New RHS Bridgewater garden to open in north west in 2021

A major new north west attraction , the Royal Horticultural Society's Bridgewater Gardens is due to open in May, 2021. Meanwhile ambitious plans for a new Eden Project in Morecambe have taken a significant step forward. In the final part of her series on the green environment Fiona Finch reports on progress on these two landmark projects.

Thursday, 31st December 2020, 7:00 am
The Paradise Garden at RHS Garden Bridgewater. Photo:RHS/Neil Hepworth c. RHS Bridgewater

The Royal Horticultural Society opens its new garden in the northwest in 2021.

Thousands of plants have gone into the transformation and creation of the new flagship RHS Garden Bridgewater at Salford.

The 154 acre garden is due to open in the grounds of Worsley New Hall on May 11.

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Bridgewater drone view September 2019 Photo: c. RHS/Kestrel Cam

The ambition has been to create "a magnificent world-class garden in the heart of Salford" with inspiration drawn from the site's heritage. It is the RHS's first garden in the north west region - the nearest RHS garden is at Harlow Carr in Harrogate, with three others at Wisley in Surrey, Rosemoor in Devon and Hyde Hall in Essex.

Renowned landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith created the the ‘masterplan’ for the north west garden which includes a Paradise Garden.

The RHS had hoped to open earlier, but took the decision in spring 2020 to delay the opening to safeguard staff, volunteers and contractors during the Covid pandemic.

Richard Green, Head of Site, said: “During lockdown, a core team of people continued to look after Bridgewater and had the task of planting 25,000 plants while remaining socially distant from each other – luckily we have 154 acres to work across.

Bridgewater Welbeing Garden illustrative masterplan designed by Ben Brace (illustration c. Ben Brace)

"Even though things slowed down over the summer, we still made great progress and brought the Community Wellbeing Garden to life with 5,000 plants. This will create a fantastic hub for people across the North West – providing them with therapeutic activities, a chance to learn new skills and a place to benefit from the healing effects of nature, things that are much needed in these uncertain times.”

He added: "The silver lining of our delayed opening is that the planting will have more time to mature and another 40,000 plants will be added this autumn and winter. Other features, including a lakeside path, will be added earlier than expected so the garden will be even more spectacular when it opens in 2021.”

In the Second World War parts of the hall were requisitioned by the War Office, its gardens used as training grounds by the Lancashire Fusiliers. But the hall fell into disrepair and following a fire in 1943 the hall was demolished.

The RHS caused controversy in 2020 and apologised after culling nine roe deer to protect plants at Bridgewater

The charity said: "We know we should have got in touch with our local community and Salford City Council and discussed these challenges at the time and are sorry that we made a mistake and did not do this."

Plans for another Eden

Ambitious plans to open a northern Eden Project gathered pace in 2020.

The £125m Eden Project North will, if it gets funding and the final go-ahead, create a major new environmental attraction in Morecambe.

It’s hoped it will open in 2024, attracting an estimated one million visitors each year. The project forms part of the original Cornwall based Eden Project’s vision to expand around the world with other Edens.

Eden is working with its partners, the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, Lancaster University, Lancashire County Council and Lancaster City Council to deliver the project.

Detailing its ambitions on its website the Eden Project notes: “The plan is for a destination that combines indoor and outdoor experiences, connecting people with the internationally-significant natural environment of Morecambe Bay while also enhancing wellbeing ... above all it will be a day out that inspires a sense of wonder and connection with the natural world.”

There will be an emphasis on fostering health and wellbeing for both humans and the natural environment, while reimagining the seaside resort for the 21st century.

In the second week of December, 2020, the region’s Eden ambitions were given a boost with the announcement of £1.2m funding from the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to fund development work needed to prepare the planning application. The money has come from the Government funded Lancashire Growth Deal.

It is hoped a planning application will be submitted in 2021. It’s forecast that the project will bring not just environmental benefits for the region and its visitors but also wide ranging economic and social benefits.

David Harland, Chief Executive of Eden Project International, said: “We are hugely grateful to the LEP for their longstanding support of our Eden Project North vision.”

It is believed this northern Eden could attract around one million visitors a year, bring additional spending of £200m a year to the region, provide direct employment for more than 400 people and support a further 1,500 jobs.

The business case estimates an additional visitor spend of more than £200m per year in the region,not including money spent at the Eden site. But it is projected the eventual cost of the whole project will be £125m. To make this project a reality funding needs to be found and a mixture of private and public funding as well as central Government funding is being sought.