We have many roles within our own lifetimes – children, parents, partners, friends, workers – we should never think of ourselves as just doing one thing, and amongst my other roles, I am both a sock knitter and a gardener. Both fill my soul and make my heart sing, and I am a nicer person for having both of them in my life.
On Thursday, I went to the new RHS Bridgewater garden that has opened just outside Salford near Manchester. It only opened earlier this year and I have been wanting to visit but haven’t quite got round to it (I wonder what’s being going on in the world to stop me going out?!) so when a friend asked if I’d like to go with her, she didn’t have to ask twice! We booked our time slot for the day that the schools broke up which felt like a good day for a day out, and after dropping small daughter off at school, I headed up the M62 to Salford.
The garden has been created on a site that was previously wasteland and is a welcome addition in the north west for gardening enthusiasts – the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) has four other “main” gardens but the closest of those to my house is in Harrogate, about a 2 hour drive away. I found this video on the RHS website to show you what the site looked like before and now that it’s been developed.
I arrived earlier than my friend and sat in the car, watching the thermometer slowly creep up even though it was still reasonably early in the day. It promised to be extremely hot – it was predicted to be around 31 degrees – so my friend and I had agreed to bring plenty of water, snacks and a picnic as we expected that the onsite cafe would be full. My phone pinged with a text from my friend telling me she was running a little late but would still be there in time for our time slot. Ten minutes later, my phone rang and my friend was telling me that she had broken down on the motorway. Oh no! There was nothing that I could do but wait for updates from her about when the breakdown recovery driver arrived and what was wrong with her car. It was very frustrating – I couldn’t help her and I could see the welcome building but couldn’t go in!
After about half an hour, my friend phoned again to say that the car radiator had gone and she was waiting for a tow truck. “You might as well go home,” she said. “I’m not going to be able to get there today.”
No chance! Having finally got here, I wasn’t going home without seeing the garden! I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to physically see the garden with my friend, but we agreed that we would be able to come back together another day and she was my companion through text as she waited in the emergency refuge on the M62 and I wandered around in the sweltering heat.
There are a lot of photos coming up (not quite as many as I took, you’ll be pleased to know!) and they are completely unedited – the colours are absolutely as they were on the day.
From the welcome building, this was my first view of RHS Bridgewater.
That’s what I want my garden borders to look like! I always leave gardens like this with mixed feelings of inspiration and despair at how my garden doesn’t look as beautifully kept, but to be fair, I don’t have a team of volunteers working on mine and I don’t always spend enough time on it myself so it’s not really surprising 🙂
The first entrance off this walkway into the walled garden was pretty busy with visitors so I kept on walking and had to smile to myself when I saw this border. Not flowers but …
Courgettes! Oh my life, there are going to be so many courgettes! I only ever grow one plant at a time and often we have more courgettes than we can deal with, even to the point that dinner becomes “courgette surprise”, an ironic name because it would be more of a surprise if there wasn’t courgette in it somewhere!
This made me laugh too. Year of the Courgette? Not in our house – small daughter has refused to eat them now!
From the courgette bed, I passed this hot border – perfect for the weather! – and went into the walled garden.
In here was the Kitchen Garden, the Bee and Butterfly garden and the Paradise Garden. The bees and butterflies didn’t seem to notice that there was only one garden named for them as they were everywhere! The garden at Bridgewater has been created to be a sustainable garden which supports wildlife and there was certainly no shortage of pollinator plants or pollinators visiting them!
One of the gardens is named the Paradise Garden and it really is lovely. Who wouldn’t want this view in their garden?!
Or this one …
I watched the blackbird taking a bath for some time in this shallow rill (rills are formal water channels rather than streams). I can imagine that this garden would be a fantastic place for birds to nest with all mod birdy cons on hand!
A few steps to the right and this was my view …
You can see the work that’s gone into designing the garden, and how it has flourished in the few months since the garden officially opened too.
Just next to the fountain at the top of the rill were some wooden garden seats and I parked myself there for a while, listening to the murmur of other visitors, the whisper of water sprinklers, the trickle of the fountain and the hum of bees. The air was warm but I was shaded for a brief while beneath trees and above me, the sky was the bluest of blues. When I closed my eyes and breathed in, the scent of a thousand flowers filled my lungs. It was such a lovely feeling.
Just outside the walled garden was this wonderful border of wildflowers …
and the Wellbeing Garden, created by local community groups. There were seats and benches everywhere, inviting you to sit and admire the flowers and just breathe.
I walked back through the Kitchen Garden …
and out onto the path that would take me through the trees. It was much cooler under the wide branches and quite a relief to be out of the heat again for a while.
The woodland was originally filled with invasive Rhododendron ponticum bushes; often seen in large stately gardens, they were originally brought to Britain in the late eighteenth century where they quickly established as cover for game on Victorian hunting estates. This Rhododendron isn’t a native plant and had completely taken over the woodland so the gardening team had no qualms about removing it all and the play area they’ve established in its place makes use of the roots and twisted sinews as a nod to the garden’s heritage.
What about this woodland abode? Cute, eh?
Or this one?
I walked on around the paths, past the lake and the Chinese Streamside Garden to Victoria Meadow. Yes, of course I hopped over the stepping stones!
I was sorry to be back at the welcome building again, but at the same time it was so blooming hot that I had had enough of being outside.
I’m definitely going to go back again with my friend – in fact, I’ll be able to go more often than that as there was an offer on RHS membership which was impossible for me to resist so I’m going to make sure that I plan the time in to go and see how the garden changes through the seasons.
As for my garden, I had a good look around when I got home and actually, it’s doing OK this year. It needs a bit of attention now because everything has grown during the hot weather, but as long as I stay on top of it over the next couple of weeks then it shouldn’t get out of hand.
And what about my other love, sock knitting? Well, you should know by now that I never go anywhere without my socks and here’s my Wildflower sock … in the wildflowers! Now I wasn’t going to miss that photo opportunity, was I?! I’ve been working on these socks for far longer than I should have been (I was knitting them in February, for heaven’s sake!) so I really do need to get a move on and get them finished.
You might be wondering about my friend and the good news is that although it took several hours for the tow truck to arrive, the Highways Traffic Officer kept driving past to check on her, and thankfully she had her drinks, snacks and picnic to keep her going so she didn’t need me to do any more than keep texting her and wave on my way home.
I didn’t miss out on the traffic drama, though, and this is the reason that I always carry my sock when I’m going out in the car …
Luckily, it wasn’t an accident and the traffic moved shortly after it stopped, but I’d much rather do a couple of rounds of sock knitting in a stationary car than look at my phone!
If you’re close enough to Salford to be able to visit RHS Bridgewater, I’d highly recommend it – or if you’re a gardening enthusiast and are thinking of making the journey then it wouldn’t be a wasted one. There’s still a lot of work to be done but gardening is always an ongoing project and I am looking forward to seeing how this particular one develops over the years.