The first stage of a redesign of Raby’s historic Walled Garden is nearing completion, which will see the launch of a grass amphitheatre this summer – the first of its kind in the north of England.

A very special element of the Estate’s ambitious development programme known as ‘The Rising’, is the remodelled Walled Garden, which has been carefully crafted by Lady Barnard, working closely with a world-renowned garden designer Luciano Giubbilei.

The grass amphitheatre, is set in the lower part of the East Garden, enabling future visitors to gaze up at the spectacular sight of the castle on the horizon. This unique space will be used for a host of summer activities, including plays and musical events, as well as providing visitors with a beautiful garden for quiet contemplation.

Work began in the Walled Garden in 2022, which is situated just a stone’s throw from 14th century Raby Castle, home to the Vane family since 1626.

The new design for the East Garden sees evergreen-bordered herbaceous beds at the north of the garden, set amongst interconnected paths, leading visitors to the natural amphitheatre.

The sculptural yew hedge, which has sat at the heart of the historic Walled Garden since the 19th century, was the main consideration during the design process, with great sensitivity shown to its importance in the landscape.

“The sense of past played such an important part in our design decisions when we embarked on this journey”, says Luciano. “There is so much history that came before us at Raby, and we needed to decide how to move forward with a design that embodied the atmosphere, enabling visitors to seamlessly move from space to space, but at all times, honouring the iconic shadow of Raby Castle in the background.”

Over the last year, the work within the East Garden includes the creation of the tiered amphitheatre, the planting of borders and the construction and establishing of beds. Evergreens and topiary have been introduced to reflect the balance of formality and informality within the structure of the garden, with Taxus hedging and Osmanthus cloud-pruned plants installed across the East Garden to create flow and mirror the form of the historical yew hedge.

“Taxus domes have been planted to delineate the edges of the amphitheatre steps”, says Tim Marshall, Raby head gardener. “But it will be the flood of soft muted colours in the herbaceous beds and the dense, structural green of the yew hedges that will draw the eye.”

“The completion of the East Garden will be an exciting milestone for The Rising development”, says Lady Barnard. “At the outset of this project, we had in mind something extraordinary, which would showcase both the formality and natural beauty embedded in this historic landscape. We wanted something unique to Raby and with the addition of the amphitheatre, as a gathering space amongst the colourful planting, we hope that in time, the Walled Garden will be a beautiful place for the local community and visitors to enjoy all year round.”

Work is also underway in the Formal and West Garden. Local contractor Trevor Atkinson is preparing the foundations for the central rill in the Formal Garden, which will create a succinct and flowing line of water from the top of the garden to the South Walk gates, drawing visitors’ eyes onward and up towards the castle. Over the next six months, planting and hard landscaping will continue throughout the Formal and West Gardens, with the opening of the completed Walled Garden to the public planned in 2024.

For the lucky few, there will be the opportunity to sneak a peek at the Walled Garden’s progress ahead of the formal opening to the public. From early summer, Raby Castle members will be invited to tour the completed East Garden, as the planting begins to establish.