Raby has gained a huge number of new Raby Membership holders this year, many of whom have taken the trouble to tell our team how much they have appreciated being able to access the outdoor spaces and enjoy nature at a time when everyone’s lives have been so restricted.
Peter and Elaine Gunton from Bishop Auckland became Raby Members for the first time earlier this year, just before the first lockdown. In a year of restriction and uncertainty, Raby has become the perfect retreat for them and they have visited most days, watching the seasons change. They spoke to us about what spending time at Raby means to them.
Your Raby Membership has been well used this year – what’s the best thing about it?
We’re outdoors people and we love the wildlife, the trees, the gardens, the whole place. Being able to come here with our dog, every day if we want to, has meant such a lot to us, especially this year. We use it at High Force too, which is another fabulous place. We’ve visited so regularly that we worked out it had paid for itself in the first week – we just wish we had done it years ago!
Having watched the seasons change in the Park and Gardens, has any particular time of year stood out?
Every day is different, and there’s always something new to see, whether it’s the light on the castle, the colour of the leaves, the flowers in the gardens or the wildlife, it’s never the same two days running.
Do you have a favourite spot?
There’s a bench over the hill by the top pond where we like to sit and relax. It’s so peaceful there and it really clears your mind. We like chatting to people as they pass or just simply enjoying the view. We love the gardens too, they’re incredible. They keep on giving, day after day and we enjoy chatting to the gardeners, who do a fantastic job. In the gardens there’s a sheltered place to sit, looking down towards the fountain, where we can enjoy the view even on a wet day.
Peter, your beautiful photos have been shared with hundreds of people through our social media channels. Do you have a favourite wildlife subject?
The deer are a real favourite of mine. Sometimes I might catch the fallow deer playing or a red stag posing for the camera. I’ve really enjoyed photographing the swans and cygnets this year too. We’ve been watching the babies since they were little things on the lake and it’s been fascinating seeing them grow.
Why has Raby been so important during lockdown?
It’s been a lifeline and most importantly it has always felt safe. Even on days when the car park seems busy, the Park and Gardens feel quiet and there is plenty of space for everyone. The staff have been fantastic in that respect, making sure there is plenty of hand sanitiser available and all the necessary measures are in place.
Is there anything that has really stood out during your visits?
The people who work at Raby are incredible. They always have time for you and everyone is so pleasant and helpful. There’s such a lovely atmosphere both at Raby Castle and High Force and the staff can’t do enough for you. It really does make such a difference.
A Raby Membership makes the perfect gift – or why not treat yourself to free admission for a whole year (excluding special events) plus 10% off in the Stables Shop, Cafe and Kiosk and 10% off at High Force Hotel and Kiosk.