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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the January 2019 issue

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Because of its rural nature and geographical landscape, Lincolnshire is a county dotted with picturesque and historic villages all with characters of their own – but now there are one or two new ones springing up that are proving to be highly popular places to live, work and play, finds Melanie Burton.

One such settlement is Witham St Hughs, a new village built on the site of the old RAF Swinderby airbase halfway between Lincoln and Newark just off the A46.

The new part of the village has only been developed over the past nine to ten years, but it is already looking forward to a bright future.

With a fast-growing population, an influx of new businesses and more new homes being planned, Witham St Hughs has definitely put itself firmly on the map.

The original airmen’s houses and officers’ houses have been incorporated into the village alongside the modern new properties giving it an old and new feel. It has a developing business park, a well-used village hall which hosts a youth group, the Women’s Institute and various activities, clubs and classes for all ages, an academy primary school which was ranked “Outstanding” by Ofsted, a supermarket, fast food outlets and a thriving café bar which opened ten months ago.

Thanks to its location halfway between Lincoln and Newark, just off the main A46 Road – giving it easy access to the road network – businesses have realised the potential of the area and are now basing themselves in and around the village helping to create job opportunities and boost the local economy.

Cargill, which provides food, agriculture, financial and industrial products and services to the world, has been located at Witham St Hughs since 1984 and the head office of Frontier Agriculture Limited, which is a Cargill joint venture, is also based there. There are around 150 Cargill and around 150 Frontier employees based at the site.

The UK commercial divisions of Cargill’s European refined oils and grain and oilseed supply chain businesses are located on the site which is also the base for IT and Finance functions, including the European Financial Services Centre which processes financial transactions for many European businesses.

Another long-established Lincolnshire company which has a depot on the village’s business park is George H Kime & Co Ltd, a family-owned business with more than eighty years of operational success.

Founded by George Kime in the 1930s it was initially set up to provide a transport service for the local food partners.

From this humble beginning the company has grown because of its commitment to providing an excellent service and subsequent trust from its clients. The company not only serves the fresh food industry but has expanded to encompass a wide spectrum of customers on an international field.

GAME Engineering Ltd has established itself as leading materials handling, process design, fabrication, installation and commissioning engineers in the animal feed, pet food, grain and seed, and biomass industries.

It is a privately-owned company which was founded in 1986 by Peter Ablewhite, Tony Kirk, David Whyte and Keith Russell. Starting out in offices at North Scarle it moved to Witham St Hughs in 1990 after purchasing a six-acre site in 1989 and building bespoke offices and a factory.

One of the newest businesses in the area is the Market Lounge, a brand new café bar situated in the heart of Witham St Hughs which opened just ten months ago but is already proving to be a popular meeting place.

It serves breakfasts, lunches and evening meals in a rustic yet cosy setting and a relaxed and informal atmosphere and with a fully licensed bar serving real ales, craft beers, still and sparkling wines, spirits and cocktails, it is the perfect place to unwind, meet with friends or enjoy a celebration.

Proprietor Gary Molyneux decided to open the Market Lounge because he felt Witham St Hughs had grown tremendously as a village but there wasn’t anywhere for the community to come together.

His idea was to open a café bar that would also become a community hub. He was lucky enough to receive some funding the LEADER funding programme which enabled him to put in a fully-fitted state-of-the-art commercial kitchen and an enhanced interior design.

LEADER is a European Union initiative delivered through Defra, the Rural Payments Agency and Lincolnshire County Council. North and South Kesteven District Councils also contribute financially to the Kestevens programme.

The Kestevens LAG is one of 80 LEADER Local Action Groups delivering part of the Rural Development Programme for England. It is one of five in Greater Lincolnshire, the others being the Coastal Action Zone, Lindsey Action Zone, Wash Fens Partnership and Northern Lincolnshire Local Action Group area.

All LEADER-funded activities must make a contribution to growing the rural economy, such as creating new jobs, growing businesses, improving productivity and efficiency, increasing tourism visitors or providing new rural services.

Work is currently on-going in the village on the first phase of an industrial development at Network 46 business park. The development spans two buildings and will create more than 95,000 sq ft of warehouse and manufacturing.

Lindum Construction is on site and the seven-month build programme is scheduled for completion in the spring.

Planning consent had originally been granted for more than 960,000 sq ft of commercial space on the 70-acre business park, part of which has been developed with occupiers including Apogee, Turbine Efficiency UK Mail and DPD UK. St Modwen’s plans include 830,000 sq ft, including this current phase, across the 45 acres of remaining development land.

Councillor Richard Wright, leader of North Kesteven District Council, said: “We welcome this investment in the District and are pleased that St Modwen has seen the area’s potential by bringing this development forward.

“North Kesteven is a fantastic place for all types of businesses – from large companies to smaller enterprises.

“Once the construction has been completed, this site will not only boost the local economy but will also enable jobs to be created, something we as a council are keen to encourage and support.”

Approval has also been given for 23 new industrial units at the business park on Camp Road proposed by Fawcett Construction.

The site was previously used as a construction plant operators training and testing centre. Each unit will vary in size between 1,300 sq ft and 1,500 sq ft and will include office space, light industrial and storage.

Robert Richardson, senior development manager at St Modwen, said: “This is currently the only speculative scheme of this scale on-site in Lincolnshire and will provide the much needed employment space across the region.”

Lincoln-based Banks Long & Co is marketing the scheme with Cushman and Wakefield.

Banks Long & Co director William Wall said: “This is prime space in a strategic location. Its proximity to the A1 corridor ensures its unrivalled connectivity. The power capability is also a key driver for the initial interest received from occupiers.” 

Lindum Construction manager David Frankish said: “The project is going well and it is on target for completion in March.

“The aim is to get the shell of the units completed and weather tight as soon as possible. Then we will move on to the rest of the project and the amount of labour we have on site will increase.

“So far, things on site have progressed incredibly well and we are on schedule for our target completion date.”

Witham St Hughs had an estimated population of just under 3,000 in 2017 but with more new homes being built in the village that number is expected to increase.

Because of that it is anticipated that up to 80 new child care places will be required to meet demand in the area so plans have been approved for the former Dovecote pub located just off the Halfway House roundabout on the A46 to be changed into a day nursery.

The pub has been closed for the past two years and as the two previous tenants had surrendered their leases leaving unpaid debts, it was felt that the business was not viable as a pub.

It is set in considerable grounds and there is a large car park and a beer garden on site. The nursery will hold a maximum of 140 children and would be open between 7am and 7pm on weekdays and 10am to 4pm on weekends.

It will create up to 30 new jobs and will operate a breakfast and after-school club in addition to the day care.

The day nursery will adopt a Forestry School ethos for children to learn and develop in a unique setting, learning through discovery, nature and play.

HOSPITABLE HEART OF THE VILLAGE
One of Witham St Hughs’ newest businesses is the Market Lounge café bar which only opened ten months ago in the heart of the village, but is now very much a focal point for workers and residents alike, by day and by night.

It serves breakfasts, lunches and evening meals in a rustic yet cosy setting and a relaxed and informal atmosphere and with a fully licensed bar serving real ales, craft beers, still and sparkling wines, spirits and cocktails, it is the perfect place to unwind at night, meet with friends or enjoy a celebration.

The idea for the café bar came from Toni and proprietor Gary Molyneux while chatting in the office of their printing business when they both thought it would be nice to run a café bar that would be a community hub.

Brand communications and events manager Toni Richardson said: “We opened in March but it was two years in the making.  We hit the ground running and we are still finding our feet, but we are doing more now than when we first opened and we are proving to be very popular. It has been a great year.”

They successfully applied for funding from the Kestevens LEADER funding programme which enabled them to put in a fully-fitted state-of-the-art commercial kitchen and an enhanced interior design.

“It was a community-led grant so we have a plaque outside saying the Market Lounge was community funded. We look out for the children and have held a Halloween competition and helped the children with trick or treating,” said Toni.

There are four people on the management team – Toni, Gary, Hannah Sleath who is the general manager and Luke Burgess who is the head chef – and then there are the sous chef and front of house staff.

Toni said because it is their first year in business, they have only done social media and marketing in the local areas around Witham St Hughs and Thorpe on the Hill.

“We do want people to come from further afield and will be doing more marketing this year, but we wanted to make sure we could cope with the demand first,” she said.

The Market Lounge is open seven days a week serving food freshly prepared on the premises from 7am to 10pm Monday to Wednesday, 7am to 9pm Thursday to Saturday and 9am to 4pm on Sunday.

The bar service is available Sunday to Wednesday from 12noon to 10pm and 12 noon to midnight on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

“We buy all our food locally from local suppliers and have fresh ingredients delivered every day. We also try and change the menu as regularly as we can and we do takeaway too,” said Toni.

“We are open for customers to make table bookings and we sell gift vouchers which can also be spent at the bar.”

VILLAGE NAME
The village of Witham St Hughs lies on the old site of RAF Swinderby, which was one of the last expansion plan airfields to be built.

Swinderby was allocated to No.1 Group and in late August 1940 Nos. 300 and 301 Squadrons arrived from the training station at Bramcote. They were the first Polish- manned bomber squadrons in the RAF and had only been formed a few weeks earlier.

The two Polish squadrons continued to operate from Swinderby until July 1941 at which time the station had been passed to No. 5 Group in a general re-allocation of airfields in Bomber Command.

In 1964 Swinderby embraced a new role, that of recruit training. A flying unit was added to the ground school in 1979 for the express purpose of prospective pilot assessment.

For more than 30 years the station was the RAF’s major establishment for recruit assessment and basic training.

The 629 acres was put up for sale in 1995 with permission to develop the site for new homes and a business park.

Witham St Hughs takes its name from the river Witham which runs nearby, and also from St Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln.

Hugh was consecrated Bishop of Lincoln on 21st September 1186. He raised the quality of education at the cathedral school and was also prominent in trying to protect the Jews, great numbers of whom lived in Lincoln.

Lincoln Cathedral had been badly damaged by an earthquake in 1185, and Bishop Hugh set about rebuilding and greatly enlarging it, making it the first English structure in the new Gothic style; however, he only lived to see the choir well begun.

He died on 16th November 1200 and was buried in Lincoln Cathedral. Hugh was canonized by Pope Honorius III on 17th February 1220. Hugh’s primary emblem is a white swan, in reference to the story of the swan of Stowe which had a deep and lasting friendship for him, even guarding him while he slept. The swan would follow him about, and was his constant companion whilst at Lincoln.

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