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Tuesday, 21 June 2016

First glimpse of RHS Bridgewater

The new RHS garden, to be created on a derelict estate in Salford, is one of the most exciting garden projects I can remember in my lifetime. I went up there last week on the first press tour, and wrote this piece for the i newspaper.
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 gates to the estate are still there, but the carriage drive is now choked with weeds and trees.


 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.

12 comments:

  1. How exciting! I am always impressed with the dedication of the RHS to restore and educate. I will put this garden on the 'list'. Perhaps we can meet at its dedication in a few years.

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    1. I hope so, Layanee - it's bound to be a good bash!

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  2. Wonderful that there's a new site being developed. It will be exciting to see the progress, and no doubt at all that the RHS will make a fantastic job of it.

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    1. I'm sure they will - and what is nice is that the locals are really excited about it too, as far as I could make out.

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  3. What a coincidence! I've just this minute got back from a trip to Easton Walled Gardens where Guy Barter painted a verbal picture of what you're showing us. Great to have a second insight of the plans... it's taken 16 years so far to restore the gardens at Easton and they're tiny in comparison to this!

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    1. How funny! I think that's Guy on the far left in the final picture. Of course, they're not restoring Bridgewater, so they won't have the same problems of trying to work out what was there originally and recreating it. But it's a huge task nonetheless.

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    2. Guy Barter gave a talk at Easton yesterday, outlining the plans for the gardens. It's wonderful to have your photos to go with his speech. Such an exciting project.

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    3. I don't know why Guy Barter didn't show you the pictures he took - he was snapping away. Mind you, it was so wet, I was astonished anything came out. These were taken on my phone, because it was easier to whip it in and out of my pocket while holding an umbrella.

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    4. He was in an open courtyard Victoria, without any projection facilities, hence the verbal picture!

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    5. Ah! I see. All is revealed - or rather, not revealed!

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  4. Thanks for your most informative update Victoria. This garden is going to be almost on my doorstep (our town is at one end of the Bridgwater Canal) so I can't wait to visit.

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