WORK on an historic visitor attraction's new play area is underway – and it looks magical.

The children's adventure playground at Raby Castle, near Barnard Castle, is part of a wider development, known as The Rising, that aims to attract new visitors to the area and improve recreation for the local community.

The bespoke and inclusive playground will feature a fully accessible boardwalk through Raby’s Christmas Tree Plantation, opening a previously inaccessible part of the grounds, as well as three-storey play towers, high-level walkways, tunnels and climbing walls, along with several ground-level play trails and slides.

It will also have a purpose-built area for toddlers, with mini turrets and lookout decks – located next to the new split-level café.

The playground is expected to take a further four months to build and it is due to open at Easter.

Bosses say construction of the playground has been managed to cause minimal disruption to the natural surroundings, to preserve habitats and ensure ancient trees are un-damaged during the build.

The Rising’s project director Claire Jones said: “This carefully considered, new addition to Raby Castle, has been inspired by the historical architectural elements within the castle such as The Neville Gateway, but also the many stories associated with the estate, particularly the Rising of The North.”

The new play area is designed to give visitors good views of Raby Castle and grounds from the turrets and towers, while adventurers of all ages wind their way through the woodland play.


Breaking the ground on the play area project

Breaking the ground on the play area project


Work started on the facility at the end of last year and the ground was broken by eight-year-olds Ryan Chidzey, from Gainford CE Primary and Preschool, and Charlotte Hawke, from the Federation of Abbey Schools in Darlington.

They won a local young heroes competition to attend the ceremony with Lord and Lady Barnard and invited dignitaries.

Ryan, nominated by his headteacher Chris Riley, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a rare condition that causes chronic fatigue in his muscles.

Following a local fundraising campaign spearheaded by Ryan’s parents, £50,000 has been raised for the research breakthrough fund, to try to find a cure for the condition.

Ryan has spent a lot of time in hospital over the past year but, as his headteacher says, always has a smile on his face.

Charlotte was nominated by mum Sarah Hawke, for her kindness and thoughtfulness to her community during lockdown, particularly grandad Edward, 84, who until lockdown, she saw daily.

Teaching him how to FaceTime by donating an old iPhone to him, was a lifeline for them both.

The Rising scheme will include the significant restoration and renovation of several historical buildings on the estate, the creation of a new café and events space as well as a new visitor hub and landscaped areas.

Work on the two-year construction programme started with the new 300-space car park to service the new attractions.

Read more: What visitors can expect at historic Raby Castle after major development

Raby Estate owners, Lord and Lady Barnard, have announced a suite of key consultant hires to bring The Rising to fruition and the creation of more 40 new jobs at the castle

Lord Barnard said: “We have now entered the construction phase of this ambitious project, which will deliver wonderful spaces for families to enjoy and to further establish Raby Castle as a must-see visitor destination. This new playground will provide a truly magical space for children and families to enjoy.

“We have spent the last four years planning the development, which promises to put Raby Castle on the map for visitors to the area, as well as providing a beautiful place for the local community to enjoy, all year round.”

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