IT’S ONLY NATURAL: A glimpse of Britain’s great new garden
Britain is a nation of gardens, so it’s only natural that the nation’s next great green space – due to open next week (May 18) – is the largest horticultural project in Europe. The RHS Garden Bridgewater, sprouting up near Manchester, has transformed the grounds of Worsley New Hall into a 53-hectare year-round garden for both visitors and the local community.
The venue is welcome news for visitors to the northwest of England, with VisitBritain noting that nearly a third of all international visitors to the UK go to a garden or park during their travels.
Located in Salford, Bridgewater is the Royal Horticultural Society’s fifth garden and the non-profit cultural society’s first new attraction in nearly 20 years.
Set in the grounds of the former Worsley New Hall, a grand 19th-Century gothic-styled mansion that was once visited by Queen Victoria, the new garden celebrates surviving historic features such as the restored 4.5-hectare Weston Walled Garden, and the original lake and formal terraces designed by William Nesfield, while also utilizing the latest in garden design and horticultural practices.
World-renowned landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith created the master plan for the garden on the site, which had been derelict until about five years ago, and has also designed two spaces within: the Worsley Welcome Garden, the first area visitors will see on entering RHS Garden Bridgewater; and the Paradise Garden, one of 11 gardens inside the Walled Garden, which will be the largest in the UK.
The 8,000-sq.-m. Paradise Garden is the centrepiece of the garden. “It’s designed,” says Richard Green, head of the RSH Bridgewater, “to show world-class horticulture at its best,” adding that the space, filled with exotic plantings, is inspired by the earlier wall gardens of Persia and the Middle East. It will also feature an exotic glass house.
Other areas include a Wellbeing Garden, Kitchen Garden, Learning Garden, community teaching plots, and the Chinese Streamside Garden connecting the historic Ellesmere Lake with the new lake that has been created with the Chinese community in Manchester.
A new welcome centre features an events space, learning studios, offices, café, shop, and plant centre.
The gardens are accessible for all with paved paths on entry and across the site. There are a range of sensory elements in the gardens from the bee- and butterfly-scented gardens to the audible sounds of grasses and plants throughout – and most notably in the learning garden.
Produce grown in the gardens will supply the café and restaurant on site and will go to local food banks. A key focus of the garden is health and wellbeing, which is already being brought to fruition through partnerships with local universities, health authorities, and social services to research and promote the health and wellbeing benefits of gardening.
Bridgewater joins the portfolio of other beautiful RHS Gardens: RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey; RHS Garden Hyde Hall in Essex; RHS Harlow Carr in Yorkshire and RHS Garden Rosemoor in North Devon. The RHS also runs some of the world’s most famous flower shows, including RHS Chelsea Flower Show and RHS Hampton Court Garden Festival.
But Green emphasizes that Bridgewater is quite unique.
“One thing that differentiates Bridgewater from a lot of gardens is that history and heritage,” he says, adding, “We’ve got that infrastructure and framework that exists with the walled garden and the terraces and the lake – there are so many different parts of the site that evoke different feelings. It really is a very different kind of garden to visit.”
First published at Travel Industry Today