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The Duchess of Northumberland on her creation of the world’s largest playground

We caught up with British aristocrat and award-winning businesswoman, Jane Percy, Duchess of Northumberland, to find out what to expect at Lilidorei at The Alnwick Garden.

Written by Rachael Nichol
Published 15.04.2023
Image credit: Critical Tortoise

 

The Duchess of Northumberland has created the world’s largest playground that’s every child’s dream.

The fantasy village attraction is set to be a one-of-a-kind magical adventure that lets the little ones’ (and parents’) imaginations run wild.

From discovering fantastical creatures such as goblins, elves, dwarves and pixies inside their wooden homes to being transported to a magical universe through immersive sound, zip wires, slides and climbing walls that connect each area, Lilidorei is an enchanting experience like no other.

After dreaming of this vision for 13 years and a multi-million pound investment later, the Duchess is over the moon to see Lilidorei at The Alnwick Garden come to life and hopes to help children and adults ‘return to their senses’ and enjoy time away from screens and technology.

And this new development follows Jane Percy, Duchess of Northumberland’s, amazing success of the award-winning The Alnwick Garden and The Treehouse, Alnwick, which have driven millions of pounds worth of tourism to the North East over the past two decades.

But The Alnwick Garden is more than just a successful business, it’s actually a registered charity and over the years the Duchess has given so much back to community initiatives for the people of Alnwick and the wider North East.

We caught up with the Duchess of Northumberland herself to find out what we can expect at Lilidoeri, Alnwick, that’s set to open this spring.

What inspired you to set up Lilidorei?

Being interested in play and seeing playgrounds being standardised or unimaginative. Seeing Christmas done badly with the bottom line being more important than the attraction. I’d like to see children using their imaginations; racing around and stopping to wonder why they’re hearing a fairy crying. There are lots of questions with no answers in Lilidorei. What’s happened? Where are the clan members? Why can you hear them, but they remain hidden? Who is Bluebell?

Image credit: Phil Wilkinson

 

Children playing at Lilidorei at The Alnwick Garden

What can we expect?

You can expect an immersive experience. You are entering into a magical and mysterious village full of play which is home to nine clans who worship Christmas. They are ruled by Lord Elfwin who lives in a tower in Elfwin Drin which is the biggest play structure in the world.

You will see giant mushrooms in the clan clearings and hear them breathing. Why are there bite marks on the mushrooms? Are they alive? Why do you see their hearts beating in each mushroom stalk? Is the storytelling chair alive? Are the mushrooms creating the magic of Lilidorei? And throughout all of this, the central theme is Christmas and the clans each plays a particular role in ensuring Christmas happens in December.

Image credit: Phil Wilkinson
Little boy playing at Lilidorei at The Alnwick Garden

It’s been named the world’s largest playground – was this your intention?

At Lilidorei’s heart is Elfwin Drin which is the biggest play structure in the world. This was my intention and was the brief given to the Danish builders of the play structure.

Image credit: Phil Wilkinson
Image of Lilidorei at the Alnwick Garden

With many children playing behind screens now, are you hoping your attraction will get children to play outside more?

Lilidorei has been designed to make children put their mobile devices back into their pockets. Sound is what matters especially if what you hear makes you stop in your tracks to wonder what’s going on. You will hear Goblins running around, Trolls rowing, fighting and belching, and Fairies, pixies and sprites flying and crying. The Wishing Tree breathes and swallows the wishes posted through his mouth. A huge Magic Muffin which smells of chocolate where you can order a muffin and a hot chocolate.

 

What made you want to take part in your new Channel 4 documentary, The Duchess that’ll be broadcast later this year?

You can’t build something on the scale of Lilidorei and not talk about it. The thinking behind Lilidorei is what makes it Lilidorei and the Channel 4 documentary follows this process. I was followed for two years. You will see the work behind the project, including a trip to Denmark and the US when I visited my daughter living in Florida.

Where is your favourite place to eat in Northumberland?

My favourite place to eat in Northumberland has to be The Treehouse in The Alnwick Garden.

 

Out of all the inspirational projects you have brought to Alnwick, which is your favourite and why?

My favourite part of The Alnwick Garden is the Poison Garden. Also, the Cherry Orchard when it is flowering and seeing lots of people swinging under the blossom on the swing seats.

To stay up to date with the opening date and for more information about Lilidorei at The Alnwick Garden, visit their official website.

The Alnwick Garden, Denwick Lane, Alnwick NE66 1FJ

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