The stereotypical image of a Treehouse is a small boxy wooden safety hazard, treacherously nailed to a high branch on the only large tree in the garden. Some more extravagant constructions might include a door, some windows, maybe even electricity. But since it will probably just get trashed by the kids and abandoned, why waste the money?
So how about spending 3.5 million pounds on one? Just think about how many rope ladders and cup-and-string phones you could buy for that! Well how about spending that money on a giant, five storey, elevated mansion suspended across 16 lime trees. Well someone DID think about that, that someone is the Duchess of Northumberland. She commissioned the leviathan to be built in the grounds of Alnwick Gardens, used to film Harry Potter.
The enormous Treehouse spreads across 6,000 sq ft with 4,000 sq ft of walkways and bridges and is suspended 56 feet in the air. It includes a 120-seat restaurant, three conference rooms, several classrooms, a cafe and countless turrets. It even has, despite the obvious safety issue, an open fireplace
The whole thing is held together by bolts, ropes and joints in what appears to be a purposefully messy configuration of shingles, beams and of course, branches. It was built as part of the largest garden projects Britain has ever seen.
The whole thing is pretty much wheelchair accessible and open to all ages. The duchess, a mother of four who, as a child, was an inveterate tree-climber and says “There was a survey last year which found that a third of children aren’t allowed to climb trees, we want to provide that missing challenge, including an element of risk. And why shouldn’t the less able-bodied, of all ages, see life from the trees?”
Over 500,000 people have visited the gardens in the last year making it the north-east’s top paid attraction it has created over 300 new jobs. It is now one of the most popular gardens in the country. Half of the funding for the project came from the public sector and will be repaid with over 150 million pounds contribution to the local economy over the next 10 years. Alnwick’s next big attraction will be the artificial mist-shrouded Poison Garden, which opens in April.