place.
Due to the roof trusses in the building, which are too low for an image to be projected from the back of the auditorium, films in Screen One at The Kinema are projected from behind the screen and on to a mirror to flip the image. This is then shown on the back of the screen.
The Kinema is believed to be the only full-time cinema in the UK still using rear projection.
Most of the auditorium (the current Screen One) was fitted with tip-up seats, however the front six rows were deck chairs. These seats were much sought after at 1s 6d (other seats ranged from 1s 3d to 6d). The deck chairs remained in The Kinema until 1953. The first sound projector was installed in 1928 and was replaced in 1978 by two electronically controlled projectors.
Major C C Allport ran the cinema for more than 50 years, until 1973 when it was taken over by James Green, who also owned a cinema in Stone, Staffordshire and later owned and ran cinemas in Spilsby and Mablethorpe.
In June 1987, Mr Green installed a Compton Kinestra organ in The Kinema, which features an ornate lacquered red and gold console with an 18th century oriental design. The organ is still situated in Screen One and played regularly by The Kinema’s resident organist, Alan Underwood.
A 92-seat auditorium, Kinema Two, was opened on 8th July 1994 with a screening of Four Weddings and A Funeral. The auditorium walls of Screen Two depict scenes of rural Lincolnshire in trompe l’oeil style painted by Canadian artist Murray Hubick.
In June 2019 a Third Auditorium was opened, with a screening of the film Yesterday to an invited audience. The Kinema in the Woods remains a privately owned family business and is open every day of the year except Christmas Day.
PERFECT FOR A CHRISTMAS ESCAPE
The Dower House Hotel, in the heart of Woodhall Spa, is a hidden gem; with crackling log fires and cosy event rooms it’s the perfect spot for a festive gathering. They have event rooms for all sizes of groups; a private dining room perfect for a book club festive lunch; or a banquet for 120 in their beautiful function suite or any number in between. The hotel will be beautifully decorated for the festive season, just lovely for afternoon tea on a cold winter’s afternoon, for lunch before you start the Christmas shopping, or for a meal with the family in the evening.
If you want a real escape at Christmas, with no cooking or washing up, their two-night Christmas package will be just perfect for you. The hotel has 21 light and spacious bedrooms, including the beautiful Hotchkin Suite, the spacious Bracken suite, and the fully accessible Golf View room. There’ll be plenty of space for the present sacks and they’ll make sure there’s a chimney for Father Christmas to drop in!
2022 is going to be a year to celebrate, so join the team at The Dower House for their Gala New Year’s Eve celebration. You’ll celebrate the end of 2021 in style – black tie and evening gowns, a delectable dinner and dancing until 1am with fireworks at midnight. TNT Soul Explosion will be sure to get you up on the dance floor, you’ll have a wonderful time. Definitely time to find the tux and the ballgown in the back of the wardrobe – don’t forget those dancing shoes!
More details can be found on their website www.dowerhousehotel.co.uk, or you can call to book on 01526 352588. You can also email email@example.com to find out more information or to make a booking.
OFFERING A STYLISH SELECTION
Fondly known as ‘Britain’s Smallest Shoe Shop’, Peter Scott Shoes on the Broadway has long held an outstanding reputation for a wide range of practical, sporting and elegant footwear to suit all tastes. Having recently taken over from long-time former owner Phillip Simmons, Oliver Salter and Amy Sharpe say they have been overwhelmed by well-wishers and customer feedback, with suggestions of brands and designs to include in the shop’s existing stock of more than 200 different styles.
Here you will find some of the most famous brands in European and British footwear, including Adesso, Boulevard, Cipriata, Hotter, Lotus, Marco Tozzi, Rieker, Skechers, Hush Puppies and Softline, plus a selection of handbags and gift vouchers perfect for Christmas gifts.
“We have no plans to change a great deal and it still amazes me how much we manage to fit in,” says Oliver. “There might be the odd tweak and maybe a different brand or two, but we want to keep the great brands that customers have come to expect, and keep coming back for. Woodhall Spa is a great day out, with free parking for two hours directly behind the shop and often available right outside the door!”
For more information find on Facebook: Peter Scott Shoes or visit the website www.peterscottshoes.co.uk
FESTIVE FARE WITH A DIFFERENCE FROM INDIA VILLAGE
If you’re looking for an alternative to traditional festive dishes when searching for somewhere to eat out, India Village is the ideal place to catch up with family and friends, with the added attraction of sampling a wide variety of mouth-watering, authentic tastes of regional traditional favourites from around north and south India, as well as Bangladesh and Pakistan.
All food, including the selection of dishes on the takeaway menu (which can be ordered online), is prepared in-house by Jamal Hussain’s trusted, experienced team of chefs who pride themselves on using ingredients which are ethically sourced from reputable importers of spices, while also supporting local producers for fresh ingredients.
Ideal as a gift for discerning foodies, India Village also offers a selection of special Christmas Gift Vouchers, which would make a perfect present for those who appreciate well spiced, fragrant dishes cooked with care.
For bookings and more information call 01526 352223 or visit www.indianwoodhall.co.uk
ENJOY A MAGICAL CHRISTMAS AT THE PETWOOD
With the welcoming scent of pine needles from the real Christmas trees drifting across the hall and the log fires offering cosy comfort from the cold outside, there really is something magical about the Petwood at Christmas. The festive season is a time for merriment and after the muted celebrations of last year, we are all keen to make 2021 a Christmas to remember.
The Petwood’s festive menus will be served throughout December, offering plenty of opportunity to host family get-togethers, reunions and celebrations. After a year of continued hybrid home/office working, this year of all years is a great time to gather with your team for a work Christmas lunch. Whether booking a table in the restaurant or enquiring about private dining options, the Petwood team will be delighted to help and with the added comfort of flexible booking terms you can book with confidence.
The last couple of years have helped us all appreciate the outdoors more, whatever the weather. The splendid Petwood gardens are fabulous to explore at any time of year and so be sure to pack your boots and enjoy a stroll around the grounds and woods – perfect for capturing the imagination of mini explorers. Reward your adventures by finishing with cake and hot chocolate by the fire.
The deliciously tempting Afternoon Teas make a wonderful occasion for friends to meet – and with gluten free and vegan options too, special dietary requirements are well catered for (please give 24 hours’ notice). Add a cocktail or glass of mulled wine for a yuletide twist, or add some sparkle with a glass of Champagne or non-alcoholic fizz to toast the occasion, friendship and good health.
For menus and more information, please see www.petwood.co.uk or call 01526 352411. Wishing you a magical festive season.
COMBINING TASTE AND TRADITION
Popular with visitors and locals alike, Woodhall Spa’s Tea House in the Woods is a welcoming English-style eatery which has been delighting its discerning customers with first class food and service since it was established more than 120 years ago.
This iconic restaurant has earned a reputation for creating classic dishes with the best of local produce using locally sourced ingredients. Here you can enjoy a choice of different dishes throughout the day, from traditional breakfast to afternoon teas, with freshly filled sandwiches, home-made scones, cakes and treats, as well as a varied lunchtime menu featuring light bites, salads and platters.
The restaurant is also open in the evenings for à la carte dining from 5pm, with a wide menu choice including grills, gourmet burgers, pasta and pizza, with vegetarian options.
“All of our dishes are prepared in our kitchen using locally sourced and seasonal ingredients from in and around Lincolnshire,” explains co-owner Natalie Leech, who has run the restaurant with head chef Stephen Sleight since 2014. “Our aim is to offer local produce with a personal touch, which we hope will see you return.”
For more information visit www.teahouseinthewoods.co.uk
DESIGNS OF DISTINCTION AT UNDERWOOD HALL
As one of Woodhall Spa’s longest established family-run specialist shops, Underwood Hall, which celebrates its 30th birthday this year, offers an array of distinctive new and vintage jewellery and antiques, including beautiful bangles, chains, necklaces and earrings, as well as classic wristwatches from popular brands such as Sekonda and Rotary.
With excellent customer care and first class service on offer, here you will also find a collection of specially selected quality gold and silver jewellery, ranging from Victorian period pieces to modern design classics.
If you enjoy browsing and shopping for unique gifts and present ideas, this shop is a real gem for those looking for something different and extra special, such as stunning photo frames, glass paperweights and quality objets d’art, with all items being hand-picked for their fine styling and quality.
Make the most of Underwood Hall’s excellent reputation for customer care, as well as bespoke jewellery design and expert repairs service. Open Mondays to Saturdays, from 9.30am to 4.30pm.
For more information contact Underwood Hall, tel: 01526 353815.
ARTISAN CRAFTERS OFFER UNIQUE GIFTS
If you’re looking for original gift ideas, Fairy Crafters in Woodhall Spa offers a unique selection of hand-made suggestions, including Christmas decorations, jewellery, soft furnishings, wax melts and art, supporting more than 40 local craft businesses.
Owned and run by Claire Blackburn, an experienced crafter with a real passion for showcasing local talent, here you will find a treasure trove of distinctive greeting cards, gifts and interior décor designs for friends, family, children and pets to suit all tastes and budgets.
As an extra special touch, all items can also be customised and personalised to suit your preferences.
Among the well stocked displays at Fairy Crafters, you will find many unusual gift ideas, including colourful hand-knitted socks and if you’re aiming to be more environmentally friendly, look out for the selection of reusable Christmas crackers which will make a great addition to your table. Handmade by local crafter Claire-Lou’s Venture, these are available in a range of designs and fabrics.
Fairy Crafters, Unit 2a Goodyear House, Tattershall Road, Woodhall Spa LN10 6QJ Tel: 07832 974557 or visit Facebook @fairycrafters
Photographs: Mick Fox