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Ray Wood, Castle Howard

Pgds 20070818 153150 Plinth In Reservoir Ray Wood


Ray Wood is a reconstructed wilderness with serpentine walkways cutting through a replanted ancient wood.



Ray Wood is a reconstructed wilderness with serpentine walkways cutting through a replanted ancient wood. The replanting has included a collection of rhododendrons as well as hybrids, shrubs and trees from all over the world.

Part of the wood is for private use only and is used mostly for shooting.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts


01653 648333

Access contact details

For more detailed visitor information visit the Castle Howard website.


Castle Howard is located 15 miles north east of York, just off the A64 in the direction of Malton. If travelling from the north turn off the A1 onto the A61 to Thirsk and then take the A170 to Helmsley. Turn onto the B1257 just before Helmsley and follow the brown signs. From the south turn off the A1M at junction 45 onto the A64 and follow east to York. Once past York follow the brown signs. Castle Howard can also be reached by public transport by going to Malton which is 5 miles away.


Hon. Nicholas and Simon Howard


In 1699 George London was commissioned to draw up plans for the woodland to the east of Castle Howard. He proposed a star-shaped design made up of straight avenues running through the wood. This would have involved much destruction of the already-existing ancient woodland which dated back to the 16th century or earlier. The plan was rejected by Lord Carlisle in favour of a more naturalistic approach.

The garden started to take shape in 1705 with the creation of a labyrinth design using the existing woodland to create a wilderness which was also semi-architectural.

Between October 1706 and December 1710, masons began work on the boundary wall, seats, summerhouses and steps. They also worked on an array of fountains and pedestals for the statues of Apollo, the Flora Bacchus, Diana, the Satyr and Venus (Saumarez Smith, 1997: 124).

The garden became very popular with visitors during the 18th century. Most notable of these was the writer John Tracey Atkyns who visited the garden in 1732. He wrote one of the best accounts of how the garden looked at this time.

By the mid-18th century almost all of the above features had disappeared and little is known about what happened to them. The remains of stone plinths and the statue of Apollo, now located at the end of the Lime Walk, are the only surviving ornamental features.

During the 1850s William Andrews Nesfield rebuilt the reservoir, which already existed but was too small. Nesfield needed a much larger reservoir to supply the Atlas Fountain and the Prince of Wales Fountain (Conran, 1997: 68-69).

In the early 1940s Ray Wood was clear-felled and replanted with mixed hardwoods in 1946. Between 1968 and 1975 George Howard worked with James Russell to reinstate the original walkways. James Russell brought the Sunningdale Collection with him and work began on introducing new plant species to the site.

Associated People
Features & Designations


  • Ancient Replanted Woodland

Plant Environment

  • Environment
  • Woodland Garden


  • Garden Ornament
  • Description: Commonly known as the 'pyramid' this collection of stones is located in a central clearing within Ray Wood. The stones, which are loosely shaped into a pyramid, are thought to have been put together by gardeners who found them in the under-growth within this section of the wood.They are almost certainly parts of the original ornamental features of the early 18th century but it is difficult to establish how accurate their reconstruction is.
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  • Water Feature
  • Description: The reservoir was built by Nesfield to supply the fountains that he created within the park.It is located 300 metres north east of the house within the south west corner of the wood.In the centre of the reservoir is a pedestal with carved aquatic creatures and plants on it. These are normally submerged beneath the water line but the top course is visible in summer when the water level drops.
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Key Information





Plant Environment






Open to the public


Civil Parish





  • Sarah Collins