One of Europe's largest garden projects is being constructed on the Bridgewater Estate at Worley. It marks a new landscape approach for the Royal Horticultural Society, its creator and future guardian.

The 154-acre estate surrounds the site of Worley New Hall, a Victorian mansion built for Francis Egerton, 1st Earl of Ellesmere and demolished in 1949. Since then the once magnificent garden was abandoned, although traces of its original terraces, walled garden and lake survived. The idea of creating 'a new painting in the historic frame appealed to the RHS, which has combined historic restoration with new landscapes as planned by leading garden designer Tom Stuart-Smith. The first 100,000 plants arrived in 2019, with many more to follow.

The visit begins at the modern Welcome Building, housing shop, restaurant and plant centre, and progresses to the Entrance Garden, which is based on a Voronoi diagram, a mathematical figure used in computer graphics. This has vivid-coloured planting creating a kind of abstract mosaic. Next comes the 11-acre Walled Garden, which is divided into five sections, including community and learning areas, set around a tank filled with water lilies. The largest part is the Kitchen Garden, with a layout reflecting the network of water- ways underground that served the Earl's coal mines (see ch. 110).

A Wellbeing Garden encourages contemplation. The Paradise Garden is the climax, with a wide variety of plants made possible by its sheltered position and rebuilt greenhouses. Beyond is an orchard, a woodland garden devoted to Chinese plants, wildflower meadows and two lakes connected by streams and rocky waterfalls. In a later phase it is hoped to build a great glasshouse on the footprint of the demolished hall. When all is complete even the ambition of the Earl, whose lost Victorian garden was a marvel of its age, will be eclipsed.


Leigh Road, Boothstown, Worsley, Manchester, UK

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