Bucket list – ‘Go to Woodhall Spa 1940s weekend and dress up’ = completed
We have been to the 1940’s weekend in Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, for the past 3 years now. This is the first year visiting while blogging so this is my first write up about it. The 1940’s festival takes place over the weekend in the middle of July. I feel it is something everyone should do and see at least once. So much so I feel you should plan in advance because if you are wanting to stay over you must book a long time in advance to avoid disappointment. See the bottom of my post for more information.
What makes Woodhall Spa a great place for a 1940’s weekend?
We live just a few minutes drive from Woodhall Spa and while I may be slightly biased based on our location I do feel that it’s something worth travelling for. The most amazing thing about the 1940’s festival is the rate in which it has grown. It hasn’t been going now for too many years but the difference between 2015 and 2017 is massive. Not just in the numbers of people attending but the actual quality of entertainment and what there is to see and do. It takes pretty much the same format every year but every year it gets better.
Woodhall Spa is a quaint Victorian village with one main shopping street packed with lovely shops, cafes and restaurants. It is a village steeped in history. Although the spa itself is currently out of operation it still has it’s historic and iconic Kinema in the woods. The cinema has been there since 1922 and there is still an organist that comes up through the floor during the interval in screen 1 (weekends and school holidays). Plus it has the only remaining rear screen projector in the country. You can read more about the Kinema by clicking here – Kinema in the Woods – Woodhall Spa’s historic cinema. The village also has strong links and associations to the famous WWII 617 Dambusters squadron.
The Golf Hotel and the Petwood hotel were both requisitioned for the RAF during WWII. The Petwood has a bar devoted to them filled with memorabilia. Woodhall Spa is also the home of English golf.
Another thing you may not know about Woodhall Spa is that it has an outdoor heated swimming pool at Jubilee park open from April-October (see website for actual opening dates and times). The pool is heated to 29oC and has a small slide and a toddler pool. We love visiting there and you can read more here – Jubilee Park Lido – Woodhall Spa – Where you can pretend you are abroad. There is also a playground next door with some recently installed equipment.
My favourite festival things to see and do for families
There is so much to see and do during Woodhall Spa’s 1940’s weekend that a two day visit would be recommended. We have visited on both days for two of the three years that we’ve been and I honestly could have spent longer soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying everything that was on offer. For a small village it does take a long time to walk around everything that they have on. For us we always start at the Golf hotel
Usually they have vintage fire engines in the car park and singers and dancers out on the lawn.
This year they had a lot of forethought and put out a lot more tables and chairs than the past two years. We managed to find a table and chairs near the outdoor bar and settled ourselves down to watch some wonderful singers and dancers.
Jamie was handed a British flag which he refers to as his 1940’s flag. It was lovely to see so many members of the public dressed up in 1940’s dress. Jamie and I made an effort too. Although I did chicken out with my hair a little. Amazon is a great place to find something to wear if you do ever want to dress up. Churchill will usually make an appearance somewhere and make a speech. This year we saw him at the Golf Hotel.
This year the Golf hotel had a lovely hand turned ride for the little ones. We couldn’t resist paying for Jamie to have a go. He loved it.
Once we’ve stayed awhile at the Golf hotel we make our way down Woodhall Spa’s main road.
Luckily this has been shut to traffic for the past two years. There is no way this road could be usable now during the 1940’s festival. It is full of vintage cars, WWII army vehicles and much more, not to mention people.
The shops all have blast tape on them and union jack flags hanging up everywhere. It’s a great place to try and find somewhere to eat and a really good place to soak up the atmosphere. The two main pubs on this road The Lancaster and The Mall both had singers outside entertaining customers. There is nearly always something on at the Social club. Jamie and I took some time out here on the Sunday with an ice cream.
Once we’ve been down the main road we cut back through the forest and walk over to the Teahouse in the Woods.
Teahouse in the Woods and the Kinema
You can eat outside here without needing to book in advance. We managed to book a table last minute though as it was raining quite heavy in the morning and we were given a cancellation. The Tea house is one of our favourite places to eat.
The Teahouse has been here since the Victorian days. They have many photos on their walls of people visiting there back in the day.
Next to here is the old Spa which is sadly in huge need of restoration. Next to here in the woods you will find the Kinema (as mentioned above). They had open doors that weekend so you could look around without having to pay. Jamie’s school were also showing a film they’d made for the festival.
Next we do my favourite walk of the festival, through the woods.
Woodhall spa Woods
This is my favourite thing to see. I love the woods at Woodhall and it’s so interesting to see them come alive with reenactors. They have camps set up throughout the woods and it is honestly like wandering around during WWII. No detail has been left out. Jamie was fascinated by their camps, fires and guns.
Moving on from the woods we now headed over to Jubilee Park.
I was keen to see some singing from the band stand but sadly we were too early this year. We were treated to some dancing though which provided us with a welcome rest.
Next to the park they have a field with reenactors in. There was a tank, tents and various other vehicles. Jamie loved looking inside everything and insisted we look at literally everything.
There’s plenty of mobile food vans to choose from near the playground and many stalls selling 1940’s clothing, memorabilia and various other items. There was so much going on around Jubilee that I couldn’t begin to list it all. They even had a beer tent this year.
The Petwood Hotel
This is my favourite place to visit and spend lots of time during the 1940’s festival. The hotel itself is steeped in aviation history and is a fitting backdrop for the weekend. They have spent a lot of time and investment in their grounds and the whole look to the place is just lovely. They have plenty of tables and chairs set outside for everyone but we prefer to take a picnic and sit under one of their many trees. It makes a great place to just chill and watch the world go by. This year they had a singer outdoors and it makes a great spot to watch the Spitfires and Lancaster fly overs. You can also catch a re-enactment over the weekend with explosions, gun fire and smoke. This is not for sensitive ears. I think it may well have been Jamie’s favourite thing to see of the whole weekend!
Where to stay
Book a long time in advance! We live nearby so didn’t need to worry but we did at one point entertain staying over so we could enjoy the festival into the evening. I think we tried to book in somewhere 5 months in advance and everywhere was fully booked. There wasn’t an available room anywhere, even the touring pitches were gone. There is however plenty of choice in Woodhall Spa.
Of the larger hotels there is the Petwood hotel as mentioned above which is on the outskirts of Woodhall but very much part of the festival. In Woodhall village there is The Golf hotel, The Dower house, Woodhall spa manor, The Inn (Lancaster) and The Village Limits on the outer most edge of the village. Smaller hotels are the Claremont, the Railway inn and Stone house lodge.
You can book your touring caravan or motorhome in at a relatively large choice of caravan parks. There’s the Petwood camping and caravanning club site near Jubilee. Jubilee park also has it’s own site. Woodhall country park accepts tourers and also has luxury lodges to rent. If you are looking for a static caravan/lodges to hire there is Bainland country park on the outskirts of Woodhall spa.
Where to eat
Our favourite place to eat in Woodhall spa is at the Teahouse in the woods, as mentioned above. There are many other restaurants and cafes to choose from. There is also a fair amount of mobile caterers in various places around the village. Other restaurants in the village are The Inn (Lancaster), Zucci’s, The Mall, The Dining room at the Petwood, India village and Silk Orchid.
The cafes are: Kitchenetta, Archie’s, Janet’s tearoom, Melrose, Just desserts and Little Dorrits. You can also get refreshments at the Book Fayre.
For take aways there is a fish and chip shop, a Chinese and Pizza Latina.
On the outskirts there is the Abbey lodge and the Village limits.
Where to park
2017 saw huge improvements to the parking issues of the past. An estimated 45,000 people visited Woodhall spa this year for the 1940s weekend, this amount of cars can not park in the village itself. For just £5 you can use one of the park and ride systems that they have in place. Not only is it the right thing to do by the residents but they had actually given out tickets to people parking where they shouldn’t park this year. Rightly so. It’s not fair and £5 is nothing compared to what you get to see. So if you ever visit I urge you to avoid a hefty parking fine and use the park and ride. The signs are easy to follow.
You can pick up guides of what’s on and when. My advice, if you’re just visiting as a tourist, so to speak, is to just go with the flow. Enjoy.