Part of my holiday this year was to visit RHS Bridgewater Gardens, so, on a warm sunny September morning I drove into the car park at RHS Bridgewater, and experienced my first “Wow” moment of the day. There were many more such moments throughout the day.
The welcome building is a stunning work of art, unsurprisingly it has already won several prestigious architectural awards.
This contemporary building sits wonderfully well in the surrounding landscape, and as it ages I feel that it will blend in beautifully.
It is built in the south-west corner of RHS Garden Bridgewater, and comprises of the soaring arrivals hall, shop, café and classrooms. The café offers views of Moon Bridge Water which is a beautiful 1.4 acre lake. Its lush, native planting has already attracted a resident swan. I hope he or she finds a mate to make it home.
Visit RHS Bridgewater Gardens
A Gem of a Garden
The History Of The Worsley Estate
Worsley New Hall was built for the 1st Earl of Ellesmere, it took from the 1840 the 1845 to complete and stood in glorious, formal landscaped gardens.
The Gothic-style mansion was designed by architect Edward Blore – who was renowned for his Tudor and Elizabethan style.
The magnificent gardens were landscaped over a 50-year period. Sloping grounds to the south and front of the hall were laid out as formal terraced gardens.
It was approached by a series of steps and gravel paths with ornate fountains to give interest, movement and light, the visitor was led through landscaped parkland to what is now named Ellesmere lake.
Having been used by the Red Cross during WW1 and requisitioned by the war office during WW2, the hall fell into disrepair. It was damaged with dry rot and then further ruined by a fire in 1943, hence, the grand stately home was finally demolished.
The hall became part of the Salford’s historic past. In subsequent years parts of the grounds have been used as a garden centre, a Scout camp and a rifle range.
The Royal Horticultural Society purchased the site in 2017 and immediately set about clearing the land and lakes, repairing p, recycling and rebuilding to turn it into the gem of a garden that it clearly is today.
What To See When You Visit RHS Bridgewater Gardens
Worsley Welcome Garden
Western Walled Garden
Chinese Streamside Garden
Worsley Welcome Garden
From the entrance, visitors can choose the stroll along Long Walk, heading into the various gardens from several entry points or wander through the maze-like landscape of the Worsley Welcome Garden.
Designed by landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith, the layout of these gardens resemble an abstract mosaic.
Beech trees are clipped to look like beehives, and stand 2m tall, they deliver the architectural permanence in the garden. They are surrounded by drifts of grasses and herbaceous perennials including species that thrive in the garden’s damp conditions.
Sculptural yew domes are dotted on the lawn, they further enhance the surrounding plants and architecture. Large metal portals frame unique views of the garden.
Western Walled Garden
The Western walled gardens are the largest Victorian kitchen gardens in the UK, they are now re purposed, rebuilt and restored, they comprise of several garden rooms. The outer walled garden consists of a well being garden, community growing areas, some of the original buildings and potting sheds. I love that there are classes for young children to get to know gardening basics with hands on learning.
Children love to learn new things. Read here for fun gardening ideas for children
This area now holds the trial gardens too.
Here you will also find the Orchard garden which incorporates The Orchard and Bee and Butterfly Garden, curved around the Gothic architecture of Garden Cottage.
The Garden Cottage is an original building on the site and was home to the head gardener. I could see myself living in the Head Gardener’s cottage, it’s so pretty and boasts it’s own small garden which is now used for outdoor seating for one of the cafés.
The kitchen garden and my personal favourite, the Paradise Garden are located in the inner walled garden.
Where the glasshouses are now – was once heated via underground pipes coming from the pump house and chimney stack.These buildings are still here, they add further interest and historic value, giving an insight to how the gardens were originally managed and maintained.
“Warm air was fed into the void between the two layers of bricks and from here it emanated through the south face of the wall the warm the fruit trees and glasshouses within.” Credit RHS Bridgewater website.
Imagine the cost of doing this now!
The key feature of a Paradise Garden is water, these are the earliest known garden designs from eastern civilisations. The Worsley Paradise Garden skilfully blends, Asian, Mediterranean and American planting. At it’s heart is a large pool that feeds several other pools and rills.
It is a peaceful, tranquil space. A glorious space with a calming atmosphere. I took away numerous ideas and inspiration for planting partners and schemes for borders that I shall be able to implement in smaller gardens.
Chinese Streamside Garden
The Chinese Streamside Garden covers seven acres in a central location. The stream meanders slowly from Ellesmere Lake to Moon Bridge Water. Along the watercourse are smaller pools and weirs, a winding path takes you over five stylised wooden bridges.
It is a woodland garden and a work in progress. It’s natural character will evolve around specific horticultural styles which includes a Chinese meadow and bamboo gardens. Chinese style gazebos are planned too for this pretty area.
Ellesmere lake was part of the original estate. Work began to restore the lake to it’s full glory in 2017, a holding pond was dug to provide refuge for invertebrates and amphibians and fish stocks were relocated. The lake was drained and cleared of years of silt and debris.
The stone walls around it were repaired and clay from the estate was used to reseal and waterproof the base and walls.
Ellesmere Lake is now planted with a mix of ornamentals including water irises, waterlilies, water crowfoot and monkey flower. It provides a wonderful woodland/lakeside stroll.
Future plans for RHS Bridgewater include restoration of a second lake as well as introducing terraced gardens on the site of the old hall which would overlook the lakes.
But don’t take my word for it join the Royal Horticultural Society then you and a family member can visit RHS Bridgewater Gardens too.
Where is RHS Bridgewater?
Monday the Sunday
10:00 until 18:00
I hope that this article has inspired you as much as my visit has done for me. I came away with many ideas for my own and clients gardens. Particularly from the smaller gardens that showcase water storage, recycling timber as well as other building materials and garden design for small spaces. My garden wish list has grown even longer than it was.
For more beautiful gardens to visit in the UK and world wide visit
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