The RHS announced the go-ahead in October, but this was the first chance for outsiders to see what was involved. The charity is hoping to open the garden in 2019.
In horticultural terms the challenge is huge. The walled kitchen gardens, all 11 acres of them, are choked with the sort of thuggish weeds that give gardeners nightmares: brambles, horsetail and so on. In the wooded areas, there are volunteer saplings all over the place, and the avenue of limes that would have led from the gates to the estate to the house (now gone) is unrecognisable. Where horse-drawn carriages would once have passed, there is now a tall crop of Himalayan balsam. It's going to be a huge job, but a fascinating one.
I've posted some pictures below that the i didn't use. They don't really give you an idea of the scale of the site, which is 156 acres in total, but they give you some idea of the atmosphere. The day we visited, the weather was absolutely foul, so I was very grateful to the ladies from Salford City Council (who are partners in the project with the RHS) for bringing along umbrellas.
I would say roughly half the site is woodland, some of which will be cleared to provide what were originally intended to be vistas, or - in the case of the lake below - to restore what was an island and which has now silted up and become overgrown.
Tim Upson, RHS director of horticulture (left), with designer Tom Stuart-Smith (holding drawing)
The meadow area is roughly 30 acres, and will probably remain as a meadow, with wildflower planting and perhaps picnic areas. The Bridgewater Canal, built in the 18th century by the 1st Earl of Ellesmere, runs behind the line of trees you can see running along the middle of the picture.
Another carriage drive, looking a bit like a river bed.
There are rough paths around the site, such as this one, which leads past the concrete civil defence bunker.
The remains of an octagonal fountain, which was on one of the terraces below the house. The house is now completely gone, and the view from the terraces across the countryside is obscured by trees.