Woodhall Spa gears up for a spectacular season

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
June 2019

The historic village might be regarded as small in terms of size but when it comes to character, charm and visitor attractions it can be classed as large scale, says Melanie Burton.
Set amongst mature woodland featuring oak, pine and birch, Woodhall Spa is an increasingly popular tourist destination and picturesque place to visit, especially when the rhododendrons are in full bloom.

Its history stretches back to Victorian times, when thousands of people came from all over the country – and further afield – to take advantage of its spa waters.

And visiting its boutiques, retail businesses, coffee shops and restaurants on the tree-lined high street is an experience not to be missed.

Woodhall Spa is also an area rich in sport and recreational facilities. Jubilee Park offers tennis courts, a bowling green and an open air swimming pool complex, the cricket club is thriving and golf continues to be one of the major attractions with the famous Hotchkin course being consistently ranked in the top 50 courses in the world.

Woodhall Spa came about through a dream of John Parkinson Esquire to sink a coal mine and develop the city of New Bolingbroke. His speculation was a failure as no coal was found. However, the accidental discovery of ‘salt water’ at his coalmine shaft near Coal Pit Wood in Woodhall eventually led to the erecting of a Bath House in 1834 by Thomas Hotchkin, the local squire. Mr Hotchkin later built the Victoria Hotel in 1839 and the spa’s mineral-rich healing waters became a magnet for the treatment of ailments such as rheumatism.

One of the village’s main attractions, the Cottage Museum, will take you back to those bygone eras through its large collection of photographs and memorabilia.

A small community museum managed by volunteers, it first opened its doors in 1987 and has so far welcomed more than 30,000 visitors.

It exists today as a result of the dedication and effort of volunteers from the community over the past twenty years.

But it began with the vision of one man, John Wield, more than 100 years ago who had the foresight to realise that one day people would ask about the origins of the Victorian spa community and set about recording what he could for the future.

Wield had a fascination with the art of photography, one of his many interests, and it is his photographic collection which forms the basis for today’s Cottage Museum.

The building itself was his family home from 1887 to the 1960s and his collection of photographs and ephemera was under the guardianship of much-respected dentist Richard Proctor who lived in the Wield bungalow in the early 1980s.

When he was about to move to Scotland, he offered the collection to local resident David Radford provided it was put on public display and when the bungalow itself came onto the market in 1985, it seemed to be the ideal place to display the collection of the work.

After an initial meeting the community audience voted to support the idea of a museum and, in 1986, the Cottage Museum Trust was formed with David Radford becoming the founding chairman.

The Museum holds a comprehensive archive collection consisting of numerous photographs, postcards, glass-plate negatives, books, ledgers, maps and local artefacts and it is also packed with intriguing stories and displays about Woodhall Spa, the local area and the Wield family.

The Museum building itself is an important exhibit too. It is a rare surviving example of a bungalow constructed of corrugated iron on a wooden frame that was erected in the late nineteenth century.
The collection of images is a unique and valuable record of life in Woodhall Spa and includes images of both people and the local area.

Woodhall Spa is located at the heart of what is often referred to as ‘Bomber County’ and through its strong links to the Dambusters squadron (which operated from RAF Woodhall Spa between January 1944 and May 1945) it is a favourite place for aviation heritage enthusiasts. Hence the memorial located in Royal Square.

The Dambusters Memorial commemorates members of 617 Squadron who lost their lives in World War Two.

The memorial was erected in 1987 and stands on the site of the former Royal Hydro Hotel and Winter Gardens which were destroyed in a Luftwaffe bombing raid in 1943.

Shaped to depict a dam, the memorial features a slate slab which represents water flooding through a breach, upon which the Squadron’s crest and battle honours are engraved.

RAF Woodhall Spa opened as a satellite to RAF Coningsby in February 1942 and became No 54 Base Substation in August 1943.

The Petwood Hotel in the village was commandeered along with much local accommodation for the air and ground crew of the squadron and is still best known as the home of the legendary 617 Dambusters Squadron in WW2.

Occupied from 1942, it was originally home to officers of both 97 and 619 squadrons, but when 619 squadron moved to RAF Coningsby and 617 squadron moved to RAF Woodhall Spa the officers of 617 made the Petwood their home.

Woodhall Spa has plenty to attract visitors whether they are day-trippers or holidaymakers.

Jubilee Park is in the centre of the village and provides an outdoor swimming pool, ornamental gardens and children’s play park for the enjoyment of all visitors. It also boasts a caravan and camping site.

Threatened with closure a few years ago, Jubilee Park is now a community run charity business operated by a group of local volunteers with the essential help of a full-time manager, two support staff and numerous seasonal employees – not forgetting the army of volunteers who help to keep the gardens in great shape.

It supports many local community organisations and events and the park regularly hosts social activities.

Jubilee Park’s children’s playground has recently seen a major refurbishment thanks to last year’s Playpark Appeal and this year’s appeal is focusing on funding for a sensory sunken garden to liven up a dull corner of the park.

The garden will be wheelchair-friendly and the planting carefully chosen to stimulate the senses – including scented and edible plants. A water feature will add sound and enhance what will be a quiet corner for both disabled and able-bodied visitors.

There is also a park development plan on the table which would see improvements to or replacements for the current pool buildings, which are more than twenty years past their expected replacement date and increasingly tired and expensive to maintain, and the improvement and reconfiguration of the changing facilities in the same footprint and poolside lido-style cubicles added together with a 27-station health and fitness suite which would be open all year.

If all the funding streams come together, Jubilee Park Woodhall Spa Ltd, which runs the venue, hopes to begin work as soon as the pools close in September.

Woodhall Spa Parish Council has agreed to support the future development plans.

The Broadway is home to a business which has been established at Number 5 since 1991 in what had previously been a dairy. Owner Alan Underwood is also well known locally as the organist at the Kinema in the Woods and the store is a favourite with residents and visitors alike.

Underwood Hall was opened by Alan’s father as an antiques shop. It is now firmly established as a jewellery business which also sells collectables. Alan runs Underwood Hall with mother, Gill and sales assistant, Vicki Atkinson.

“Our focus is much more on jewellery these days,” said Alan, “with a bespoke service for pieces to be designed and manufactured. We work in consultation with the client to produce an initial layout on paper but ultimately the specification is produced using CAD design.

“We can offer a wide variety of coloured gemstones as well as diamonds, so clients can pick their own individual stones if required – Ametrine, half amethyst and half citrine, are very popular at present. We make very special pieces which are unique for each customer. Whether your style is contemporary or more classic, earrings, bracelets, rings and pendants are popular gifts for memorable occasions.”

The shop is brimming with stock and you need to take your time to appreciate the variety of pieces. There are watches by Accurist and Seconda and a great range of pearl jewellery including strands and earrings. There is antique silver, christening gifts such as bangles and tooth boxes and unique county themed gifts such as the Lancaster Caithness Crystal paperweight or Dartington Glass Cathedral tumbler.

Antiques and collectables in store include many items of jewellery including gold chains and stylish period pieces from the Victorian era onwards. A central cabinet holds up to fifteen pieces of pre-1987 Moorcroft pottery which has a following of collectors worldwide.

“As an independent jeweller we pride ourselves on our friendly and high quality service. We do not stock brands of jewellery as such because our pieces are bespoke or carefully selected with our discerning customers in mind. We work with the finest craftspeople in Birmingham and London to exceed client expectations.”

Underwood Hall also offer a repair service and set aside service, perfect for securing those special seasonal gifts in plenty of time. Pop in when you are next in Woodhall Spa to explore the collections and collectables in store.

Peter Scott, Britain’s smallest shoe shop, started life in 1999. When Woodhall Spa had its own railway station, the shop was a booking office, the last building on the platform before the railway line diagonally cut across 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 previous life it has seen service as a bicycle shop, an electrical retailer, a jewellers and even a bank!

Over the years they have 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. Peter Scott has continued to grow in popularity (if not in size!) over the last twenty years. 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.

Cinemagoers to Woodhall Spa are in for a real treat this summer after another new development at the village’s unique Kinema in the Woods.

A third screen and 74 seat auditorium will open at the popular, independent cinema in July.

The team have already picked out a grand piano for the intervals and the new screen will help the cinema show a wider range of films.

Philip Jones, manager at Kinema in the Woods, said: “We are very excited that the construction of our new auditorium is almost complete, with a scheduled opening date of Friday
5th July.

All works have been carried out sympathetically with the existing building and fixtures and fittings have been sourced to complement the unique character and history of
the cinema.

“Having a third auditorium will mean we can show an even wider range of films and special events, including more niche titles which we might not usually be able to fit in,” he said.

Kinema in the Woods started life as a sports and entertainment pavilion dating from the late 19th century. It was turned into a cinema in 1922. It celebrated its 95th birthday in September 2017.

Glorious gardens and plenty of outdoor seating make the Petwood 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, with the hotel’s woodland walks perfect for capturing the imagination of mini explorers.

The Woodhall Spa 1940s Festival (13th-14th July) will see the return of the skirmish to the Petwood grounds where groups of re-enactors will put on an Arnhem-themed display. There will also be free live entertainment throughout the weekend as well as food stands and an outdoor bar.

Other events this summer include a classic car show with New Orleans-style jazz on Sunday 11th August, live music on the terrace on Sunday afternoons throughout August and an outdoor theatre production of Cranford on Sunday 26th August. The hotel presents ‘Bangers and Boycie – An Evening with John Challis’ on Sunday 1st September when it welcomes the Only Fools and Horses star for an evening of entertaining anecdotes.

Village life wouldn’t be complete without a regular country market with stalls selling traditional homemade wares. Woodhall Spa is no exception. It has been enjoying a country market for the past twenty years.

Its china anniversary celebrations took place on 3rd May at St Peter’s Hall in Broadway when all customers were treated to complimentary refreshments to mark the occasion.

When the Market started in 1999, under the auspices of the WI, it was a monthly event and there were doubts as to whether it would survive. However, it soon became clear that fortnightly was going to be a necessity and some of the founder producers are still working for the market.

When the Charity Commission Laws were changed, the market could no longer be run by the WI, so Country Markets took it over. There was little change other than the title and it continues to offer a wide variety of baked temptations. There is an excellent assortment of preserves, chutneys and pickles and the ever-popular lemon curd.

The produce counter always has fresh farm eggs, seasonable home-grown local vegetables, plants and flowers and there are even wreaths on sale and floral arrangements for special occasions.

Highly recommended is a visit to the counter full of fresh Lincolnshire Lamb while the craft section is second to none with fancy pens, hand ground precious stones in pendants, and other hand crafted jewellery.

An array of knitwear, pottery and furnishings are also available. Most products can be ordered in advance.

“The market is a vibrant place where many locals meet with friends and enjoy a couple of hours catching up on news and events,” explained secretary Bev Brennan.

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.

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.

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!

Woodhall Country Park was opened in 2010, having been originally designed with Natural England, and today continues to retain its mixture of woodland, wetland meadows and lakes – providing an array of habitats for the local wildlife.

Starting out with just touring and camping pitches, the Park has added to its accommodation portfolio over the years, with pods, glamping units, and luxury lodges, to create what is today a unique 5* holiday park, offering something for everyone.

The Park is proud to have been awarded and maintained its 5* status from Visit England and 5 Gold Pennants from the AA. In 2018 it was awarded a Diamond Award for Best Large Lodge Escape destination in the East of England by Hoseasons – having achieved the highest scores in independent customer satisfaction surveys in our region.

2019 has seen the latest development of the Park moving into the sale of luxury lakeside holiday lodges. These are available for holiday use 12 months of the year – providing a unique opportunity for people to own their own piece of Woodhall Spa life.

The Park is within walking distance of the Edwardian village of Woodhall Spa, which provides an abundance of local eating places and shops.

Due to its location, Woodhall Country Park is popular with couples and families, cyclists, walkers, anglers, golfers and dog owners alike. It is in easy commute of the historic city of Lincoln, the rolling hills of the Lincolnshire Wolds or the beautiful expanses of the east coast beaches.

Doreen and Julie would like to welcome you to Glenn James in Woodhall Spa. They are a family run business specialising in lingerie and wigs.

“We are excited to launch our new lingerie range from Empreinte, a French company who offer the most exquisite bra and knicker line,” said Doreen.

Along with the new brand Glenn James also offers other designers including Gossard, Lepel, Charnos and Naturana to name a few.

If you need help with choosing your new underwear the staff at Glenn James are happy to help you in your sizing and ideas.

Alongside the lingerie business Glenn James cater for people in need of a wig and work alongside the NHS too. There is a private room away from the underwear so confidentiality and sensitivity is delivered with each customer on a one-to-one basis.

“We pride ourselves on taking time to discuss your personal needs on a one-to-one basis. Our service is delivered with compassion and sensitivity with the aim of helping you regain your confidence.”

• Private consultation room
• Consultations are free by appointment only
• Large selection of wigs in all colours, styles and prices
• NHS registered
• As qualified hairdressers, we can personalise your chosen wig
• Selection of hats and aftercare products

Providing a large selection of popular labels of underwear for all ages and occasions as part of a friendly, supportive, confidential and professional service. The team at Glenn James hope to see you soon!

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Calling all UK young artists!Doddington Young Sculptor Exhibition Doddington Hall and Gardens, Lincolnshire invites submissions from UK-based sculptors and 3D artists, aged under 30, for an exciting new open exhibition to be held this summer. Doddington is looking for pieces to be exhibited in the historic working Kitchen Garden, which complement the Garden and its surroundings. The Doddington Young Sculptor Exhibition will run alongside the main bi-annual Sculpture at Doddington exhibition and is an opportunity to exhibit alongside some of the finest contemporary sculptors selected from across the country and further afield. Prizes: 1st prize – £750, 2nd prize – £250Submission deadline: Sunday April 21st 2024Further details about eligibility, terms and conditions can be found at: www.doddingtonhall.com/event/young-sculptor-exhibition/To apply, please email your submission as a PDF document to angus@doddingtonhall.com ... See MoreSee Less