October 21, 2022
Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire
Belvoir Castle’s brand-new adventure playground opened to the public on Saturday 15th October, in time for the Halloween half-term break.
You can see our original CGI for the build here.
Our own Jason Marshall travelled to the opening with his kids and they loved it. “We spent the whole day there. The kids spent ages playing together and with us on the adventure play and then we went off to explore the woodlands, the castle and the rest of the estate. It was a great day and the journey home was very quiet, as the kids slept off the exertions of the day.
It's a build that was very personal to the Manners family, with the design drawing heavily on the Castle's history and stories passed down from generation to generation by the family. “Every playground is a reflection of its surroundings and the story of its home,” says Lady Alice Manners, second daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Rutland.
“With Belvoir, one thread was never going to tell our whole story, but I wanted to bring in parts of my father, The Duke, and his tenure, as an homage to him.
“One of his great loves is Belvoir’s naval history, so this was the ideal place to start. Published in 2017, my father wrote a book about Lord Robert, our fascinating ancestor and his daring feats as a young maritime hero captaining the HMS Resolution.”
“And this is exactly where each child’s adventure journey begins, by weighing anchor and climbing aboard the HMS Resolution, a replica of the ship captained by my Belvoir descendant Lord Robert.
From sailing the seven seas, to daring sword fights against pirates and scallywags, children’s imaginations will be bursting with excitement as they explore this ship’s lower decks and crawl spaces, staring out to sea through the portholes, or shivering their timbers on the poop deck.
“And in true naval fashion, there is only one true way a-shore - walking the plank via the zip wire, sailing through the sky like seafarers of yesteryear, and on to the main play area, the Castle maze.”
The facsimile of Belvoir Castle, this multi-level, high-adrenaline tower, mirrors the iconic circular turret of the Castle, with seemingly endless levels and a myriad of hidden rooms and winding hallways, taking visitors higher and higher above the forest floor. And it is the very top of the tower that is the highlight, with views through the wood and a giant tube slide to whizz each child back to earth.
Each element of the adventure playground is linked to the love the Manners family find in the outdoors. From Lord Robert sailing the seven seas to Lady Alice’s childhood exploring the Belvoir Castle woods, on never-ending adventures of imagination and excitement, this unbridled joy has been recreated for visiting children of all ages.
A wooden replica of the Duke of Rutland’s 1908 Renault, which he has lovingly restored and raced over the years, has pride of place in the toddler’s area. “I just loved the process of working with CAP.CO to create this adventure area for local children. From my father's beloved 1908 Renault to the replica of the HMS Resolution captained by Lord Robert in the 18th Century, children are diving into the Castle’s history in the heart of the nature we were lucky to play in as children.
“For me, it was very important to create a playground which fits seamlessly into the castle grounds and looks like it’s always been there”, said Lady Alice.
“Environmentally we wanted to ensure that it was built from natural materials. We’ve not taken away from the landscape of the area, we have only added to it. We have worked around all the existing trees, constructing as much of the playground as we could out of sustainable wood. You really feel like you’re in the heart of the forest – it's lovely and natural.
“I loved spending time outdoors in nature as a child, and my wish is that families get to enjoy special time together in the playground and make special memories.”
The Belvoir playground opened as the estate dives into all things Halloween. The Engine Yard, just a stone's throw from the playground, is decorated to be a hive of Halloween fun.
“The opening of the adventure playground this Halloween is an exciting step for Belvoir Castle”, says Emma Stenning, CEO. “Our ambition is to be an inclusive family attraction, embracing its community as well as attracting new visitors to the area. With the addition of the playground, visitors of all ages can enjoy the Castle surroundings and step foot into the abundant history of the area.”
In the fortnight running up to the grand opening, primary school children from schools in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire were invited to create their dream adventure playground, submitting their drawings to be judged by The Duke and Duchess of Rutland’s second daughter, Lady Alice Manners.
A number of schools submitted their designs, with three lucky winners chosen to win the grand prize, an exclusive morning with all their classmates, spent in the playground before it opened to the general public.
St. Mary’s Catholic Primary School and The National Church of England Junior School in Grantham and East Bridgford St Peter CE Academy in Nottinghamshire brought their winning classes to road test the Belvoir Castle playground on Friday 14th October, the day before the official opening and most importantly, gave it their thumbs up of approval.
Eight-year-old William Grant, of East Bridgford St Peters in Nottinghamshire won the competition on behalf of his school, with his inspired 3D model of his dream adventure playground, and his class were thrilled to be invited along with the lucky winner.
“The Belvoir Castle, 'design a playground competition' was met with huge enthusiasm and excitement by the children”, said Richard Tomlinson, Head of East Bridgford St Peter’s CE Academy.
“The winner and his class had a tremendous time at Belvoir – it’s a wonderful place for adventure and imagination and we had a few long faces on the way home as the children just wanted to stay all day. Elements like the wooden ship and the amazing Renault car as well as the Zip wire and the iconic Belvoir tower are fantastic areas for children to just let off steam and create wonderful stories in their heads. It was a fantastic day.”
If you'd like to visit The new adventure play and the beautiful Belvoir Castle estate, you can buy your tickets here.