Local School Children Inspired by Raby’s New Playground
To inspire the next generation of budding designers and engineers, Raby Castle has launched a competition encouraging local schools to design their own adventure playground.

Specialist playground design company CAP.Co, which is building the castle’s exciting new attraction, The Plotters’ Forest – paid visits to four local primary schools to inspire students who may want to enter the competition.

All primary schools within the local area have been encouraged to send in their entries, and the prize for the talented winner and their whole class – who will be chosen by a panel of judges including Lord & Lady Barnard – is exclusive access to The Plotters’ Forest, before it opens to the public this Easter. The closing date for entries is 5pm on 10th March, with the winning entry being announced a week later.

Johnny Lyle, chief design sheriff at CAP.Co said,

“It was an honour to spend time with all the children in the four schools we visited. All of them were asking amazing questions and eager to get started on their own designs.

“Our job is to inspire children with creative and imaginative play and the children who use and hopefully enjoy our playgrounds are our biggest critics – having their creative minds and input at the heart of what we do is very important to us. It was fantastic to talk to them more about the job of designing playgrounds and I hope we’ve inspired one or two as the playground designers of the future.”

School Visit

Johnny Lyle, chief design sheriff at CAP.Co at Escomb Primary School

Leanne Collings, deputy headteacher at Escomb Primary School in Bishop Auckland said:

“The session was brilliant. The children were hooked and so excited to start their designs, completely inspired.”

Chris Riley, headteacher at Gainford CE Primary School said,

“The visit was a great success. All of our children were inspired by the presentation and had lots of questions to ask too. The session really helped our children to gain inspiration for their own designs.”  

Nestled in a stunning woodland within the grounds of Raby Castle, this new adventure play area will be an exciting mix of challenge, discovery and intrigue for all its visitors, both the young and the young at heart.

Inspired by Raby Castle’s history, particularly The Rising of the North in 1569, The Plotters’ Forest encourages everyone to unleash their inner playfulness and mischief as a ‘Raby Rebel’. Young visitors will see special features throughout the site, which represent Raby Castle’s architectural history – including its entrance which has been built to honour the famous Neville Gateway, and the Plotters’ Spire, a three-story tower with a top-floor slide and unusual pentagon shapes which have been used across the playground.

Lord and Lady Barnard said:

“We’re so fortunate to have the collaboration and support of inspiring primary schools, with teachers who want to challenge and motivate their students with creative and imaginative play.

“We can’t wait to see the fantastic entries and it’ll be a pleasure to welcome the winners to The Plotters’ Forest for their special day out.”

The Plotters’ Forest is due to open this Easter and tickets will be available to book from the end of March. Please visit our Play page and sign up to the newsletter to receive updates on The Plotters’ Forest.



Local School Children Become Raby Rebels for the Afternoon with an Exclusive First Visit to New Adventure Playground

An entire class of students from Cockfield Primary School in Bishop Auckland were the first children in the county to test drive Raby Castle’s much-awaited new playground in the trees, The Plotters’ Forest, before it opens to the public at Easter.

Over thirty Class 4 students and their teachers put down their pencils and picked up their adventurous spirits as they became ‘Raby Rebels’ for the afternoon ahead of the Easter break.

The children, who were awarded the prize to be the first to visit the playground after winning a local competition to design an adventure space of their own, were joined by Lord Barnard, owner of Raby Castle, who judged the competition with Lady Barnard and was keen to hear their feedback.

“We had many schools in the area take part in our competition to design an inspirational playground and we were overwhelmed by the quality and creativity of the entries. They were all worthy winners, but we had to choose just one and Cockfield Primary School really excelled in a design which looked so colourful and creative and seemed to be a real collaborative effort from the whole class,” said Lady Barnard.

“After two years of limited school trips, it was absolutely wonderful to welcome Class 4 and their teachers to our new woodland playground. We really hope they had a wonderful afternoon with us, and that The Plotters’ Forest is enjoyed by many other local children over the Easter holidays and beyond. It’s been a long-held dream of Lord Barnard and mine, to have something as special as this at Raby for the local community to enjoy.”

Kathryn Costello, Headteacher at Cockfield Primary School said of the visit:

“The children were delighted to have won this competition and felt really privileged to be the first children to be able to play on the new playground. They enjoyed the challenge of taking part in the competition and really let their imaginations fly when working on their entries.

“They worked in teams to carry out research into what makes a good playground design, shared ideas and worked hard to ensure their designs were inclusive, colourful and welcoming. We were thrilled to have been chosen as the winners and thoroughly enjoyed our visit.”

Raby’s two young local heroes, eight-year-old Ryan Chidzey from Gainford CE Primary and Preschool and eight-year-old Charlotte Hawke from the Federation of Abbey Schools in Darlington also tested out the equipment at The Plotters’ Forest. Ryan and Charlotte won a competition to attend the breaking ground ceremony when the work started on the playground at the end of last year and were invited back to enjoy the finished product.

The Plotters’ Forest, designed specifically for Raby Castle, is one of a kind and is named after the part the castle played in The Rising of the North in 1569. The space will offer an exciting mix of challenge, discovery, and intrigue for both the young and the young at heart.

Visitors will see special features throughout the site, which echo Raby Castle’s architectural history – including its entrance which has been built to honour the famous Neville Gateway, and the Plotters’ Spire, a three-story tower with a top-floor slide and unusual pentagon shapes which have been used across the playground.

It is the first stage of Raby’s wider development scheme The Rising, that promises to attract new visitors to the area and create outstanding recreation for the local community.

The Rising project will include the significant restoration and renovation of several historical buildings on the estate opening spaces which have not been seen by the public before. It is a notable addition that will complement County Durham’s bid for the UK City of Culture 2025 award – which has now reached the next stage.

Sign up to the Raby Newsletter

Sign up to our newsletter today to receive weekly updates, exclusive offers and priority booking on our seasonal events.