When my friend Elisabeth, who is one of the ladies who lunch, suggested stopping at Heckington during a drive round Lincolnshire, the tea-shop was our priority. In fact, the tea-shop she had in mind was closed, but we found a new one, the Mill House Tearoom – a work in progress by Michaela Spenger and Ian Yardley who provide excellent pots of tea and pastries with a Viennese accent.
Alongside stands the unique eight-sailed Heckington Windmill [http://www.heckingtonwindmill.org.uk/products.html], which was built in 1830 with five sails, and uprated (as one would say of a motor-car) to eight sails in 1890 when the Mill House was built. Commercial milling stopped in 1946, and the mill was restored to working order in 1986. Eight sails means that this mill keeps grinding when others run out of wind. Visitors are invited to climb through its five flours, and can buy Heckington Windmill flour to take home.
Alongside the windmill is a railway level-crossing, for the village has a full train-service between Nottingham and Skegness. At least once an hour traffic stops as the signalman manhandles the gates, and the signal box works in the traditional way: for everything you could want to know about this, see http://www.signalbox.org/gallery/e/heckington.htm.
The original 1859 Great Northern Railway station building was saved from demolition by the Heckington Village Trust in 1975, and now houses the Heckington Village Trust Railway Museum built around the layouts of the HVT Model Railway Club. For £1.00 you can chat about trains and use the station loo. Opening times are at http://www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/popiOrgVenue.asp?vid=2109.
And, as Elisabeth and I found, you might see the arrival of a huge train from Nottingham too long for the platform, so that the rear carriages block the level crossing and Heckington grinds to a halt.
No pun intended.
For more illustrations of the windmill and the signal-box (though, oddly, not the station), see http://www.urban75.org/photos/england/heckington.html.
For the story of the Mill House Tearoom see http://www.sleafordstandard.co.uk/news/Tourists-to-get-more-at.5468333.jp and http://www.sleafordstandard.co.uk/news/Heckington-Mill-House-project-takes.5485289.jp.