Welcome to Heckington

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
July 2015

There is no wonder that it is dubbed the largest village in Lincolnshire when it has as much to offer its community in terms of services, facilities and heritage as the small towns that surround it.
It has a range of independent businesses from pet supplies, butchers and greengrocers to hairdressers, florists and fast food outlets.

The village also boasts its own railway station – served by the Grantham to Skegness train service – and it is also home to the largest annual village show in the country. This attracts more than 30,000 visitors to the area every year.

Add to that a church that is one of the finest medieval churches in England and a working windmill that is the only one of its kind in the country, and it is not difficult to see why the village is so popular.

Parish Council vice-chairman Jan Palmer, is also the owner of the ladieswear business Lindsey James.

“We are a very active and well-serviced village. We are very fortunate to have a lot of skills in the village and there are twenty-nine organisations in Heckington covering all interests. It is a very busy community with 4,000 residents.

“We are a very pro-active, hands-on council as well. At the moment, we haven’t got a lot of anti-social behaviour. We liaise closely with the local police to nip any trouble in the bud, and we work with other agencies as closely as we can.”

Thanks to the parish council, a redundant church building that it bought three years ago is being transformed into a new village community centre, which will also be the Parish Council chambers.

“The centre will be manned every morning and it is going to be disabled-friendly with toilets and a lift so they can access the upstairs floors,” said Jan.

“One of the burning issues has been the distinct lack of public toilets in the village. It is important because we have a lot of visitors that travel from a long way away. I have been trying to get one put in since I joined the council in 1995 and finally one is being installed. It has been a long old haul.”

Lincolnshire born and bred, Jan has lived in the village since 1980 and established Lindsey James in 1993. Having outgrown two original premises, the business moved to Heckington Fen in 2002. But it had to expand again and moved back into the village last year in the derelict Oak pub buildings.

“We have just marked one year back in the village and it has gone okay. The location is good and we have a car park, which is always a bonus,” said Jan.

“We are now developing our own branded garments and branded shoes and hopefully in time we can do some manufacturing on a small scale.”

The village has a number of attractions which draw visitors from far and wide. They include the beautiful St Andrew’s Church. Built in the 1300s, in the decorated style of the period, it is a true medieval church. Adorned inside and out with many statues, gargoyles, beasts, royal faces, angels and animals leaping from the world and imagination of the fourteenth century stone carvers, it contains the finest grouping of Easter sepulchre, sedalia and piscina in the country.  

“It is architecturally very interesting and there are a lot of artefacts in the church. Visitors come from all over the world and some come specifically to visit the church because of its unusual architecture,” said Jan.

“We have a very active Methodist Church and a Wesleyan chapel as well and all our churches are trying to work closer together.”

There are quite a few developments in the pipeline for Heckington but the parish council is asking for the infrastructure to be improved before applications are granted.

“As a council we take the stand that we are going to reject any plans until we can get assurances that the infrastructure will be improved and made fit for purpose,” said Jan.

Heckington is also renowned for its annual show which takes place this month (July).

It is the biggest village show in the country and last year attracted 33,000 visitors. Staged on sixty-five acres of land, it is run by Heckington Agricultural Society and features something for everyone from athletics, cycling and showjumping to live music, fireworks and living history displays.

Another magnet for visitors is Heckington Windmill, which is a unique landmark attraction, being the only eight-sailed windmill in western Europe and the sole survivor of just seven such mills built in the UK.

Thanks to a £1.2 million Heritage Lottery grant, the mill is undergoing a regeneration programme which will see it redeveloped into a first class visitor centre in and around the original Victorian mill buildings.

“The Windmill regeneration is a big project and it is a massive thing to get such a big grant. It is wonderful for Heckington,” said Jan.

The grant, obtained by the Heckington Windmill Trust, enabled the Trust to buy the rest of the buildings on the windmill site.

The redevelopment project will result in a new spacious visitor centre, with exhibition area and innovative educational displays, a new disabled lift – providing direct level access onto the ground floor of the mill – and a new visitor centre entrance and mill shop.

The original bakehouse in front of the mill will also be reopened as a baking school, providing a centre for teaching and demonstrating traditional baking skills. Reopening it means baking will take place on the site for the first time in more than 100 years.

A new car park will also be created, together with an outside space for traditional displays, exhibitions and a sail maintenance area.

Development plans for the windmill itself include moving the mill shop from the ground floor of the mill into the adjacent building which will make space for a new set of millstones to be installed, providing access for everyone to see the mill in action.

Shop manager and Heckington Windmill Trust Committee member, Liz Desmond said: “The regeneration project was expected to be completed by 2016 but the discovery of asbestos on the site delayed the start of the work and it is now expected to be finished by Easter 2017.

“In 2014 we acquired new sails and from August the mill has been milling again. A lot of things have been going on which you can’t see. We have bought a new engine, a Rustons oil engine, which is going to turn the grinding stone and there will be an area to demonstrate the flour milling process to everyone including disabled people.”

The mill has just gone into producing self-raising flour and is starting to sell commercially on a small scale.

Tea room manager and Trust Committee member Sheila Channing said: “It used to produce one tonne but now it is up to five tonnes. Because we are voluntary we can’t mill every day, so the amount we can mill is limited by how much time we have.”

There is now also an archive and history group, which has found out a lot more information about the Pocklington family and estate.

The mill is open every weekend and bank holidays, and every day through the school summer holidays.

The Heckington Windmill Trust has a stand at Heckington Show but its main event is its threshing event in September. Running alongside it is the Harvest beer festival at the 8 Sail micro brewery located on the mill site. There will be one-off brews to celebrate the hop harvest.

The brewery which is also the Lincolnshire Real Ale & Cider store is one of the county’s new wave of craft breweries. It was set up five years ago by Steve Doane and Tony Pygott in the old sack store next to the windmill with a five-and-a-half barrel brew plant with a capacity to produce forty-four casks a year.

The range of beers has grown steadily and now they brew nine core beers and seasonal and special beers as well. They sell to local farmers’ shops and pubs throughout Lincolnshire and the surrounding counties.

Heckington’s close neighbour East Heckington boasts a range of interesting and complementary businesses including Abbey Parks Farm Shop and Elm Grange Studios.

Heckington’s parish church of St Andrew’s is one of the grandest of its kind in the country and attracts specialist visitors from all over the world. But, thanks to the discovery of some original stained glass window fragments, a new group has been formed to boost its appeal even more.

The church, architecturally one of the finest medieval churches in England, was built in the fourteenth century and displays beautifully carved statues both inside and out, with the tower alone displaying thirty-five stained glass windows.

Andrew Key, chairman of the new St Andrew’s Church Heritage & Tourism group explained the background to its formation.

“Out of the blue the vicar got an email telling him fragments of a stained glass window from the church had been found in storage in York. They were taken out a long time ago when the glass was replaced. That started off the heritage idea and led to the group being set up,” said Andrew.

“With all the other developments and events going on in the village we wanted to ensure visitors came to the church as well, so we are looking at ways to increase visitor numbers,” he said.

It was in 1946 when the fragments of the old medieval window were removed from the church after the last stained glass window was added to the west end of the building and, unbeknown to everyone in Heckington, they have been in storage ever since.

“They will be brought back and incorporated somewhere in the church, probably in the chancery chapel which is being renovated on the north side of the church. We have a lot of visitors from all over the world and a lot come specially to visit the church because of its unusual architecture,” said Andrew.

“One of the things the group is going to do is create a new logo for the church, reflecting its medieval history. It is also planning to produce a new guide and will also be taking part in the National Heritage weekend in September.”

The group is focusing on raising money for the heritage work, which includes new toilet facilities being installed and the renovation of the pipe organ.

It has lots of events planned including afternoon tea by the lake on 11th July and a number of musical concerts in the church. The Market Rasen Band has just performed at the church as well as the Rocking Revs – a rock duo which includes the vicar of Heckington himself, the Reverend Chris Harrington.

“The afternoon tea by the lake will include a glass of champagne and traditional afternoon tea. Numbers are limited but tickets cost £10 and are available by calling 01529 481161 or 01529 460272,” said Andrew.

“The group has lots of ideas to develop our wonderful church and to promote its beauty and importance as a place of worship for more than 700 years.”

After his flagship store was awarded Midlands and East of England Butchers Shop of The Year two years running, Gary Simpson proved he wasn’t one to rest on his laurels. The Heckington shop has just undergone a major refurbishment creating more space to offer its ever-increasing customer base even more variety in its innovative product ranges and now includes a state-of-the-art dry aging cabinet which enables customers to specify exactly how mature they would like their beef.

Dry aged beef is sought after for its depth of flavour and Simpsons’ customers can select cuts aged between twenty-eight and forty-two days. The right combination of time, temperature, air circulation and humidity breaks down the meat’s collagen giving it a unique flavor and ensuring ultimate tenderness.

With summer finally here, Simpsons have some great barbecue ideas, from their award-winning burger and sausage ranges to a great choice in kebabs and rib racks. Or if you are new to Simpsons why not try the Taste Pack that also includes the sausages and burgers but also steaks, bacon, pork loin, topside beef and garlic chicken crown.

County meat lovers should now never be far from a Simpsons outlet, but for those who do have to travel a little bit further it is worth stocking up with freezer packs and special bulk buy deals.

Visit: www.gsimpsonbutchers.co.uk

Final preparations are underway for the major event in Heckington’s calendar, the annual show, which has been putting the village on the map for 148 years.

Now described as the largest village show in England, its origins lie in the village’s 900-year-old feast week linked to the Feast of St Mary and it can be traced back to 1863. It has been taking place at its current venue since 1867.

Last year’s event attracted more than 33,000 people and the 2015 event promises to be bigger and better than ever, offering something for everyone, from an astounding variety of entertainment and activity to a main ring programme featuring children’s cycling and running races, top level cycle racing and headline acts Ye Old Redtail Falconry and the Red Devils parachute display team.

The show’s country roots are also very much in evidence, with the introduction of Scurry Driving and the contrasting and eternal calm of the Heavy Horse turnouts.

This year’s Beauty Zone, which was new for 2014, has been improved and extended. The Activity Zone offers the chance for people to try circus skills, model boats, rugby with Leicester Tigers or cookery with Boston College.

New for this year’s show, which takes place on 25th & 26th July, is Creature Caboodle where you can test your nerve with some of our eight-legged friends and, of course, no visit would be complete without the livestock. This features local breeds such as Lincoln Reds and Longwool sheep.

The first day of the show is rounded off by the Grand Fireworks Concert, where Glastonbury meets the Proms in a musical extravaganza which seems to get better every year.

Sunday is time for showjumping, featuring the Area Trial which opens doors for the winner to go on to national competitions. It is always keenly fought for by both horse and rider. They will be jumping some big fences but headline act – the Bolddog Lings motorcycle display team – will be seriously airborne with some adrenaline-fuelled stunts you would never dream of trying at home.

There are also scores of craft and trade stands to enjoy, as well as the countryside area, the concert marquee and the horticulture displays where hundreds of people now enter their produce or paintings for all to enjoy.

Chairman Charles Pinchbeck said: “We like to bring back all the traditional elements that visitors enjoy and yet, every year, there are always some great innovations and new additions.”

A warm reception is assured at The Carre Arms Hotel and Restaurant on Mareham Lane in Sleaford. It is family-owned and run, and offers an award-winning Brasserie restaurant, excellently appointed en-suite guest bedrooms, a Victorian glass conservatory and function rooms. It has been serving locals and people from afar for over twenty-five years.

Its professional team caters for an intimate dinner, a drink in the bar – including a fine wine from its extensive wine cellar or a CAMRA recommended cask ale – weddings, civil ceremonies, banqueting and conferencing up to 100 guests.

The kitchen, open daily between midday and 9pm, offers an eclectic mix of Mediterranean and modern English dishes. The daily menu changes according to the delivery of quality local seasonal produce, fresh fish, seafood and game. The ‘Famous Five’ menu offers traditional choices including homemade pies, along with a selection of sandwiches in homemade bread. Traditional afternoon cream teas are also available in the Victorian Glass Conservatory between 2.30pm and 5pm (excl. Sunday).

Sunday lunches are a popular choice in the Brasserie and booking is advisable.

Whatever your particular requirements, The Carre Arms Hotel and Restaurant will be happy to accommodate you.

The Carre Arms, Mareham Lane, Sleaford, NG34 7JP, Tel: 01529 303156.

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