13 Oct 2023
The Belsay Awakes project, made possible by English Heritage, National Lottery players and The National Lottery Heritage Fund along with support from the Garfield Weston Foundation, The Foyle Foundation and other generous donations, is now complete. This transformative endeavour involved extensive conservation and restoration efforts, including the creation of a woodland play area, enhanced visitor facilities, revitalised gardens, and the introduction of new interpretation and learning resources. We are very proud to have contributed to this truly unique project.
Our contribution focused on the development of the new Play Area and broader external enhancements. The Play Area, nestled in the woodland behind the Castle complex, was designed to be visually unobtrusive and blend seamlessly with the surroundings. It draws inspiration from the rich history of the Middleton family, and the mythical figures 'Wildman' and 'Wildwoman', that are woven into the fabric of Belsay. These figures, emblematic of the Middleton family, encapsulate nature's picturesque essence whilst retaining an air of mystery. The Wildman & Wildwoman theme is underpinned with other subsidiary themes like the Middleton family and traces of their presence, picturesque ideals, plant collecting and Greek influences. After developing concept proposals, we worked alongside Studio Hardie who developed designs and installed the play installation.
In tandem with our work on the Play Area, Southern Green assisted Plantsman Dan Pearson, who revitalised key garden spaces in which 80,000 plants were planted. Wider works encompassed enhanced accessibility and new car parking facilities, following improvements to the setting of the Hall which included the removal of existing parking. As part of an enabling works contract, a ramped accessible pathway now connects the Hall with the Lower Terrace, which alongside the implementation of hard landscaping enhancements, enable access to a new Changing Places facility. Novel interpretative features designed by Ruth Haycock, reanimate the site and include the creation of trails that reimagine mythical characters, along with a projected animation and soundscape on the Castle's ground floor.
Conservation initiatives were also at the core of the project, including reroofing the Hall, and the restoration of medieval stonework at the Castle. The former Coach House building at the Castle complex has been transformed into a vibrant and inviting café, complete with renewable energy sources and rainwater harvesting.
The project's success hinged on vital engagement, which was orchestrated by Mellanie Hills. An astounding 50,000 people were engaged, and over 100 volunteers dedicated over 3,000 days of their time. In partnership with 25 other organisations, over 45 project-themed tours, events, activities and presentations were also delivered.
Photo credits: ©EH and ©Southern Green