CREATIVE CARVING: Lady Barnard explains the impressive oak table which has the relief of Teesdale’s landscape carved on its surface to create an amazing audio-visual experience    TM pic
CREATIVE CARVING: Lady Barnard explains the impressive oak table which has the relief of Teesdale’s landscape carved on its surface to create an amazing audio-visual experience TM pic

The huge redevelopment at Raby Castle – dubbed The Rising – is nearing completion and will welcome its first visitors this summer. Reporter Martin Paul discovered the delights that await them.

IF there is just one thing everyone in Teesdale needs to see, then it must be an exhibit at Raby Castle’s new The Rising project.

The Coach House and Stables at the castle has been transformed into an exhibition space and its chief display is a massive oak table. Carved into its surface is the topography of Teesdale – the River Tees, all of its tributaries, every hill, and its roads. The attention to detail is incredible, with miniature bridges crossing the water ways.

Several exquisitely carved landmarks rise from the tabletop – the fortress of Barnard Castle, Gainford Hall, Copley’s chimney, Raby Castle, the Bainbridge Fountain and High Force.

As if this were not enough, the genuine marvel is when the lights are dimmed and a marvellous audio-visual feast begins.

Beamed from two projectors above, suddenly the fields of Teesdale appear in resplendent colour.

The display transitions through the seasons, while bird song and the other sounds of the dale fill the room.

The idea for the table was Lady Barnard’s. During a preview of what The Rising has in store, she said she had difficultly putting her idea into words, but wanted to capture the dale’s sounds, seasons and colour.

She added: “I was desperate to get the relief because I think that is so important to understand the dale. People live in all these parts and in winter and thick snow they are still existing and keeping their sheep and keeping their dale going. It is a remarkable place.

“It is an amazing part of the world.

“It is unique with its flora and fauna. So that was the idea behind this.”

The table is made from oak from the estate and was expertly carved by Anthony Nixon Furniture, in Barnard Castle. Amazingly, this marvel will be free for visitors to see when The Rising opens to the public.

Several buildings have been repurposed as part of the development, but arriving visitors will be welcomed at a newly built Round House. Modelled on a circular field barn near Staindrop church it will show people what is on offer at Raby Castle each day and staff at reception will provide ticketing and information.

Nearby, The Vinery has been transformed into a 200-seat restaurant, capable of serving another 60 people outside.

Lady Barnard revealed all that remained of the former vinery was a wall, surrounded by a disused field, with views over the estate hidden because of a tall hedge.

She added: “Originally there had been a vinery leaning up against this wall and I’ve only ever known this as a field.

“The [outside] tables have come from the park and made by the sawmill. I am so impressed because this was windfall – a couple of years ago we had a few trees come down and this is literally windfall. Every part of this Rising has been turned over, thought about and put back together. Most of it is old, nearly everything is reclaimed from the estate.”

The Walled Gardens have been completely overhauled and feature mazes and new waterways, while the Dutch Barn and Riding School have been converted into an area to hire for functions and events.

Much of the redevelopment was done with the help of local contractors and suppliers including Teesdale Renewables, Middleton Forge and D&A Electrical Services.

Lady Barnard said: “It is an ambitious project that we are hugely excited about launching to visitors who already know and love Raby as well as new visitors to the area.

“We genuinely feel Raby now has something for everyone – from its history and collections in the castle, to the stunning deer park, Plotters’ Forest adventure playground, and full events programme.”