©EH - image above, second bottom left
Southern Green collaborated with English Heritage on an ambitious project to rejuvenate a Grade I Registered Park and Garden in Northumberland. Despite its remarkable status within the English Heritage collection and its proximity to the Tyne & Wear conurbation, the site received limited recognition and visitors. This endeavour has breathed new life into the extraordinary picturesque landscape, featuring a Grade I listed medieval castle and a Grade I listed Greek revival hall belonging to the Middleton family.
Our role encompassed the development of concept proposals for an inclusive and adventurous play area situated behind the Castle complex. Following the initial design stage, we worked alongside Studio Hardie who developed designs and installed the play installation. The design concept drew inspiration from the rich history of the Middleton family, as well as the mythical figures 'Wildman' and 'Wildwoman' that are woven into the fabric of Belsay. The 'Wildman' also prominently appears on the Middleton family's coat of arms, signifying their ownership of Belsay for over 700 years. A decade ago, an exhibition in Belsay's Pillar Hall vividly brought to life these enduring mythical figures who have watched over the Middleton family for centuries. They represent untamed nature versus civilization, embodying both the wild and noble aspects. Novel interpretative features, designed by Ruth Haycock, reanimate the site and include the creation of trails that bring to life mythical characters, along with a projected animation and soundscape on the Castle's ground floor.
Collaborating with Plantsman Dan Pearson, Southern Green played a role in revitalising garden spaces, in which 80,000 plants were planted. Wider works included tree works, informative displays, and enrichment of habitats for wildlife. Within the quarry gardens there were minimal changes, with the addition of information panels offering deeper insights into the exceptional plants that thrive in its unique microclimate.
Site wide improvements also included enhanced accessibility and the establishment of new car parking facilities, following improvements to the setting of the Hall, including the removal of parking. As part of an enabling works contract, a ramped accessible pathway now connects the hall with the Lower Terrace, as well as the implementation of hard landscaping enhancements to facilitate access to a new Changing Places facility.
Conservation initiatives were also at the core of the project including the reroofing of the Hall, and 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 contributions from the wider community and volunteers. An astounding 50,000 people were engaged, and over 100 volunteers dedicated over 3,000 days of their time! In partnership with 25 other organizations, over 45 project-themed tours, events, activities, and presentations were delivered.
Link to: Belsay Awakes - Adventurous Play