Welcome along to another expedition outside London, which in this edition takes me up to Manchester to visit the glorious RHS Bridgewater. Located in Salford, the garden opened on 18 May 2021 and is the fifth and newest garden owned by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) – alongside Wisley (Surrey), Rosemoor (Devon), Harlow Carr (Yorkshire) and Hyde Hall (Essex). Surrounded by 154 acres (62 hectares) of wonderful woodland, fabulous flowers, picturesque plants and stunning water features, RHS Bridgewater was created on the former Worsley New Hall estate.
Your journey around RHS Bridgewater begins at the modern-looking Welcome Building, which is where you arrive and also houses a shop, cafe and two dedicated classrooms, as well as views across the Moon Bridge Water.
From there you get to experience a whole host of stunning scenery and beautiful spots. One of these is the Chinese Streamside Garden, which covers 2.8 hectares (7 acres) and was created in partnership with the Chinese community in Greater Manchester. With stylish wooden bridges and the sound of water, it’s a tranquil haven of splendour.
A walk from The Chinese Streamside Garden takes you to the Ellesmere Lake, which was once part of the formal gardens at Worsley New Hall. Early estate plans from 1848 and 1851 show two ponds, located side by side, occupying a much smaller footprint of land than that covered by Ellesmere Lake in its heyday. Lord Francis Egerton, owner of Worsley New Hall at the time, joined the two ponds together and greatly enlarged them, to create a beautiful boating and fishing lake at the foot of the terraces designed by William Nesfield.
My walks wouldn’t be complete without a woodland and RHS Bridgewater has delightfully historic and enchanting woodland areas. The Middle Wood dates back to at least 1799 and is characterised into two halves. The Upper Middle Wood has a south-facing steep slope, sandy soil and a woodland of mature oaks, holly, yew trees and beech.
The Lower Middle Wood has wetter clay soils and generally comprises a high level canopy of the more invasive sycamore with some oak, hazel, downy birch, holly and yew.
After a stroll through the woodland, you reach the Old Frameyard, which now includes a propagation house, horticultural trial areas and potting sheds. However, it was once the ‘engine room’ for the walled garden with its chimney producing energy to heat the glasshouse. The Old Frameyard was a hub for gardeners to grow plants and vegetables, and today the area shares that same role with propagation and the trialling of plants.
One of the most distinct areas of the Old Frameyard is the Glasshouse, which played a significant part in Worsley New Hall. An essential element of the Victorian walled garden was the growing of exotic plants and this required both glass and heat. The vineries and peach houses of Worsley New Hall were heated by coal-fired boilers.
The first boiler was located underneath the tall chimney and fed hot air through skilfully engineered, hollow, flued walls behind the glasshouses. It was known as the ‘Trentham’ system. The heat-radiating, southern side of this wall was a single-brick skin; whereas the northern side was double skinned to help prevent thermal loss away from the original glasshouses.
The quaint and quintessentially marvellous Garden Cottage adds another historical addition to the gardens, which takes you back to a time gone by.
Perhaps my favourite part of RHS Bridgewater is the Paradise Garden, which blends Mediterranean, Asiatic and American planting with wonderful water features. There are 89 individual planting beds, containing 27,000 plants, that envelop visitors in a calming and tranquil oasis. At the heart of the Paradise Garden sits a 70-sq metre Lily Pond. The pond is fed by two rills running east to west along the central spine of the garden and filled with water lilies. The water features are quite quirky and unique in their design, but add a touch of style to the garden.
Keep an eye out for the quacking ducks and cute ducklings too!
An important ethos of RHS Bridgewater is the community growing projects, which bring people together and help their wellbeing, while growing produce.
Hope you’ve enjoyed joining me on my journey around RHS Bridgewater and stay tuned for my next ‘Beyond London’ discovery. Thanks for reading and in the meantime, you can follow all my walks on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube – and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too so you don’t miss a post! Also, why not have a read of my other walks which explore all over London, from north to south, to west to east via central, there’s something there for you – and you can also read my very special walk of San Francisco too – and that’s not all – you can also listen to some of my walks on my London Wlogger podcast.
Here are the links to all my walks and podcasts:
All photos taken by London Wlogger © Copyright 2022