Rising Up: Playtime at The Plotters’ Forest
Ahead of its grand opening this weekend, we check out Raby’s new adventure playground, The Plotters’ Forest
Living North jumped at the chance to attend a preview of The Plotters’ Forest, so off we went with children aged 11 and nine in tow. Said children's parents are somewhat older but it does say for all ages, so let's see who has the most fun.
The attraction opens to the public on Friday 15th April, just in time for the Easter weekend, and marks a new chapter in the history of the much-loved Raby Castle – it is the first important milestone in The Rising development. More on this later, but for now it's into The Plotters' Forest to discover our inner rebels. You may wonder why visitors here are encouraged to become rebels. The answer to this lies in the past and the part the castle played in The Rising of the North in 1569. Along with other leading Northern families Charles Neville (the Earl of Westmorland, who owned Raby Castle) rebelled and plotted to remove Elizabeth I from the throne, coining the term 'Raby Rebels’.
Inspiration for the playground comes from this history as visitors take in panoramic views of the parkland from the stargazing decks, experience sky-high turrets and treetop tunnels in The Plotters' Spire, before slipping down the slides and interacting with the ground-level games that surround the structure, all of which invoke the senses and add to the adventure. Climbing up the netting inside the Spire and various other turrets, traversing your way across the treetop walkways, navigating the ground level balance beams and down the slides and poles, all contribute towards discovering your inner rebel as if you were part of Westmorland's original rebellious rising. Dotted around are various other nods to the past such as a feature called Rebels' Run. Send coded messages to your fellow rebels through the Talking Tubes and spot enemies in the Mischief Mirrors. Directional signposts can be changed to send pursuers the wrong way as you make your escape through the treetops.
Making your way to the top of the attraction, The Plotters' Pantry awaits. Serving takeaway hot and cold drinks, freshly made sandwiches, snacks, cakes and ice cream, the Pantry conveniently overlooks the toddlers' play area, which includes mini turrets, climbing equipment and chalkboards. After a well-deserved pitstop here, head back through the playground whatever way you fancy. Simply walk back down the wooden boardwalk and enjoy the tranquil peace the forest offers, or do as the children did and go through tunnels, navigate climbing walls, climb the spire again, slip down the slide again, make your way down Rebels' Run, enjoy the sensory features and games, run wild and generally enjoy being a modern-day Raby Rebel. The wooden boardwalk through the playground is accessible by wheelchair and pushchair, creating a fun and inclusive space for all of Raby's visitors.
While we adults certainly enjoyed our time in The Plotters’ Forest, it was clear to see that the children were the real winners here as both had absolutely loved it, getting truly lost and immersed in the whole experience. The Plotters' Forest simply invites children to get involved and enjoy the attraction and is sure to become a family favourite. It's obvious that a lot of thought and care has gone into ensuring the playground naturally blends into the forested area by using complementary textures, colours and sustainable materials. The creators have a firm belief that building a relationship with the outdoors inspires children to be resilient, curious and courageous – all qualities found in Raby Castle's plotters of the past!
The wider development project, The Rising at Raby Castle Park and Garden (again a nod back to the site's wealth of history) will include the significant restoration, renovation and re-use of several historic buildings which have been without use for decades on this magnificent estate, and the creation of a new café and events space, as well as a new visitor hub. Furthermore, the project will introduce new structures to provide stylish events and exhibition spaces, as well as launch retail and dining experiences. The five acre Walled Gardens are also being redesigned whilst retaining key historic attributes. The wider site will launch in Summer 2023, with the opening of The Plotter's Forest marking the start of this ambitious project.
The Plotters' Forest will open to the public on Good Friday, 15th April 2022. For further information and to buy tickets click here.