Have a say on possible new Cogglesford Watermill café

Image shows a form in front of Cogglesford Watermill.
Your thoughts are being sought for potential plans to create a new riverside café at the historic Cogglesford Watermill in Sleaford.

Your thoughts are being sought for potential plans to create a new riverside café at the historic Cogglesford Watermill in Sleaford. 

Millers have produced flour on the site for over 1,000 years and you can still enjoy the sights and sounds of waterwheel-powered milling there today. It’s open every Friday to Monday, with dedicated staff and volunteers on hand and a range of interactive displays and activities for visitors. People can explore the mill and its workings or simply enjoy the ambience, including its shop stocked with local goods. There are also bookable ‘miller for the day’ experiences, and it’s served by a small public car park off Eastgate for wider access to the River Slea.

Currently the mill, owned and operated by North Kesteven District Council, offers drinks and limited snacks such as ice cream and has a small number of tables. 

There is potential however to expend it to a full café – creating a new facility for people and continuing to preserve the site – and so a feasibility study is now underway which will look at all the options and help shape a design concept.

Early indications are that an existing unused space beside the mill could be redesigned into a riverside seating area. There is currently a window inside the mill which is believed was originally a door that could be reinstated, and with the creation too of a new bridge from it there’d be access from the existing indoor eating space out onto the possible new riverside seating. With some small internal configuration, it would also allow for the kitchen area to be expanded. All this could enable a thriving new café offering light lunches, cakes, and drinks with the bonus of an outside seating area overlooking the Slea. 

Experts have been appointed to carry out the study together with North Kesteven District Council and engage with the public and key stakeholders – including a survey of which you can find on the Smart Survey website asking how you might enjoy any expanded café at the mill. Hard copies of this survey are also available at the mill during opening hours.

Council Leader Councillor Richard Wright said: 

“Cogglesford Watermill is a wonderful, working part of our rich history and heritage in North Kesteven. We’re proud to promote public enjoyment of it and protect it for future generations, including over £50,000 of Council funding invested in recent years to fully restore water-powered milling there and improve the overall experience for visitors. 

"It has lots of repeat customers, from those buying its own flour or other locally made goods through to families stopping for treats after the school run. 

"It also attracts a lot of passing walkers and cyclists who use it for refreshments while enjoying the Slea corridor, or while visiting our nearby Lollycocks Field nature reserve. 

“Creating dedicated outdoor seating at Cogglesford and growing the catering offer into a full cafe could become itself an all-year-round attraction – supporting the creation of new jobs, benefitting local makers and suppliers and encouraging more people to enjoy the river corridor and visit Sleaford. 

"With this extra space and the potential for additional hours through this café the mill could also become more of a community hub with further events and talks, and even activities to boost health and connections with others such as book groups or cookery. 

“There are so many possibilities, but in order for them to be fully explored we’d like to hear how you use Cogglesford Watermill currently and whether you might do more if there was an expanded café. 

"I’d encourage anyone with views on this to fill out our survey.”

The survey is open until Friday 23 February and asks questions including: 

  • How regularly you visit Cogglesford Watermill; and additionally whether you like to stay for refreshments when you visit.
  • What options you would like available at any improved café offer there. 
  • Whether a full café offer there would encourage you to visit Cogglesford Watermill and indeed Sleaford more often. 

Stakeholders asked for their thoughts through the feasibility study will include businesses, schools and community groups, and there’s another survey for volunteers and staff at the mill. Initial discussions about the potential plans have already taken place with the Environment Agency and the Sleaford Navigation Trust, which owns the land which could be used for the new outside seating.

The study will bring together all the feedback received, as well as the projected increase in visitors and the level of investment needed to achieve it. North Kesteven District Council, which is funding the study, would then review the results together with key stakeholders and also consider how the scheme could be funded if it is feasible. 

The study follows on from the Sleaford Masterplan refresh in 2022, which identified some of the significant heritage assets in the town which could be used to strengthen sense of place. 

It also links with the Council’s work via the Government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which is aimed at improving life chances and pride of place. 

This includes further focus on the River Slea corridor – specifically a separate study on how to maximise recreational and leisure uses connected with the river as it passes through the town centre including pedestrian and cycling connections, along with further potential for activity such as a trip boat within the Slea itself.

That’s as well as the other connected schemes being undertaken by the Council via the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, from an events programme including RiverLight Festival and shopfront grants in the Sleaford town centre conservation area through to social media support for businesses District-wide and the chance for tourism venues to learn with Unmissable England (in partnership with Destination Lincolnshire and the Council) how to create bookable experiences to increase visitors. Visit our UK Shared Prosperity Fund webpage for more.

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