Bursts of birdsong from the gates

The Duchess of Northumberland was in Red Row yesterday to check on the progress of a project, which she thinks will be the only one of its kind.

Blacksmith Stephen Lunn, in conjunction with electronics engineer Richard Benjamin and glass artist Helen Grierson, is creating an interactive set of gates for The Alnwick Garden.

The Duchess of Northumberland visits the workshop of blacksmith Stephen Lunn to see the progress of the interactive gates for Alnwick Garden and she is seen watching Ashlee Lunn at work.'Picture Jane Coltman

The Duchess of Northumberland visits the workshop of blacksmith Stephen Lunn to see the progress of the interactive gates for Alnwick Garden and she is seen watching Ashlee Lunn at work.'Picture Jane Coltman

The team has been working on the project for around two years and it is hoped they will be installed in the Garden in May or June this year.

The Duchess said: “These gates are really important because you are seeing history in the making.

“They are being specially designed for the Rose Garden in The Alnwick Garden and we believe they are the only interactive gates in the world.

“When you go by the gates, they will play bursts of birdsong.

The Duchess of Northumberland visits the workshop of blacksmith Stephen Lunn to see the progress of the interactive gates for Alnwick Garden.'Picture Jane Coltman

The Duchess of Northumberland visits the workshop of blacksmith Stephen Lunn to see the progress of the interactive gates for Alnwick Garden.'Picture Jane Coltman

“Children and other visitors to The Alnwick Garden will be able to see something they cannot see anywhere else. They are just going to be magical.

“I’m really excited because I think it’s something that’s just going to take your breath away.”

The gates are designed to look like plants growing up with twisting stems, leaves, thorns, flowers and birds as well as grass and glass irises at the bottom.

Stephen said that the project is ‘a bit of a blacksmith’s dream because it’s pure forgework’.

Detail of  the interactive gates for Alnwick Garden.'Picture Jane Coltman

Detail of the interactive gates for Alnwick Garden.'Picture Jane Coltman

“Everything’s made from the fire on the anvil and all the welding is fire welding,” he said.

“It’s a traditionally-made gate with a very modern and contemporary design.

“From a distance, it will look pretty and floral, then when you get closer, you will see all the thorns and intricate bits.”

Electronics engineer Richard is another who is relishing the challenge.

“I’m bringing my years of experience in designing industrial electronics to bring the gates further to life.

“It’s very interesting, specially seeing that these days electronics aren’t expected to last more than a few years, but to even approach the life-span of wrought-iron gates, we have to think outside the box.

“It’s a case of, to a certain extent, using older technology and maintanable technology so it can last its expected long lifetime.

“It adds a certain challenge.”

After the metalwork and the electronics, the third aspect making up the interctive gates is the glasswork, which has seen glass artist Helen Grierson designing delicate glass irises for the bottom of the installation.