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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox, Painting by David Work
Featured in the December 2012 issue

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Regarded as one of Lincolnshire’s most attractive villages, Woodhall Spa is famous for its peaceful and relaxing atmosphere. But with Christmas fast approaching, festivities will be the order of the day and the streets will become a hive of activity.

Last-minute preparations are already underway for the highlight of its winter calendar, the Christmas Fayre, which takes place on Friday, 7th December and which is expected to attract thousands of people onto the streets.

Organised by The Rotary Club of Woodhall Spa and supported by the parish council, it will see the village filled with a host of street entertainment for all ages, craft and gift stalls full of presents for loved ones, and refreshments galore.

As well as face painting for the children, a Nativity crib in Royal Square, a visiting red London bus, bubble cars on display and even New York cop cars, there will be clowns, mulled wine, a shop display competition and plenty of opportunities to eat, drink and be merry.

The village’s Christmas lights will illuminate the way and there will be a traditional carol service and parade in Royal Square with accompaniment from the Mareham Le Fen Victory Silver Band, to get people into the festive spirit.

One key feature of the event is Santa’s Grotto which always proves to be a big hit with the children and to make it more magical Santa will tour the streets on his sleigh, before he gets settled in to meet his young fans.

The shops will be staying open late and through a parish council scheme most of them will have a lit Christmas tree outside, adding to the atmosphere.

Rotary Club committee member and one of the event organisers, Ian Ramsey, said: “It is a really good family event and it is becoming a very important established event for the village.

“It is a great community event and has become quite special. We want it to be something for local people to enjoy and it is for all ages.

“It has grown quite a bit and we get a few thousand people coming to it. Everyone is keen to keep it going.”

The Fayre runs from 6pm until 9pm and there is free parking available in Jubilee Park and at the Woodhall Spa Golf Club.

Community spirit has always played a big part in village life in Woodhall Spa. Last year it was key to helping the village win the large village category in the Community Lincs’ Best Kept Village and Small Towns competition, for the first time in thirteen years.

And this year has been no different. Woodhall Spa retained its title for the second year running and also finished runners-up in the new section of the contest, the shops competition, introduced to mark the 50th anniversary of the event.

Woodhall Spa Chamber of Trade and Tourism’s outgoing chairman, Emma Tatlow, said there has been a lot going on this year.

“The whole of the village took part in the 1940s weekend festival event in the summer, which attracted thousands of people. They came dressed up in 1940s gear and the whole village had something going on. It is going to be held again next year,” she said.

“Woodhall Spa won the Best Kept Village competition again and the Cottage Museum received a Heritage Lottery Grant towards its redevelopment plans.”

It has been a good year for the village’s tourist spots and a number of its businesses too.

The village’s five-star camping and caravanning site, Woodhall Country Park, was voted one of the best campsites in the heart of England by the AA in recognition of its exceptionally high standards, service and presentation.

Those high standards had previously been recognised with the park achieving and maintaining AA five pennant status and five stars from VisitBritain – the highest grading available through these national schemes. The park was developed by Woodland Estates Ltd and opened in August 2010.

Work is also now underway on an £800,000 plus refurbishment of the Woodhall Spa Cottage Museum while the village’s unique cinema, the Kinema in the Woods, has marked its ninetieth year in existence and is continuing to attract audiences through its screenings and special events.

The children haven’t been forgotten either. There has been a £50,000 revamp of the play area in the village’s Jubilee Park.

Work on the project should be completed by the end of this month and facilities include a state-of-the-art zip wire, two climbing frames, new swings and a roundabout featuring disabled access.

2012 was a whole new beginning for Jubilee Park with the opening of a newly refurbished pool and paddling pool with an additional water feature.

It offers a wide range of activities for all the family including cricket, tennis, bowls and croquet, badminton, volleyball and a putting green.

Business wise, R J Hirst family run butchers scooped four categories in the Lincolnshire County Foods Poacher competition. It took gold in the burger, steak pie, gluten-free sausage and pork, beef and tomato sausage awards and also won three silver and two bronze awards at the event.

Another village business which has enjoyed a memorable year is Janili Jo’s pottery and craft venture. Though now based in a craft studio at Bainland Country Park, it started life in a shop in the centre of Woodhall Spa and celebrated its first anniversary in August.

It offers a range of workshops for both adults and children including clay work, traditional felting, glass fusing tasters, glass painting , knitting, crochet and mosaic.

Owner, Jo Slesser said: “We have a comprehensive events list and run a Thursday Craft Club which is a kids free zone. It offers two hours of ‘me time’, where people can paint, do Decopatch or take part in a featured craft workshop.

“We also offer Paint Your Own Pottery sessions which are a fabulous way to create one-off individual Christmas presents. Our studio is full of inspirational crafts, jewellery and take-away kits to further the journey into crafts.” The craft club is held on the first Thursday of the month.

Woodhall Spa is the place to find the National Golf Centre, the home of English Golf, which is consistently rated among the world’s finest heathland golf experiences and ranked 25th in Golf World magazine’s World Top 100 Golf Courses.

Its Conference Centre, which is set in attractive woodland surroundings, can seat up to 180 people and its highly experienced team is adept at managing large-scale business events and gala dinners. The venue is also ideal for private parties and weddings.

WOODHALL SPA COTTAGE MUSEUM
Woodhall Spa’s award-winning Cottage Museum is firmly moving into the future with a refurbishment programme costing more than £800,000.

Work is now well underway on the development project which includes the refurbishment of the rare, corrugated iron, main museum building and the rebuilding of the museum’s outbuildings, which were badly damaged in an arson attack in December 2010, to provide much needed additional facilities.

And it is all thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £677,000 which is a major contribution towards the development plans for the museum. Many other organisations and individuals have also made contributions towards the project.

Museum chairman, Jackie Goodall said: “This is an outstanding achievement for Woodhall Spa. The award represents eighty-three per cent of the total project cost of £813,936 to transform the Cottage Museum and safeguard its future.”

The museum closed slightly earlier than normal this year, at the end of September, to allow the refurbishment to take place during the winter when the museum is usually closed.

It is now enclosed within a plastic tent to allow the refurbishment of the exterior panels of the 130-year-old building to be carried out under some protection from the weather.

“Once complete, externally the buildings will look very much as they did when first built,” explained the museum’s Rodger Pickavance.

“The project will also see the museum’s displays being completely updated to enhance the visitor experience and a three-year programme of activities to promote and encourage greater community participation in the heritage of the once famous Spa.

The new look museum, with its new facilities and new displays, will re-open to the public at Easter.

“The appeal for funds has not yet reached its target so further donations would be very welcome,” added Mr Pickavance.

Woodhall Spa Cottage Museum tells the story of Woodhall Spa through its establishment around the failed coal mine, how it developed as a major spa town, its connections to both the Army and the RAF 617 Dambusters Squadron, to the present day as a popular inland holiday resort.

The museum is housed in a rare Boulton and Paul, pre-fabricated, corrugated iron bungalow – one of only four that remain in Lincolnshire.

Built in 1884 the bungalow was moved to the present site in 1887 and was the home of the Wield family.

John Wield’s family provided donkey-drawn bath chairs to carry people between the hotels and the spa baths.

John was also a keen photographer and his glass plate negatives, postcards and notes form the foundation of the collection and provide an insight into British spa culture and late Victorian and Edwardian society.

KINEMA IN THE WOODS
Woodhall Spa is home to one of the country’s most unique cinemas, Kinema in the Woods, which was one of the first to open in Britain back in 1922.

This year has been special for the iconic picturehouse located in Pinewoods because it marked its 90th birthday with an August Bank Holiday weekend of celebrations, including an open day where people could look behind the scenes at the organ chambers and projection room.

James Green, who has owned The Kinema since 1973, said: “It has been my pleasure to oversee the running of The Kinema for the past forty years. In this country there are many cinemas but only one Kinema, The Kinema In The Woods – there’s nowhere else quite like it.”

Having had new digital technology installed at the end of last year, 2012 was the start of a whole new era for the cinema because it enabled it to expand its programming with special Classic Film shows such as ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘alternative content’ shows, which started with the screening of The Royal Ballet’s performance of ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

Manager, Philip Jones said: “We’ve had a very busy year with quite a few special events as well as the regular film programme.

“We had the first UK screening of ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ complete with a Q&A session with the director, Drew Goddard, and one of the stars, Jesse Williams. We also hosted a screening of The Wildlife Trust’s documentary film ‘100 Years of Nature Conservation’ and were delighted to welcome along Sir David Attenborough.”

There is a lot coming up for Christmas too including the films ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ and ‘The Muppets Christmas Carol’ as well as a screening of the Royal Ballet’s 2009 performance of ‘The Nutcracker’.

What makes the Kinema so unique is its Compton Kinestra organ, which features an ornate lacquered red and gold console with an eighteenth-century oriental design.

It was installed by James in June 1987. Still situated in Screen One, it is played regularly by The Kinema’s resident organist, Alan Underwood, who will be giving a concert on it at Christmas.

WOODHALL SPA COUNTRY PARK
Just fifteen months after being opened, Woodhall Country Park in Woodhall Spa has been voted Heart of England Campsite of the year for 2013 by the AA.

The accolade was awarded in recognition of exceptionally high standards, service and presentation and comes on top of the park achieving and maintaining AA five pennant status and five stars from VisitBritain, which is the highest grading available through these national schemes.

Woodhall Country Park offers luxury touring and camping facilities in an eighty-acre site set in woodland on the outskirts of the village. Developed by Woodhall Estates Ltd, the park opened in August 2010 and has proved very popular with guests.

With state-of-the-art facilities, including sustainable buildings for amenities, such as toilet blocks with under floor heating powered by a biomass boiler, the site has been developed in keeping with the natural surroundings.

Level pitches with electric hook-ups, water and drainage for grey and black waste are available for touring caravans, while guests staying in tents enjoy pitches nestled among the trees, with electric hook-up also available.

Customers are also able to indulge themselves in a spot of ‘Glamping’ with the park’s Sky Lodge camping pods.

The latest award is recognition that Woodhall Country Park is the best camping and caravanning site in the Heart of England – an area which includes counties from Lincolnshire across to the Welsh Borders, down to Warwickshire, up to Yorkshire and Derbyshire as well. It is the only site in Lincolnshire to be awarded the five pennant award.

A beautiful area of parkland incorporating a network of ponds and wetland meadows, linked by boardwalks and meandering paths, making a great habitat for wildlife, the park is set in a conservation area and attracts a variety of amphibians and reptiles, birds, dragonflies and damselflies, butterflies and moths.

A five-star rating means that the park is of ‘excellent standard and provides the highest quality levels of decoration, fixtures and fittings, maintenance and facilities together with comparable standards of management efficiency and guest services.’

The AA report notes: ‘The owners have spared no expense in transforming part of the woodland area into a countryside retreat for campers wishing to escape from the busy city life.

‘Woodhall Country Park with its three log cabin facility blocks, fully serviced touring pitches and interesting woodland surroundings has got to be the place to visit when passing through Lincolnshire.’

Country park manager, Ian Edmondson, said they had received excellent feedback from customers about the park and were delighted that this had been confirmed with a five pennant AA award and Heart of England Campsite of the Year for 2013 title.

“We are committed to maintaining our excellent standards of service across the park – from cleanliness and customer service to maintenance and provision of facilities, all important to our offer of providing great value memorable holidays,” he said.

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