The long-awaited multi-million pound tourist attraction RHS Garden Bridgewater finally opened today – and all Salford residents will be able to visit free on Tuesdays from May 25 for the first year.
Carol Klein, BBC Gardeners’ World presenter and RHS Ambassador for RHS Garden Bridgewater, marked the occasion with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The 154-acre garden at Worsley has been the biggest hands-on horticultural project undertaken in Europe since planning permission was granted in 2017 but the opening had been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The RHS is investing £35 million in the creation of the garden, which the charity forecasts will generate around £13.2 million per year to the local economy by the end of the decade, and has created nearly 100 jobs at the site.
Salford City Council, which invested £19 million in the project, has worked with the RHS to provide the free entry day for residents and promote jobs at the garden, where almost half the roles created to date have been filled by people living within five miles of the garden.
.@RHSBridgewater officially opens today. The opening celebrates the culmination of many years of discussions and planning which has transformed this historic 154-acre site around Worsley New Hall into this incredible vibrant new garden. Book your visit: https://t.co/u6Qhp0RIzb pic.twitter.com/nXYnj4tU0K
— SalfordMayor (@salford_mayor) May 18, 2021
Visitors can now discover areas including the 11-acre Weston Walled Garden which is believed to be the largest publicly-accessible working walled garden in the UK. It is home to the Paradise Garden by Tom Stuart-Smith, showcasing exotic planting inspired by Asiatic and Mediterranean gardens. The nearby Kitchen Garden by award-winning Harris Bugg Studio showcases productive growing techniques and both familiar and more unusual edibles.
Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett said: “The launch of RHS Bridgewater is an important date for this city. The opening celebrates the culmination of many years of discussions and planning which has transformed this historic 154-acre site around Worsley New Hall into this incredible vibrant new garden.
“Salford has an enviable reputation for delivering nationally and regionally significant projects. The RHS choosing this city as the location for their fifth garden is testimony to Salford’s continued transformation and a key moment for us on our journey as we continue to invest and develop our green spaces to their maximum potential.”
Featuring cutting-edge design by RHS Chelsea Flower Show gold medal winners alongside numerous dedicated community spaces, RHS Garden Bridgewater will be a beacon of gardening inspiration, education and engagement in the heart of the North West. More than a quarter of a million plants have gone into the ground ahead of the opening, representing a huge boost for biodiversity in the area.
RHS director general Sue Biggs said: “We feel that the opening of RHS Garden Bridgewater, our fifth garden, could not be more timely after the terrible time everyone has endured over the last year. We have been looking forward to this day for more than six years, during which time so many people have come together and enabled us to create a stunning new garden that we hope the people of Salford, Greater Manchester, the North West and beyond are proud of.”
We’re delighted to open the gates to RHS Garden Bridgewater today.
Our incredible teams have spent four years transforming our 154-acre site into a world-class garden – and now you can see it for the first time.
— RHS Bridgewater (@RHSBridgewater) May 18, 2021
The Community Wellbeing Garden, Community Grow area and Peel Learning Garden, supported by The Peel Group, are just some of the community-focused spaces that can also be found within the Weston Walled Garden. Alongside these are the Orchard Garden and the first dedicated RHS Trials ground outside of the flagship RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey, where garden plants will be assessed for their performance in the northern climate.
Elsewhere, visitors can explore the beginnings of the Chinese Streamside Garden, which will be the first authentic Chinese garden in the UK when complete, and the four-acre Woodland Play area designed to encourage children of all ages to engage with nature.
Steven Underwood, chief executive of The Peel Group, said: “We’re proud to be a founding partner of RHS Bridgewater and as part of our long-term commitment to the garden, we’re supporting the Peel Learning Garden which will enable school children to learn how plants grow and survive.
“Engaging with nature benefits young people in many positive ways and we’re committed to supporting children through life enhancing educational and health and wellbeing programmes in partnership with the RHS Garden Bridgewater.”
Around 7.8 million people live within an hour’s journey time of the garden and will be able to access its world-class horticultural inspiration and expertise.
The development did stir up some opposition last year when, due to lockdown restrictions, deer at the site were culled rather than being relocated.
Animal rights protestors were at the opening today in protest and some residents pledged to boycott the attraction as a result.
Salford residents can book their free slot to RHS Garden Bridgewater here.