Lost National Trust "castle" reimagined as playground

The National Trust brought in Timberplay to create a replacement for the lost 'Strawberry Castle' at its grounds at Gibside.

A girl plays on the new Strawberry Castle. Image: Timberplay
A girl plays on the new Strawberry Castle. Image: Timberplay

Records show that 250 years ago there was a Strawberry Castle on the site but the management team could find no details, images or maps to provide an idea of what it looked like.

The only evidence of its existence is in the records of the gardeners and stone masons that were employed to maintain the property and the grounds.

With no support provided from the archives, Gibside set about reimagining the structure, using designs and ideas from local children. Play supplier Timberplay then pulled together the best elements of their ideas to create the new Strawberry Castle.

The new castle is likely to be a far more playable structure than the original, with climbing
walls, rope bridges, platform huts, ladders and chain paths. A climbing structure alongside uses heft timbers and provides varied and challenging play opportunities. This is the first installation of an ongoing play development project, with further improvements due to be made in 2016.

General manager at Gibside Mick Wilkes commented: "Intuition tells us that Strawberry Castle was probably some sort of folly, so it is fitting that it is now a feature play structure. The new castle is so popular with our younger visitors, hidden away in beautiful Georgian landscaped gardens.

"I have been incredibly impressed with the passion that Timberplay demonstrate within their designs, so much so that I am already wholeheartedly committed to using them in any future developments, with sand and water being top of my wish list."

Situated in the North East, Gibside is one of the most popular family National Trust sites, with around 50 per cent of their visitors being families, making play an important element onsite.

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