What was the brief for RHS Bridgewater?
RHS Garden Bridgewater is the fifth RHS garden in the country. As a charity that has at its heart the aim of sharing the best in gardening, we have always been keen to find a garden in the North West of England, as it gives us a much greater geographical spread. At 154 acres, RHS Garden Bridgwater will bring a sizeable patch of world-class horticulture to within an hour’s drive of 8.2 million people in the region, bringing significant benefits to both people and the environment. Themes such as inclusion and wellbeing, and making the garden accessible to local communities have been at the core of the garden’s concept and are intrinsic to what we do as a charity – they will form a key part of any visit.
Set in the grounds of the former Worsley New Hall, once the residence of the First Earl of Ellesmere, the garden is named after the historic Bridgewater Canal, which runs along the southern end of the site. Although the mansion no longer exists, echoes of the original garden – including the historic walled garden, ice house, lake, and formal terraces remain – so, whilst taking inspiration from the past, we are creating a new garden around the bones of this historic landscape.
The overall vision for the garden – the master plan was created by leading landscape architect Tom Stuart Smith – was to incorporate these historic aspects, but also to create new gardens and push the boundaries of what can be grown in the region, trialling new horticultural ideas. We want to capture the spirit of the original garden, while at the same time creating an important, forward-looking source of knowledge and inspiration for gardeners across the North West.
Highlights will include the restored 11-acre Weston Walled Garden, one of the largest walled gardens in the country. This will encompass several large gardens within it, including a Wellbeing Garden, Orchard Garden and a Bee and Butterfly Garden. There is also a Paradise Garden at its centre, inspired by the original gardens from the Middle East – an enclosed space with water and fruit that forms an oasis away from the challenges and tribulations of everyday life.
Various garden designers have been brought on board to create the individual aspects. RHS Chelsea Flower Show award-winning designers Charlotte Harris and Hugo Bugg have created a stunning Kitchen Garden, the Learning Garden has been designed by students from Manchester Metropolitan University, and the Chinese Streamside Garden has been created in partnership with the local Chinese community. This will feature various zones and themes, including a Chinese inspired meadow, various bridges, stepping stones, and a ‘barefoot route’, from which people can explore the garden from a totally different perspective.