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Duchess opens giant treehouse

January 10, 2005
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Already famous as the setting for Hogwarts School in the Harry Potter films, Alnwick Castle is adding to its magical attractions with the opening this week of a giant, Lord Of The Rings-style treehouse in its grounds.

The £3.3 million structure, which is the brainchild of the estate's chatelaine, the Duchess of Northumberland, perches on 16 trees and boasts five rooms. It also features a network of hanging walkways, aerial platforms, rope bridges, spiral staircases and turrets, and even has a café. The Duchess insisted that a huge play area be erected at its base, allowing wheelchair-users as well as able-bodied children a place to play.

“Regardless of their ability, children should be encouraged to get outdoors and appreciate nature.” says Lady Jane Percy, the energetic young Duchess whose husband's family have resided at Alnwick since the early 14th century. "Many children now have less opportunity to play than any other generation. The idea is to provide a challenge, and include elements of risk, so that you help children better equip themselves for the future.”

Her dream of attracting thousands more visitors to the North-East started to become a reality when Alnwick Gardens - with its sprawling array of fountains and impressive diversity of flowers and plants - was officially opened to the public in October 2002 by its patron, the Prince of Wales.

But Lady Jane was not content to stop there. After pouring in an additional £42 million, the Duchess is set on transforming the castle’s grounds into a fantasy world garden. With the tree house open to the public, Alnwick Garden is now halfway to completion. The next planned development for the future is a controversial Poison Garden, which will feature a wide array of exotic plants including cannabis and coca plants, and is likely to open later this year.

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The five-room house, built from a variety of natural materials including Canadian cedar, English and Scots pine, is perched on 16 trees
Photo: The Alnwick Garden
More than 60 builders have worked for over a year on what is one of the biggest wooden treehouses in the world

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