A warm welcome and the chance to discover history and architecture is being offered to visitors at the 22nd annual West Lindsey Churches Festival, where a record 100 churches and chapels will be open to the public, free of charge.

The festival is one of the largest of its type in Europe and regularly attracts around 10,000 visitors to the area. Taking place over two weekends, the festival happens on the 12th and 13th May and 19th and 20th May.

Those paying a visit will experience the rich architecture, history and heritage of these culturally important buildings. Many of the churches are within the Lincolnshire Wolds, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

West Lindsey District Council’s Cllr Paul Howitt-Cowan, Chair of the festival, said: “This year we are commemorating both 100 years since the formation of the Royal Air Force and a century since the end of World War One.

“West Lindsey is an area with a rich aviation heritage and a strong association with the RAF. During World War Two there were 13 airbases in the district, although only one now remains active at Scampton. However, there is plenty of evidence of the RAF’s existence and none more so than in the area’s churches.

“I urge people to explore as much as they can. Highlights include Welton St Mary’s with its memorial stained-glass window and Faldingworth All Saints with its front gates serving as a reminder of the Polish Air Force which was stationed here.”

Many of the churches open over the two weekends feature memorials, plaques, stained glass, gravestones and other artefacts that will be highlighted. A full list of churches open and their displays can be found on the festival’s website.

Cllr Howitt-Cowan added: “One thing that binds the festival together is the sense of community we have. Many of the churches and chapels will be offering refreshments and lunches. These range from tea, coffee and biscuits to ploughman’s lunches, bacon butties, and even cooked breakfasts!

“More than 700 volunteers will also be sprucing up and opening up the buildings and will be on hand to answer questions and point out details that visitors won’t want to miss.

“Thanks to the Lincolnshire Organists’ Association, visitors can also enjoy an Organ Trail of 14 live music recitals spread across the two weekends. Many churches will allow visitors to try out the instruments for themselves.

“For those interested in family history and genealogy, lots of our churches bring out their parish records, some dating back several centuries and always a fascinating window to the past.

“Other sites, listed as ‘quiet churches’ by the festival, will simply open their doors for visitors and let the buildings speak for themselves.”

People visiting the festival are encouraged to take photos and to share their efforts via social media using the hashtag #ChurchesFest18.

To find out more, visit the West Lindsey Churches Festival website at: www.churchesfestival.info. The festival is sponsored by West Lindsey District Council and Systematic Print.