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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the November 2018 issue

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Picturesque and peaceful river scenes are in abundance along the county’s southern border. But, if you check out the towns and villages situated along the banks of the River Welland you will find a whole host of thriving communitiess, writes Melanie Burton.

The series of historic settlements are known collectively as The Deepings and are fast-growing places with distinct identities of their own.

Market Deeping, for instance, is an ancient market town with attractive old coaching inns and bustling antiques centres. The village of Deeping St James, built where a twelfth-century Benedictine priory once stood, is the largest of the communities. Deeping St Nicholas, at seven miles long, has the distinction of being one of the longest villages in the UK, while West Deeping is picturesque with quaint stone houses lining a Roman road.

Because of the location The Deepings have been classified as one of the three ‘gateways’ to South Kesteven, the other two being the large towns of Stamford and Grantham.

A gateway town is the first place in the district that visitors come to, and is an important part of the local authority’s plan to boost the area’s visitor economy.

As such The Deepings are welcoming for visitors, with excellent services, and a clean and attractive environment.

“We have a number of visitor attractions, and over the year a number of events are organised that attract visitors to the area,” explained Andrew Bowell, chair of Deeping St James Parish Council, which is at the heart of the local community.

“The Parish Council is working hard to make Deeping St James a great place to live, work and visit.

“Together with Friends of Jubilee Park, it organises an annual Dog Show every May to help raise funds towards improving the Park for everyone to enjoy. Then at Christmas it has Carols in the Park, a popular event with music provided by the Salvation Army Band.”

Deeping Lakes Nature Reserve, which is situated in Deeping St James, was awarded the East Midlands In Bloom Countryside Companions Trophy in 2017 – an accolade which is awarded for the Best Wildflower Conservation Area and is popular with birders and nature lovers alike.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War, the Parish Council will be organising two events.

“Footpaths and countryside access is very important for the community, and the Parish Council organises three Footpath Walks every year, to ensure they are all maintained and are available for everyone to use,” said Councillor Bowell.

“These walks are very popular, and attract visitors from surrounding villages as well as local residents. Each walk finishes with refreshments in a local hostelry.”

In addition the Parish Council supports both Deepings Community Library and Deepings Youth Group and councillors are also working towards getting St James Deeping Signal Box rebuilt as a Heritage Centre, as well as the construction of a new footbridge over the River Welland to benefit walkers and ramblers.

A new ‘trim trail’ to give adults and children a fun way to boost their fitness is also on its way to Jubilee Park in Deeping St James.

It includes a series of outdoor gym equipment spread around the grassy open space, a community area which already has a children’s play park.

South Kesteven District Councillors, Judy Stevens and Phil Dilks have each donated £330 from their respective Ward Member Grants to help the £12,600 project become a reality.

The project could get off the ground this autumn, helping to improve the park’s standing as a leisure destination in the area, making it more family-friendly and at the same time reduce antisocial behaviour.

The idea was originally suggested by the public in a consultation held in the park.

Councillor Phil Dilks said: “A trim trail will lend itself to this area very well. People will be able to jog to it, work out and carry on with their run. The equipment will be robust, adult-sized, gym-style metalwork and should last for years. It will enliven the area no end.”

Councillor Judy Stevens added: “This used to be rough ground. There wasn’t a lot here, not even a bench. Then when it was the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and towns were lighting up their beacons, this area became a proper recreation area.

“The fitness equipment will be spread around the park and there will be a plate for each explaining how to use it.”

Friends of Jubilee Park Treasurer, Carole Bremner said the double donation was much appreciated.

“Thanks to this we have just about enough money now to make this a reality,” she said.

“We did so well with fundraising through the Dog Show that we got very close and a couple of local charities are going to donate whatever else is needed.”

Funding was raised through local and national charities, including the town’s United Charities, Deepings Lions, and Rotary.

Deeping St Nicholas also has plenty of opportunity for outdoor fun after councillors from South Holland District Council and the Parish Council joined forces to fund the installation of new play equipment and interactive speed signs in the village.

Councillors Angela Harrison, Jim Astill and Bryan Alcock from the District Council along with the Parish Council, (through funding from the Windfarm Committee), all contributed to support the insertion of the new slide and climbing frame, interactive boards and outdoor gym equipment in St Nicholas Park, as well as the interactive signs on Littleworth Drove informing motorists of their speed.

Parish Council chairman, William Rodwell said: “The revamped play park is fantastic for children in the village and we are already seeing it getting a lot of use. I am sure it will prove extremely popular and encourage people to get out and enjoy the outdoors.”

Coun Harrison, also clerk to the Parish Council, added: “Outdoor play is a crucial part of children’s lives so we are very pleased to see this work completed.”

The interactive speed signs for the village have also been a welcome addition.

“We have seen speeding in towns and villages in South Holland become a hot topic in recent months,” said Councillor Jim Astill.

“With initiatives like Community Speed Watch being one of several ways in which this is trying to be tackled, we hope that these interactive signs will have the anticipated effects for all within the village.”

Market Deeping is the second largest of The Deepings and is known for its stone buildings dating back to the seventeenth century, its largely fifteenth-century church dedicated to St Guthlac and the remains of a market cross.

Home to a variety of independent shops and businesses, it also has two medium-sized supermarkets and an expanding industrial estate.

All communities in the Deepings have been digging deep to help local charities and causes close to their hearts by supporting South Kesteven’s online weekly lottery draw.

LotterySK was launched by South Kesteven District Council to raise thousands of pounds for charities and voluntary organisations within the district and more than 800 tickets were sold within the first two weeks.

Players have a chance to scoop a £25,000 jackpot and 60 pence for every £1 ticket sold goes to good causes in South Kesteven including some in The Deepings area.

So far, fifty-six organisations have registered as beneficiaries such as Deepings Library, Age Concern Deepings, Deepings Raft Race and Deeping United Football Club.

The library, based in Market Rasen, has developed enormously over the past two and a half years since reopening and has its own story to tell.

The building itself, in High Street, is a Georgian House once called The Park and owned by the well-known local family of the Wades. In 1972, they sold their home to Lincolnshire County Council which opened it shortly afterwards as a public library and it operated very successfully until LCC took the decision to classify its libraries into tiers, as part of a programme to cut £2m from the budget.

Deepings Library was classed as a Tier Three library but a dedicated group of locals got together to secure its future and in January 2016, the group took it over and now it is the busiest community library in Lincolnshire, both in the number of users and because it runs such a range of services and activities, both at the library and in the community.

It continues to offer activities for all ages, in addition to providing a warm, welcoming atmosphere for book lovers.

The work of the volunteers includes outreach to other establishments and also a commitment to assisting the local schools and clubs in the area.

Deepings Raft Race is a fun community event that also raises a lot of money for local good causes.

Between thirty-five and forty-five raft teams enter the competition every year and it offers businesses the opportunity to promote themselves to the local public. Over the past five years, the event has raised more than £40,000 for worthy causes.

Deputy Leader of South Kesteven District Council, Councillor Kelham Cooke, said: “LotterySK has clearly struck a chord with people. It is great to see that people are recognising the good work of the charities and voluntary groups in our district and showing their support for them.”

DARE TO EXCEL!
Here at The Deepings School we pride ourselves on the performances of our students. We believe that we provide a positive, dynamic learning environment that gives students the opportunity to achieve their potential and fulfil their goals and aspirations. We provide ongoing information, advice and guidance, supported by a highly accredited careers and work-related programme.

The Deepings School Sixth Form team work with students to prepare them for life post-18, whether that is in terms of university entrance, higher level apprenticeships or employment. Through an extensive range of courses, a substantial enrichment programme and a desire to see our students take responsibility – many provide mentoring to our younger students – we see them mature into young people who can enter higher education or the world of work equipped with confidence, authority and a determination to succeed.

We look forward to continuing to welcome students and their parents and carers into our school community.

EVENTS TIME
As well as being thriving communities, the Deepings also have lively communities with plenty of activities and events going on.

There are beer festivals, markets, treasure trails and a summer ball as well as an annual carnival, a fundraising duck race and a popular dog show.

But one of the most poignant of the year has to be the Battle’s Over event on 11th November which is the nation’s tribute event to commemorate and remember the end of the First World War and the many millions who were killed or came home wounded.

The event will also commemorate the huge army of men and women on the home front who often in dangerous and exhausting conditions underpinned the war effort – keeping the wheels of industry turning and bringing the harvests home to ensure the nation did not starve.

Beacons will be lit throughout the United Kingdom, the Channel Isles, Isle of Man and UK Overseas Territories to symbolise the ‘light of hope’ that emerged from the darkness of the war.

Deeping St James has organised the local tribute in Jubilee Park.

There will be refreshments and communal singing before the Last Post is sounded, the WW1 beacon of light is lit and the church bells are sounded.

The day before the main tribute event, Deeping St James Parish Council is hosting a 100 Years On Music Hall event at the school on 10th November, to commemorate the end of the First World War.

ST JAMES DEEPING SIGNAL BOX
Public outcry and a dedicated group of local volunteers have helped save an iconic landmark in The Deepings.

The Signal Box in Deeping St James has been one of the great landmarks of the railway era in South Lincolnshire for almost 140 years and is considered to be of immense local historical importance, as it carried the original name of the village

It was built by the Great Northern Railway Company in 1876 on the mainline from Peterborough to Lincoln and sited about 1.5 miles outside Deeping St James at a site where the line crosses the B1166 road to Crowland.

There was originally a station there to serve the Deepings, employing a small staff, but that closed in 1961 because of the decline in rail usage.

It was an integral part of the rural rail service and forty trains a day once thundered past, with passenger services between Spalding and Peterborough as well as freight trains from Boston, Lincoln and as far north as Doncaster.

This meant a busy time for the crossing keeper who was alerted by a bell which rang when a train was imminent and then had five minutes to close the gates, change the points and set all the signals to green, by operating the huge brass levers inside the box.

In 2014, Network Rail decided to upgrade the rail system and to dismantle the signal box. This was met by many protests from the local community and Network Rail was eventually persuaded to sympathetically dismantle the box and allow it to be preserved as a railway heritage museum.

A signal box support group was established called St James Deeping Signal Box Group.

“We received some money from The Department of Culture to allow us to continue the task,” said chair of the group Stuart Hall.

“We are holding many fundraising events at local tournaments, a local charitable organisation has made some funds available to us and we have received much support from many local businesses.” 

The local college at Stamford will be involved in the rebuild, using students from all associated trade groups and they have already repaired or rebuilt some of the windows and are presently repairing the old road gates.

A local building company, Princebuild, has also offered to help with the project management.

“We have received planning permission for the project, the electrical supply to the site is complete and we are now in the process of levelling the site in preparation for digging the footings for the building,” said Stuart.

“Once up and running it will be used as a local information and heritage centre. Former Network Rail signalmen have volunteered to come down to show visiting children the work they did to operate the box.

“With all the support we have received from local businesses and community groups, we are optimistic that this will be a valuable asset to the preservation of our local heritage.

“The interesting thing is to look at the signboard. Is that why this area is colloquially known as ‘Jimmy Deeping’?

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