Wonderful Woodhall Spa

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
June 2016

The historic, picturesque Lincolnshire village is renowned for being a peaceful rural retreat with a sedate pace of life. But 2016 is a time of celebration for the developing community for a number of reasons.
Just like communities up and down the country, the village is preparing to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday this month with a major event in Jubilee Park on the 12th.

It is being organised by a joint team from Woodhall Spa Cottage Museum and Jubilee Park – both of which are charities within the village that want to promote themselves and the village as a whole.

Friends of the Cottage Museum chairman, Roger Webb said: “We thought the Queen’s birthday should be celebrated and we have organised things for the afternoon.

“These include some children’s entertainers, some falconers, music on the bandstand, tombola stalls, raffle, crowns and coronets to make, and other games.

“We have been given some financial sponsorship by Woodhall Spa Parish Council and people are being encouraged to come dressed up as a king or queen and bring a picnic.”

The event runs from 12noon until 5pm and entrance to the event is free.

Jubilee Park has more attractions than ever this year for a family day out and prides itself on being all inclusive for visitors of all ages and abilities.

The open-air heated swimming pool programme has extra hours and sessions this year, from extra early adult-only morning swims and half price offers for seniors on Tuesdays to fun sessions with inflatables, aquacise and swimming lessons.

The charitable trust that runs the community park has continued to replant and improve the pleasure gardens and the iconic bandstand will be refurbished in time for the special Royal picnic in the park.

Park manager, Jo Stanhope said: “This is just one of a variety of special events, which include increasingly popular midnight swims and open-air cinema, planned for this summer.”

As well as the Queen’s birthday event, the village is going to once again step back in time to the war years for a weekend of 1940s festivities which will attract thousands of visitors to the village.

The 1940s Festival is returning for its fifth year on 16th and 17th July, building on the success of the 2015 event. It now has an established reputation as one of the UK’s best 1940s weekends and last year’s event attracted more than 10,000 visitors to the area for the two days. It is hoped this year’s event will exceed that number.

Another regular event which draws in a large crowd and gives Woodhall Spa every reason to celebrate is the Country Show, which has just taken place.

New show secretary, Amy Sharpe said: “It is a very small agricultural show attracting about 4,000 to 5,000 people including trade stands. It is a well-established event, very supportive of local businesses.

“This year the theme of the show was conservation and we had a rural life tent with activities and demonstrations of traditional skills.”

Woodhall Spa is a thriving village with a choice of everything from supermarkets, hardware stores and antique shops to restaurants, hotels and bed and breakfasts.

It is an increasingly popular tourist destination and has much to offer in terms of heritage, visitor attractions, leisure and entertainment as well as a range of independent niche shops that give it a character all of its own.

One such niche business is Peter Scott Shoes in Broadway which is reputed to be the smallest shoe shop in the world and has been a major stockist of Hotter footwear in Lincolnshire since 1999.

In its heyday, Woodhall Spa was a well-known inland resort and people travelled long distances by train to sample the Spa waters with their special properties.

When Woodhall Spa had its 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.

Owner Peter Scott said: “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 the shop has seen service as a bicycle shop, an electrical retailer’s unit, a jeweller’s and even a bank.

“The shop is so small that it does not have the room to keep all of its stock on site and some is held in a neighbouring property,” explained Peter.

Set amongst mature woodland featuring oak, pine and birch, Woodhall Spa is a beautiful place to visit and it is a developing community with a good visitor base. It is also home to one of the UK’s most original cinemas in the country in the form of the Kinema in the Woods, the uniqueness of which attracts people from all over the county, not just the Woodhall Spa area.

Dating from 1922 when it opened as the Pavilion Cinema, the Kinema is the only fully functioning cinema in the UK to employ back projection and it was only the sixty-eighth cinema to be opened in Britain. Major C C Allport ran the Kinema in the Woods from 1922 to 1973, when it was bought by its current owner, James Green. A second screen, named Kinema Too, was added in 1994 and the main foyer was extended.

Kinema in the Woods manager, Philip Jones said: “We’ve got a few special events coming up. We’re teaming up with Jubilee Park this year and taking our huge outdoor screen there to show Top Gun, Brief Encounter and Back To The Future under the stars on several dates over the summer.”

Another well-known attraction for tourists and visitors alike is the award-winning Cottage Museum, which first opened its doors in 1987 and is known as the small museum with big surprises. It is packed with intriguing stories and displays about Woodhall Spa, the local area and the Wield family, who lived in the building from 1887 until the 1960s.

The building itself is also an important museum exhibit, being a rare surviving example of a bungalow constructed of corrugated iron on a wooden frame that was erected in the late nineteenth century.

John Wield (1877–1965) was a keen photographer and his photographic collection is a unique and valuable record of life in Woodhall Spa and includes images of both people and the local area. It is the basis of the museum.

Promotions and publicity officer for the Museum, Carol Webb, said: “The next exhibition coming up at the museum this year is We Live in Lincolnshire. It is a constantly evolving photographic exhibition by Oaklands Park Photographic Group which reflects various aspects of living in the county. It runs from 4th June until 31st August.”

Peter Scott might be Britain’s smallest shoe shop, but that doesn’t stop it from carrying an extensive range of some of the best names in footwear. In addition to being one of the county’s largest stockists of Hotter and Rieker shoes, they also stock styles from Adesso, Birkenstock, Boulevard, Cotswold, Crocs, Easy B, Gola, Marco Tozzi, Sketchers, Softline and Strive.

The shop opened in 1999 and has grown in popularity each year, with many customers travelling from Boston, Sleaford, Lincoln and Louth to view the styles available. Peter Scott aim to be a little different and stock a mix of interesting styles you won’t find together elsewhere, and good fit is as important as style. Woodhall Spa is an inland resort and attracts visitors all year round, so Peter Scott are open 7 days a week.

The Petwood Hotel has its own place in the history of Woodhall Spa, from the time it was built as a house for an Edwardian Baroness to the days of the Second World War when it was the haunt of the famous RAF 617 ‘Dambusters’ Squadron.

Now a new project will link the days gone by with the here and now and will help keep Woodhall Spa firmly on the tourism map.

For a number of years the owners’ vision has been to restore the gardens to their original splendour, as designed by the renowned landscape designer Harold Peto.

That exciting garden restoration has now begun.

The hotel’s managing director Emma Brealey said: “When the house was built for Lady Weigall in 1905, she invested heavily in the garden design and engaged the services of Harold Peto. Sadly, the country house garden that should have been a legacy of Harold Peto fell into disrepair over many decades, when the estate became a hotel and was not run on a wealthy inheritance.

“The outline structure of the gardens is still visible today and has a beauty of its own, but we felt that the glory of the original design should be restored. We have spent five years designing a scheme that will restore the gardens to their Edwardian splendour and, more importantly, ensure that they can be maintained for future generations.

“Our reasons for doing this are twofold: we want to improve and enhance the Petwood and its surroundings, but we also want to encourage footfall into Woodhall Spa.

“There is lot of interest attached to the Harold Peto name and the other Peto gardens in the country receive upwards of 4,000 visitors a year and some even in excess of 40,000 a year. It all helps to put Woodhall Spa on the map.”

Phase 1 of the project, the Long Walk, was completed at the end of April and work will begin on the next phase in late June, which will see the restoration of the Temple of Atalanta.

“The project is continuing but there isn’t work happening every day, as the works have been carefully scheduled around business including weddings and the Woodhall Spa 1940s Festival. The next phase will be the Temple of Atalanta and that will be a reproduction to the original design of what it looked like in 1915. We will also be upgrading the entrance and then in the autumn relaying the terrace and re-landscaping the front of the hotel,” said Emma.

“We are really excited about bringing the classic garden design of 100 years ago to today’s generation. We are fusing the history of the grounds with current landscaping methods and are confident that the end result will be a pleasure for all the Petwood’s guests and visitors to enjoy.”

The restoration scheme comprises hard landscaping works to the entrance area and arrival at the hotel, repairs to the formal terrace and walkways, essential drainage works and reinstatement of the Temple of Atalanta with pergolas. The Long Walk planting scheme was devised by seven times Chelsea Gold winner Julie Toll. It comprises 2,600 plants across two large beds and includes several varieties of climbing rose which will be trained to grow up and across the newly reinstalled horley festoons.

Details of the garden project can be found on the blog www.petwoodgarden.com.

Woodhall Spa has an abundance of romantic and peaceful spots that make ideal wedding venues with picturesque backdrops. But the latest addition to the wedding circuit offers exclusivity and something that little bit different.
Abbey Farm Weddings has just launched its new wedding reception venue – a traditionally built Lincolnshire Oak Barn with views over 30 acres of tranquil gardens and the ruins of Kirkstead Abbey.

Believed to be the first Mud and Stud barn to be built in the county for more than 300 years, the Oak Barn is a beautiful space with a unique atmosphere. The story begins just over two years ago when the existing outbuildings were knocked down and the oak used to build the timber structure was sourced from Lincolnshire woodland – Aswarby, Welton Woods and Southrey Wood.

Traditional Lincolnshire craftsmen were used to build the whole building and materials have been sourced locally too.

Owner and director of Abbey Farm Weddings, Jo Nelstrop said: “It has been a really exciting journey building the barn, with some great friends made along the way.

“My husband Will must definitely take the credit for the project management skills and vision in creating this space! The Oak Barn definitely has a unique atmosphere and it is so exciting sharing this with the couples.

“For me this is the time when the vision becomes the exciting reality of creating an amazingly romantic space!

“We’ve been delighted with the response we’ve had from couples who have already seen the barn and seeing their excitement when they realise the backdrop the barn can create for their reception is just wonderful.”

Once the oak frame had been constructed and erected, the painstaking task of building the mud walls by hand began. Luckily the winter of 2013/14 was relatively mild with fog and therefore drying times proved to be the hindrance rather than snow and frost.

Abbey Farm Weddings has been running since 2005 with an area on the farm being rented out as a marquee venue, so experience of weddings is plentiful. Partners for bespoke catering, flowers, cakes, dresses and photography are available.

Seating up to 112 on trestle tables that really lend themselves to the rustic feel of the barn and being able to accommodate up to 150 evening guests, the barn is a perfect venue for a wedding.

A real fire within the barn and a fire pit outside the oak porch are other features which add charm and a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

“This really does give an opportunity to break the mould and hold a reception somewhere a little different,” said Jo.

“The small charming St Leonard’s Church is situated on the farm and if you have a family link to the parish of Woodhall Spa then you are able to marry here. The Oak Barn is wonderfully in tune with the current trend for rustic, informal receptions and the stunning countryside views are a a wedding photographers’ dream.

“Holding your reception at Abbey Farm also means you become part of a very small club as only ten weddings will be held here each year in the barn, so a wedding here really is very exclusive.”

In just five years, Woodhall Spa’s 1940s Festival has grown from a small village event to a major date in the county’s social calendar, with crowds increasing year on year.

Building on the success of last year’s event and its now-established reputation as one of the UK’s best 1940s weekends, the 2016 festival will see a new range of 40s entertainments, specially created food and drink areas and vastly improved traffic management measures.

Key events taking place during the weekend include tea dances, swing dance lessons, a 40s murder mystery evening and military and vintage vehicle displays.

There will also be 1940s musical performances throughout the village, an Eagle Has Landed re-enactment with a Winston Churchill lookalike and flypasts by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

With the higher than anticipated visitor numbers in 2015, traffic management was highlighted as a key challenge to the future success of the festival, so the organising committee vowed to introduce improved traffic management measures for this year’s event.

Festival spokeswoman, Katrina Pierce said: “Having spent nine months working with county and district authorities and expert traffic management agencies – as well as raising the £10,000 needed to fund the scheme – the committee is now implementing sophisticated park and ride traffic plans in the lead-up to July.

“Visitors will be able to take advantage of an all-day £5 Park, Ride and Read offer which gives a full day of parking, transfers and a copy of the Festival’s newspaper and show guide.”

The Festival’s organising committee has also embarked on a number of initiatives to boost income and community engagement since the 2015 weekend.

“Within the past six months they have introduced a lottery which pays out a total of £225 in village vouchers to keep all funds within Woodhall Spa. The lottery prizes are monthly – three prizes of £75 in vouchers that can only be spent in Woodhall Spa’s shops, cafes and restaurants,” said Katrina.

“It has also held several sold-out themed fundraising evenings and sought additional business support through a range of tailored sponsorship deals with The Petwood Hotel, The Golf Hotel, The Inn and Woodhall Spa County Park.”

The 1940s Festival takes place on 16th and 17th July.

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