The RHS Garden Bridgewater is the result of a multi-million pound transformation of the historic Worsley New Hall estate, a 154 acre site in Salford that’s now home to 11 stunning garden spaces, including the largest Victorian walled garden in England. One of the biggest garden projects undertaken in Europe at the time, the work has uncovered the lost historic grounds of Worsley New Hall, a grand house that survived a fire and two World Wars before being demolished due to disrepair in the 1940s. This prestigious property was visited by King Edward VII and Queen Victoria, who travelled to the hall via the Bridgewater Canal; in honour of her arrival, the canal water was dyed blue.

Overseen by renowned landscape gardener Tom Stuart-Smith, this once-in-a-generation project brings together world-class planting, community initiatives, stunning woodland and a combined gardening centre and café. Our guide to this must-visit destination covers how to get there, things to do on arrival and special events, as well as food and drink and shopping. Read on to discover more – then don’t forget to book ahead.

Getting there

RHS Garden Bridgewater is located close to several walking and cycling routes, including the Roe Green, Ellenbrook and Tyldesley Looplines, Bridgewater Way and the Bridgewater Canal, with car-free visitors offered a Green Travel discount when booking tickets. There are 50 open-air cycle racks with space for 100 bicycles in front of the Welcome Building, and you can plan your route using the West Salford walking and cycling map. Better still, work is underway on a £3.8m walking and cycling scheme that will link the garden to the Bridgewater Canal and Walkden station.

Alternatively, the RHS Garden Bridgewater Express Bus service runs from Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria stations, with drop-off at the garden entrance after a 25 minute journey for pre-booked ticket holders. For other bus services to the site as well as the nearest train stations, take a look at the RHS Garden Bridgewater website; if travelling by car, parking at the Welcome Building is free.

RHSImage Credit: RHS and Neil Hepworth

Exploring the site

At the end of a sloping spur from the main road, with first-glimpse views of the walled garden and ‘Bothy’ cottage, is RHS Garden Bridgewater’s Welcome Building: a new addition to the landscape, the larch-clad structure houses an arrivals hall, shop, café and two classrooms. Designed by RIBA Stirling Prize-winning architects, the building overlooks the 1.4 acre Moon Bridge Water lake at the rear and leads out onto the Worsley Welcome Garden, where the mosaic-like layout of the flower beds encourages visitors to meander past the plants.

Beyond this is the 11 acre Walled Garden, the ‘horticultural heart’ of the site and with brick walls surviving from the original Worsley New Hall kitchen gardens. Once cultivated by a team of gardeners growing fruit and veg for the hall, the space has been repurposed to include a Mediterranean and Asiatic-inspired Paradise Garden with its central lily pond, a restored Kitchen Garden, Peel Learning Garden, Community Grow and more. Achieved by salvaging and restoring 80% of the 100,000 non-standard bricks, the Paradise Garden alone contains 89 individual planting beds filled with 27,000 plants.

The almost three kilometres of pathways that thread across the space lead on to the estate’s woodland, where you can find the stylised wooden bridges that span the Chinese Streamside Garden, as well as a seven-acre Woodland Play adventure area and Ellesmere Lake with its historic island grotto. Beyond this is Victoria Meadow, a low lying, 21-acre area that’s slowly being turned into a wildflower haven, reintroducing the biodiversity lost as a result of intensive farming. The cut grass paths here lead gently back towards the Welcome Building through the woods.

RHSImage Credit: RHS and Neil Hepworth 

What’s on

Discover the courses, workshops and events being held at RHS Garden Bridgewater, including floral art demonstrations and advice for beginner gardeners, by checking the website.

Food and Drink

There are two cafés at RHS Garden Bridgewater, one in the Welcome Building and the second  in the Garden Cottage. The former offers both indoor seating and outdoor tables overlooking the Moon Bridge Water lake, serving seasonal, freshly prepared meals, sandwiches, cakes and hot drinks from behind a long counter. Weather permitting, the Garden Cottage café is a place to stop for freshly-baked cakes and sweet treats, as well as light savoury dishes and hot and cold drinks. You can find it just past the Walled Garden.

Shopping

The Bridgewater Garden Centre in the Welcome Building stocks a comprehensive range of plants from UK growers, peat-free compost and garden accessories. There’s also a selection of homewares and gifts, including ranges inspired by the RHS archive.

By Polly Checkland Harding, Freelance arts copywriter and journalist
@PollyCheckland

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