RHS Bridgewater

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.

A selection of huge planters filled with plants in front of the RHS Bridgewater welcome building. The wooden-clad centre is behind with the RHS name and logo in silver letters

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!

A view of the RHS Bridgewater welcome building from the car park

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.

A wide gravel path leading into the distance, bordered on the left by wide herbaceous borders and on the right by a lush green lawn with topiary features

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 …

A long border with neat rows of courgette plants. There is a sign which reads "Growing our garden courgette trials June 2021".

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!

A sign which reads "Year of the Courgette"

From the courgette bed, I passed this hot border – perfect for the weather! – and went into the walled garden.

A flower border containing "hot" flowers and plants in bright shades of yellow, orange and red

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!

A close up of an allium seed head with a visiting bee A close up of an artichoke showing its spiky leaves. A purple artichoke flower is in the background in a raised growing bed Yellow calendula marigolds blend with orange nasturtiums in a huge border of bright flowers A red and black spotted ladybird on a dried umbellifer A border of grasses behind terracotta pots of various sizes

One of the gardens is named the Paradise Garden and it really is lovely.  Who wouldn’t want this view in their garden?!

A view across the Paradise Garden at RHS Bridgewater

Or this one …

A blackbird takes a bath in a rill

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 …

Looking up the rill which runs between flower beds in the Paradise Garden at RHS Bridgewater

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 …

A view to a stone-built house across an expanse of wildflowers in shades of white, yellow and blue

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.

A wooden bench to the right of the photo invites visitors to sit for a moment amongst the flowers of the Wellbeing Garden

I walked back through the Kitchen Garden …

A view across the raised beds of the kitchen garden. They are filled with flowers and vegetables

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.

A gravel path leads through woodlands.

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?

A small wooden house sits on top of an old Rhododendron stump

Or this one?

A small wooden house is built into a tree stump

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!

Stepping stones across a small stream at the end of the Chinese Streamside Garden at RHS Bridgewater A cut grass path winds its way through trees and grasses in shades of green and brown towards the wooden RHS Bridgewater welcome buildingA view of the RHS Bridgewater welcome building across Moon Bridge WaterA view of the wooden RHS Bridgewater welcome building across flower bordersI 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.

Christine is holding her half-knitted sock in Winwick Mum wildflower yarn (stripes of pink, purple, blue, yellow and green) up against a background of wildflowers in shades of white, pink and purple

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 …

Christine is holding her half-knitted sock in Winwick Mum wildflower yarn (stripes of pink, purple, blue, yellow and green) whilst stationary in a car in a queue

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.

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54 Responses

  1. Hilary says:

    You have described the garden beautifully. We are lucky to live within a 30 min drive of RHS Bridgewater and being RHS members have now visited 3 Times already. Next time I will take my socks with me

    • winwickmum says:

      Ooh yes, do that! There are so many places where you could just sit and knit for a bit, aren’t there? And I don’t think anyone would bat an eye because I think that everyone who goes there understands that the garden is a place of restoration, however you choose to do that xx

  2. Geeha says:

    A wonderful day out, how frustrating for your friend. Did she have knitting or crochet to occupy all that time? Good to know she felt protected. One never knows what the day will bring. When you return it will be interesting to see developments. I enjoy returning to National Trust properties as the seasons change making membership a bargain.

    • winwickmum says:

      No, sadly I have never been able to persuade her to pick up needles or hook so I’m not quite sure what she did apart from plenty of pacing! You’ll be glad to be able to go back to the National Trust properties again this summer, I’m sure! xx

  3. Hannah says:

    Oh I’m with your daughter, after the great courgette harvest of the late 1990s when my parents took on an allotment I’d happily never eat them again. Garden looks a real oasis, please keep us updated with photos the next time you visit

    • winwickmum says:

      Ha ha, you do run out of things to do with them … I’m afraid I could never quite bring myself to eat courgette cake as I felt that was a step too far, but in the end I was blitzing them in the food processor and telling everyone the green bits were herbs! 🙂 xx

  4. Mary Wilson says:

    Hi Christine. They are beautiful photos, you must have an excellent camera on your phone. Apart from being so hot, you must have been in heaven in all those lovely areas. Loved the wild flowers and I think they were yellow Callendulas. Correct me if I am wrong. So wish I lived closer to Bridgewater and the confidence to travel to lovely spots like this. Thank you Christine 😊 xx

    • winwickmum says:

      Yes, you’re right, they were Calendulas and the bees absolutely loved them! The photos do come out very well from my phone, don’t they? Thank you, I’m glad you liked them! There were quite a few people there who had come on a coach trip so maybe that’s something you could investigate if you’d like to go one day? xx

  5. Mary Wilson says:

    Forgot to mention. Loved the Tree houses. The 2nd one was just like a magical fairy 🧚‍♂️ house. Lovely for children, or oldies like myself to see. 😊

    • winwickmum says:

      I think everyone who sees them will be enchanted by those little houses! There were quite a few of them in the clearing but as others were picnicking nearby I didn’t want to get in their way with my camera! 🙂 xx

  6. Lenore says:

    What a lovely day out. Thank you for sharing the video link and phot. Xx❤️🌺

  7. Cherry says:

    Thank you for giving us a peep into this wonderful garden. How awful for your friend and on such a hot day! A little rain now would be good – and that means an excuse for knitting instead of gardening 😉

    • winwickmum says:

      No day is a good day to be stuck on the motorway but this one was especially hot. Thankfully, she’s the kind of person who won’t leave home without ALL the essential supplies so I knew that she would be OK xx

  8. Margaret says:

    Very timely to have a preview of Bridgewater. I am due for my visit in early September. The courgettes should still be in full producing mode. I bet that courgettes will be on the menu in all the catering outlets. RHS membership is very good value – I speak as a member for over forty years. I hope you continue visiting and may get inspiration for new yarn colourways.

    • winwickmum says:

      I was a member for many years when I worked as a gardener but let it slide when I stopped doing that as I wasn’t really getting any value from it. It feels good to be able to visit somewhere pretty much on the doorstep! xx

  9. Marlene says:

    I watched a program on BBC on the making of Bridgewater, it was very interesting.

  10. Gillian says:

    What great photos. Thanks for sharing them with us.

  11. Judith Burke says:

    The gardens look beautiful but I am saddened to see the land described as “waste land”. Much of that land was Greater Manchester West Scout camp site known as Middlewood. Lots of us hold very special and happy memories of camping there and enjoying the woods and the boating lake.

    • winwickmum says:

      Yes, I noticed that they said that – I was a Venture Scout Leader for a good few years although I never went to Middlewood. I assumed that there had been some time between the Scouts leaving and the RHS taking over which had meant the area wasn’t kept in as good condition as it might have been – and I guess there is also a difference between what Scouts and horticulturists might consider to be well-kept xx

      • Judith Burke says:

        I was a Venture Scout Leader too! Just down the road from you in Leigh. I think scouts vacated it in the last few years and a new camp site very close by has been created. I hear you! Let’s just say camping at Middlewood was very much rough and living in/with nature and certainly not glamping. Good times 🙂

  12. Steph says:

    What a lovely blog. I know it was not nice for your friend who broke down. The gardens looked lovely. Xx

    • winwickmum says:

      No, it was a tough day for my friend but at least we sort of got to walk the gardens together and it helped to distract her from being stuck in the emergency refuge! xx

  13. What a beautiful description of the RHS Bridgewater. I am the CEO of Recreate-U and we have been awarded a community growing plot. This is where we run our wellbeing groups… Wellbeing walk and talks, nature and natter and relaxation and wellbeing sessions.
    If you would like to know more email Contact@recreate-u.co.uk or check out our website http://www.recreate-u.co.uk It’s free to come along!

    Great work with the knitting them socks will look beautiful!

    • winwickmum says:

      Oh that’s fantastic, the community and wellbeing gardens were lovely! There’s something about creating a living space like a garden that is very rewarding and I hope it flourishes for you. I notice from your website that you’re based around the Salford area so hopefully if anyone is local to you and wants to know more they’ll come and visit your website – thanks for sharing your link! 🙂 xx

  14. Karen says:

    Thank you for this. I was bought RHS membership as a gift and haven’t visited any of the gardens yet – Wisley is the nearest to me. You’ve prompted me to crack on and do it, and take my socks. 🙂

    • winwickmum says:

      Yes, do it! There’s something to see at every time of year and having membership means that you can visit even for a short time and not feel guilty about “wasting” the ticket price to get in if you don’t stay long 🙂 xx

  15. Joan Bray says:

    I watched the TV programmes and was fascinated, so lovely to get a different perspective. It feels too far to go there and back in a day unfortunately – will have to find a way to get there somehow.

    • winwickmum says:

      There was a coach trip there when I was visiting so maybe that’s an option, but you could always combine it with a short break to Manchester or even the Peak District and that would be lovely too! xx

  16. Annette Ostrowska says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful pictures, it looked like an absolutely fabulous garden and definitely one to visit one day.

    • winwickmum says:

      Thank you! Yes, it was lovely to visit and I think anyone who enjoys gardens either as a gardener or a garden appreciator would benefit from spending time there! xx

  17. Susan Rayner says:

    We live three miles from RHS Wisley and have been mentally involved with the creation of Bridgewater from the moment they acquired the site (many, many fund raising functions and letters)! I have seen the TV programme about it’s creation but your photos are far better as is your commentary! We hope to visit next time we come up north. (We love Harrogate’s garden.) The Wildflower socks are beautiful. I do hope your friend’s car is now mended and that you can plan a visit soon! In cooler weather.

    • winwickmum says:

      You’ll probably feel as if you’ve already been when you do come up to visit! Thank you for your lovely words, I’m really glad you enjoyed the post xx

  18. Beautiful pictures and I loved the fairy houses. It just goes to show what my garden could look like if I had the inclination. My idea of gardening is to sit with a drink in my hand and look at it!!!! I hope your friend was OK and will join you again soon. Gill.

  19. Ruth Howard says:

    Thanks for sharing x looks lovely shame your friend had drama and you had to go alone – but a good job you had your sock knitting – I ever go out with out my knitting!
    Thanks again
    Ruth x

  20. Kath says:

    I must go, it’s not too far from me. But I think I’ll choose a day when the temperature isn’t quite so high! Like you, I could do with an army of volunteers for my garden. Everything seems to grow at least 3 feet overnight! Still, it might look a bit jungley (is that a word?), but the bees, butterflies, dragonflies and birds don’t seem to mind. xx

    • winwickmum says:

      I think that “jungley” is an excellent word and I know exactly what you mean! 🙂 Yes, do go along to the garden if you can, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it xx

  21. Mary says:

    What a lovely post! My goodness I could feel the heat coming off those photos! How on earth do you manage to knit in the heat? I get such sweaty hands it’s almost impossible, and yes I have tried talc but really don’t like it!

  22. Christine Knowler says:

    RHS Bridgewater looks lovely. Our nearest RHS garden is Hyde Hall which is about 10 miles from us. I don’t make enough use of my membership although I have visited more over lock down with my friend. I wanted to visit Rosemoor last time I went to Bude but it was a very wet day and I felt 50 mile round trip was too much. I too look at the gardens and wish mine could look that lovely but as you say they have lots of volunteers to keep the gardens in check.

    • winwickmum says:

      I’ve felt much better about looking at mine once I remembered about the volunteers. We can only ever do what we can do, and plants live or die despite our best efforts sometimes! I’ve just enjoyed being out in mine more this year and whilst I won’t be opening it to visitors any time soon (it’s certainly no Bridgewater!), it’s a happy space for me to be in 🙂 xx

  23. Christine Everett says:

    Hi Christine, is there a secret to seeing the photos as they didn’t appear when I clicked your email to read more. Always enjoy reading your blog.
    Regards, Christine

    • winwickmum says:

      Didn’t the email link bring you through to the blog? The links are all working as far as I can see, so if nothing appeared then it might be worth clearing the cache on your computer/phone/iPad as it might have stored an older version of the blog xx

      • Christine says:

        I’ve now been able to see the lovely photos on my iPad so will go back to the MacBook to sort that out. If we are ever allowed to leave Australia we look forward to visiting England again for some more long distant walking and to view the gardens. As we live in Queensland there isn’t too much call for socks but I have knitted 5 pairs and crocheted 4 of Lucy’s blankets. I enjoy your blogs and monthly musings and appreciate the time you take doing them for us.
        All the best
        Christine

        • winwickmum says:

          Oh good, I’m glad you were able to get them! I couldn’t imagine living somewhere where you didn’t need socks, but I’m glad you’ve still been able to knit them! 🙂 xx

  24. Susan Brandwood says:

    Just caught up with email and seen your post. Looks lovely! your the second person to recommend this lovely garden! Don’t think I’ll be visiting for a while though as my partner Alan passed away on Monday and I’m struggling. We did everything together. Trying to pick my knitting up to pass the time and focus but finding it hard as feel guilty to do as it’s something I enjoy. Sorry don’t want to bring the mood down😭 as love seeing my knitting posts.😳

    • winwickmum says:

      Oh I’m so sorry to hear about your partner, I’m sending you all my love. It’s been such a difficult year as it is without this for you to cope with as well; I do hope you have people around you to support you xx

  25. Thanks for the tour. If I ever get back to the UK I’ll visit the garden. Beautiful

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