The RHS [Royal Horticultural Society] has come to Salford! Even though I had read the news reports, it wasn’t until I visited the site of the RHS Garden Bridgewater that I appreciated the scale of the project to transform the 154 acre site near Worsley into a new garden. Visits to the building site are being offered regularly and I would encourage anyone to book a tour. It is a fantastic opportunity to see how the RHS are resurrecting this site and turning it into an amazing garden.
Worsley New Hall was a magnificent Victorian mansion surrounded by elegant gardens, with terraces and a lake. Demolished in the 1940s and the site used by a garden centre and scout groups, the RHS are now making changes that remember and respect the past and also take horticulture and conservation into the future.
On our guided tour we began by looking across the site of the Welcome Building, where visitors will arrive when the gardens open. In front of this will be a new lake and gardens that will lead you to the 11-acre walled gardens. As building work is still very much ongoing our tour took a circuitous route around the site to stand in one corner of what will become the walled Paradise Garden. Planting has now started on this site and we could begin to get a feel for what a stunning space this will be. This walled garden area will also have a kitchen garden area, where food for the cafe / cafes will be grown.
Walking through the woodland we met the rare breed pigs who have been doing a tremendous job of clearing the ground for planting. We reached the terraces that were once formal gardens below the hall and looked over the currently drained lake. Our knowledgeable guide told us about the horticultural apprentice posts there will be here, the increasing biodiversity that will result from the planting and management, the links with the community that have been made and the educational opportunities the garden will provide.
We cycled to Worsley but negotiating the roundabouts to the M60 and the last section along Leigh Road are particularly busy and unpleasant. We were told they hope to open up access from the canal and that will be much better for pedestrians and cyclists.
RHS Garden Bridgewater opens next year, although the whole site won’t be complete for many years. That means you won’t need an excuse to visit every year and we will certainly be going along to see what it looks like when it isn’t a building site.