A new garden from an old…

Something had been going on at Worsley when Cleddau passed in 2019 en route to and from Liverpool – but what? Over time realisation dawned – perhaps the excavations weren’t for a new housing estate but part of the RHS Bridgewater Garden project,  a bold new venture for the Royal Horticultural Society co-funded by the Salford City Council and landowners Peel Group.

On arrival at the Bridgewater Marina at Boothstown on Friday residents claimed that the newly opened garden was just a 10 minute walk away…Was it?

It might have been a 10 minute car ride – but the Captain and Boatwif reached it via a 25 minute tramp across some fields. (How wonderful is Google at providing aerial views and maps of unfamiliar places…)

Earlier this year the BBC broadcast a pair of programmes about the creation of this RHS garden at Worsley.  A viewing of them on Thursday and Friday evening via iPlayer was brilliant preparation for what was to be seen. See Episode 1 here  and Episode 2 here:

The garden is being developed in the grounds of Worsley New Hall, a stunning mansion built in the 19th century by the Earl of Ellesmere. The palatial house fell into disrepair and by 1949 it had been completely demolished.

Whether visiting on foot, by bike or by car, all visitors arrive at the massive Welcome Building, a huge purpose-built construction that can be glimpsed from the canal.   It’s an impressive wooden clad structure (with living green roof of course) designed to accommodate reception, a large shop area, a garden centre and a café, seating for which is both inside and outside by the newly created lake.

There is free access to the above but visitors to the RHS Garden must pay to enter. The first RHS Bridgewater Garden vista is of the lawn – what a lawn – into which seven yew domes have been planted.

Much was made in the BBC programmes of the repair of the walls for the walled gardens.

For the design and planting process each plot of ground was numbered:

The COVID-driven delay to the Garden’s opening from July 2020 to May 2021 gave more time for plants to develop and mature – and the beds are far fuller and more advanced than expected.    (Never seen thistles higher than a six foot plus adult before!)

The Paradise Walled Garden is spectacular; its centrepiece is a large square pool fed via a rill from two water fountains at opposite ends of the garden.    The planting is perfectly balanced and well developed…

Prominent in the Kitchen Garden are two metal towers, created as plant supports, but whose shape echoes that of the chimney from the coal-fired boiler house. One is already encased by plant growth, the other less so.

Community Wellness

This is a sensory garden, where plants appeal to the senses of touch and smell… Raised beds, some on castor wheels, are planted up at a workbench height, presumably to allow participants to engage more directly with different plant groups.

The Peel Learning Garden allows for instruction as well as examples of plants suited to different growing conditions.

There are information panels in the Potting Sheds detailing 20th century gardening policy and practices. Now these panels caught the eye…  

The RHS is an organisation serious about the improvement of horticulture – in one trials area courgettes were being grown under different conditions to be assessed against specific criteria:

The creation of the Chinese Streamside Garden proved a huge challenge, not least because the pandemic prevented travel from China of expert advisers. The stones, bridges and plants are precisely positioned, providing more than just a suggestion of an Oriental garden.

Furthest away from the Welcome Building is the original Ellesmere Lake, drained and dredged since the project began. Now the aquatic planting is doing well and wildlife is attracted to the water and the woodlands.

No words can do justice to the vibrant and to the subtle colours of the planting nor to the boldness of the design features. It is the detail (stunning specimens, the precisely arranged stones beside the Chinese-inspired stream, the good-looking seats,  the children’s Alice in Wonderland themed trail,   the lakes and pools, and so much else) that makes you appreciate the vision, the drive, the inspiration and the hard graft that has led to this place’s creation.

Was it worth the 81 miles, 49 locks, 3 tunnels, 2 swing bridges and 10 days of travel to get here?

Absolutely, yes!

(Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections) .                       2021 Monkton Moments* total now: 8

Since leaving Boothstown: 2

  • “Is that the estuary in Wales? I went sailing from Dale and we reached Haverfordwest…”
  • “I used to farm in Carmarthenshire and we’d drive across the Cleddau Bridge to buy our cows near Dale…”

Lancashire / Yorkshire / Tudor Rose conversations: 1

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