Walkers and cyclists turned out in force this Summer and celebrated the RAF’s centenary by discovering more of Lincolnshire and “Bomber County’s” illustrious history.
Thousands of families, groups and individuals headed out in the fresh air to explore the four walking and four cycling 100 Voices Trails, which featured iconic RAF aircraft wing signage telling stories about military and civilian men and women who experienced service life first hand.
The Trails, devised by Lincoln BIG and Visit Lincoln to be both fun and educational for people of all ages, were a highlight of the RAF100 celebrations.
Lincoln BIG – whose RAF100 Weekend (incorporating the organisation’s popular 1940s Weekend) was also a massive success, attracting 50,000 visitors – said the Trails had fired people’s imaginations.
Lincoln BIG Chief Executive Matt Corrigan said: “A phenomenal 70,000 leaflets were given out and the Trails were also promoted on the 100 Voices pages. Online statistics reveal that 35,000 visits were made to Visit Lincoln’s Trail pages. The most popular routes according to the website’s findings, were the Proctor Trail, the Lancaster Trail and the Hawk Trail.
“It was also interesting to note that 59 per cent of visitors to these pages were from outside of Lincoln, and destinations including Grimsby, Nottingham and London.”
Nottingham woman Mary Burton said: “I spent a couple of days in Lincoln, especially to do The Hawk and Spitfire trails. The idea of setting-up the trails is a brilliant one and I really enjoyed doing them, especially as I saw some parts of the city for the first time, such as The Bishops Palace and Temple Gardens.”
Mary has visited Lincoln many times and is “always impressed” by the events on offer. She said: “The RAF100 Trails were just as good and I managed to get my “wings” (stickers) for the two trails, which I will keep on the leaflet as a reminder of the event.
“I also made a point of returning to the “Uphill” area, which is a favourite for me anyway, as the shopkeepers there are always so helpful and friendly and I benefited from some of the special offers in their event week.”
The 100 Voices Trails attracted sponsorship and most of the companies and organisations who threw their support behind this attraction have now “reclaimed” the “signage wings” they supported.
Simon Smith, a partner at Lincoln firm JH Walter said: “We commemorated 100 years of the RAF and the close association that Lincoln and Lincolnshire have with aviation. We were pleased to sponsor one of the “Lincoln BIG” Hawk Voices and to mark the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force.
“We have adopted a bold new brand identity using a palette based on the RAF uniform proudly displaying the Lincoln RAF partner ribbon. In addition, new office displays can be viewed in the chapel at our offices at 1 Mint Lane.”
JH Walter has also confirmed its commitment to honour the Armed Forces and support its communities and families by signing the Armed Forces Covenant.
“This is not our first commitment to our military. We currently employ and actively support members of the Armed Forces community by offering discounted fees when selling their properties. We are delighted to have signed the Armed Forces Covenant and continue our work to make a positive difference to those who have and those who continue serve.”
Sergeant Darren Swift MBE and his colleagues were thrilled to be featured on one of the Trail “wings” at RAF Digby: “The 100 Voices Trail was a wonderful idea. I loved the fact that it made me travel around our wonderful county reading-up on all the wings. I was honoured to be asked to provide a story for one of them – about our fundraising efforts for the RAF Benevolent Fund and Diabetes UK, and even more surprised to find out that a wing had been created in our honour.
“My colleagues, Jonathan, Paul, Dave and I were thrilled to get our story placed directly outside RAF Digby, the first-ever RAF station. The wing saw plenty of visitors pass by, each of them enjoying the stories they read and eagerly anticipating the next one on the route,” said Sgt Swift.
“The wings also provided an excellent opportunity for those visiting RAF Digby’s Lima Sector Ops Museum tours, as those attending passed our wing on their way to the main entrance.
“It was lovely to hear visitors harking back to their days in the RAF and listening to all that they got up to. I’m extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity to keep my wing. Now it holds pride of place in my office at home.”