Illuminating Ushaw: Festive trail set to light up historic house and gardens

One of the North East’s leading visitor attractions is promising to light up Christmas with the return of a popular festive light trail, showcasing ambitious new outdoor artworks by regional artists.

Illuminating Ushaw: Land of Enchantment will take visitors on a captivating journey around Ushaw Historic House, Chapels and Gardens, a 500-acre country estate, historic house, park and gardens on the outskirts of Durham City.

Its grand Georgian country house, gardens and prestigious St Cuthbert’s Chapel, will all be illuminated and enlivened by festive music, choral song

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and creative light-art installations on select weekends throughout December.

Illuminating Ushaw

Lucy Jenkins, director of culture and heritage at Ushaw Historic House, said: “Ushaw is delighted to reveal new artistic commissions and creative partnerships for its third Illuminating Ushaw Christmas light experience.

"This year’s theme is Land of Enchantment and we are thrilled to exhibit new works by North East artists celebrating the mystery and beauty of our

natural world as well as the magical feelings of joy the festive season brings.”

Among the highlights of Illuminating Ushaw: Land of Enchantment are a mesmerising dome filled with glimmering stars, each individually designed by local school children, a luminous garden of floating flower heads, a vast pulsing network of Mycelium – the elaborate root structures of mushrooms and fungi – and a huge rabbit sculpture crafted from metal and willow; using techniques that date back almost five thousand years.

Illuminating Ushaw

St Cuthbert’s, Ushaw’s most celebrated Gothic chapel, will also bedecorated and illuminated from floor to ceiling, for the first time ever, creating a spectacular focal point for the hour-long trail. Choirs and musicians will perform Christmas carols in the iconic chapel at various times throughout the evenings.

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::Illuminating Ushaw – Artistic Commissions

Catching Stars is a co-created installation by celebrated light artists Mick Stephenson and Stuart Langley recreating the enchanting feeling of gazing at starry night skies.

This dome-shaped artwork is located at the centre of Ushaw’s gardens and will be filled with hundreds of suspended and illuminated stars, all individually designed by children from North East schools. To celebrate sustainability, each star has been cut from birch wood and will be returned to the child who created it at the end of the project.

Illuminating Ushaw
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Mycelium has been created by Stevie Thompson, a former electrician turned fibre-optic light installation artist, from South Shields. Thompson has created a pulsing animated network of mycelium, the root structures of mushroom and fungi, that will move, twinkle and change colours as if it were alive and communicating with those watching. Giant mushrooms will stem and grow from the network with illuminated caps of different shapes and styles.

Ushaw Rabbit is a large-scale sculpture by husband-and-wife team Ruth and Tim Thompson from Tynedale in Northumberland.

Ruth is a traditional wicker artist, the earliest known form of furniture making, with techniques dating back to Ancient Egypt. Ruth has taken inspiration from Ushaw’s heraldic coat of arms to create a two metre by two metre rabbit in the formal gardens, crafted from metal and willow and illuminated with fibre optics designed by Tim.

Nearby, in Ushaw’s peace garden is Winter in Bloom by Anna Harding and James Shepherd, from Bishop Auckland. Eight giant flower heads will

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Illuminating Ushaw

appear illuminated and floating above Ushaw’s expansive gardens, recreating the enchanting colour and joy of warmer months.

Each flower head is one metre in diameter and mounted on a two-metre black post, so that its stem cannot be seen after dark.

Illuminating Ushaw: Land of Enchantment is supported by headline sponsor Urban BASE, one of North East England’s leading estate agencies and property managers, and takes place on the following dates.

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::Saturday 3rd & Sunday 4th December

::Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th December

::Friday 16th , Saturday 17th & Sunday 18th December

Tickets cost from £10 to £12, booking is essential. Event timings are from 4.30pm to 6.30pm and the trail closes at 8pm.

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Other festive highlights at Ushaw Historic House, Chapel and Gardens

::Father Christmas at Ushaw | Tuesdays & Wednesdays in December, 10:30am – 12pm & 1pm – 2:30pm

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Visit Ushaw’s Winter Woodland and meet Father Christmas in his cosy Yuletide Yurt. From £10, booking required

::Handmade Christmas Gift Fair | Friday 9th December, 11am - 3pm

Free entry to Ushaw for a day of beautiful, handcrafted gift inspiration, with an exquisite array of handmade gift stalls plus lots more.

::The Snowman – Live Orchestra | Saturday 10th December, 12:30pm – 1pm & 1:30pm – 2pm

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Film screening and live performance of The Snowman performed by talented young musicians of Durham Music Youth Orchestra and Choir.

From £4, booking required

::Elf Academy with Activate Theatre | Saturday 17th & Sunday 18th December, various timeslots

A magical elfish workshop this Christmas with Activate Theatre, children can learn how to be the best elf in Lapland. From £15, booking required

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::Christmas Carols at Ushaw | Tuesday 13th & Thursday 15th December, 7:30pm – 9pm

Taking place in the enchantingly decorated St Cuthbert’s Chapel, enjoy an evening of traditional and much-loved Christmas carols, with seasonal

readings. From £6, booking required

::Christmas Daytime Garden Trail | Daily from 1st December – 23rd December, 11am-4pm

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Can you seek out festive-themed symbols dotted around our gardens? Free with admission, no booking required