The annual European Garden Awards took place on Friday 24th June in Germany, and the members of the international jury gave first prize to Salford’s very own RHS Bridgewater in the Design or Concept of a Contemporary Park or Garden category.
The evaluation considers aspects such as innovative implementation and management, urban development aspects, sustainability, good visitor or educational services or voluntary work as well as the high quality of restoration or modern design of a park or garden. The winners are sought after as inspirational and as models for other projects.
The fifth garden in the RHS portfolio, Bridgewater opened in the summer of 2021. It has been developed as a modern garden yet within the envelope of the 62 hectares historic site of Worsley New Hall. The gothic-style mansion was demolished in the 1940s and the gardens, which once incorporated terraces, lakes, statuary and a grotto were neglected.
Tom Stewart-Smith was the landscape architect for the masterplan and the detailed gardens. The first phase included the welcome building, a new lake and the regeneration of the kitchen gardens, walls and structures.
There is a strong emphasis on community involvement and education with plans to create a School of Horticulture. There are community gardening projects and links to social services and hospitals.
The main section, Weston Walled Garden, consists of an inner walled garden surrounded by a series of connecting gardens that are enclosed by a lower-level outer wall. The inner walled garden is divided by a central wall into the Paradise Garden and the Kitchen Garden.
Within the outer wall is a series of gardens dedicated to serving the local community. The Orchard Gardens, which incorporate The Orchard and Bee and Butterfly Garden, curve around the Gothic architecture of Garden Cottage.
RHS Bridgewater proves the values of gardens in modern society, there is a clear social and educational commitment, but it also has a major economic role by providing 140 jobs in the garden and more than 180 jobs in the local community.
The judges were particularly impressed with the design, quality and social commitment, but also the sense of maturity in such a large-scale venture and within a short time frame. In terms of the design, one judge felt that Tom Stuart-Smith is deserving of a knighthood for his work here and his work as a garden designer and landscape architect.
There are more areas to develop and a planned school of horticulture. This is the start of a heroic scale adventure into the world of gardens and an important resource in terms of social inclusion, education, job creation, inward investment and the promotion of horticulture and all aspects of gardens.
Finally, a judge commented: “It is the combination of modern design in an historic landscape and its special design for the location that makes Bridgewater an outstanding garden of the highest quality.”