Behind the scenes of RHS Garden Bridgewater

Gardens Illustrated visits the site of the new RHS Garden Bridgewater, near Manchester to get an update on the plans for its development. 

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RHS Garden Bridgewater at Worsley New Hall in Salford will be the the Royal Horticultural Society's fifth garden and first new garden in 17 years. The historic site is 156 acres and features extensive parkland, old woodland, 11-acre walled kitchen garden, and a lake. Here you'll find some highlights of the Gardens Illustrated visit. 

 

The master plan by landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith includes designs to restore the walled kitchen garden and develop historic features such as the lost terraces of Worsely New Hall and lake-side grotto. New features include a learning centre for schools and a plant centre, plus a new lake to welcome visitors on the approach to the garden. Planning permission for the £30 million project was agreed in April allowing the garden's curator Marcus Chilton-Joneswork to begin assessing the woodland, but it was only in mid July (2107) that the lease was signed and the project was given the final green light.

 

Gardener's World presenter Carol Klein, seen here with RHS Director General Sue Biggs, is the garden's ambassador and will be working closely with the team at RHS Bridgewater. Carol's grandfather was once a gardener on the estate. 

 

While walking around the site, dog-walkers and children on bikes made the most of the afternoon sun and enjoyed the footpaths that traverse the peaceful parkland. Working with local communities is a big part of the ethos of this new garden and the RHS are committed to maximising the benefits for local communities by creating apprentiships, partnerships with schools and colleges as well as community gardening projects and allotments, similar to those at RHS Rosemoor. 

 

1939 was the last time anyone lived in this gothic-style head gardener's cottage. The RHS are undecided on how it will play its part in the wider design of the garden but are keen to make the most of its impressive architecture. 

 

Director of horticulture Tim Upson explained the history of the site in front of the 'storytelling tree', a sweet chestnut that is believed to be one of the oldest trees at RHS Bridgewater. He began with how the original mansion to the estate was built between 1840 and 1845 for the 1st Earl of Ellesmere, who was visited by Queen Victoria in 1851 and 1857. The Queen travelled to the estate along the Bridgewater Canal in a specially commission Royal Barge and the RHS would like visitors to be able to follow her footsteps and make the same journey along the waterways to the garden. Worsley New Hall was also used as a British Red Cross Hospital during the First World War and the gardens used as training grounds by the Lancashire Fusiliers in the Second World War. More recently, parts of the grounds have been used as a garden centre, a Scout camp and rifle range. 

The lake is currently half its original size because of silt build-up but the RHS plans to restore it to its former size, which is believed to be around four acres. There is an island in the middle that features an old grotto and there are also remnants of old bridges, which would have allowed access to the island, along the lake-edge. 

 

The Walled Kitchen Garden is 11 acres. Most of the original walls are still intact and there are lots of trees still showing their pleached form. Tom Stuart-Smith will design a garden inside the walled garden. 

 

RHS Garden Bridgewater plans to open to visitors in 2020. For more information, visit rhs.org.uk

 

 

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