Places: RHS Bridgewater, Greater Manchester

The Royal Horticultural Society’s new garden, RHS Bridgewater, is finally open to the public. The only RHS garden located in an urban area, it’s sure to provide a big boost to Greater Manchester. Three things really stood out to me when I visited earlier this week…

Vast beyond comprehension

At 154-acres and as one of the largest garden projects in Europe, RHS Bridgewater is hardly small. But it nevertheless feels far bigger than the sum of its parts, the sheer scale and variety of the place combining to overwhelm your senses from the moment you step into the garden proper. Think standing on the edge of a cliff, looking up at a skyscraper, staring out at the ocean; there’s something both disorienting and exciting about having your sense of scale challenged, something that exposes how small you are compared to the vastness of the world. RHS Bridgewater has that in spades.

Sound as a doorway

RHS Bridgewater is an ambitious amalgamation of walled areas, ornamental sections, greenhouses, lakes, secluded clearings, open meadows, orchards, woodland and more. Moving between these sections feels like travelling through different worlds.

Sound plays a big part in generating that feeling. Trees, walls, open spaces and planting choices seem woven together to maximise auditory impact; one moment you can be stood in a walled garden serenaded by the trickle of water features, then bombarded by glorious birdsong on an open plain, then find yourself swimming in heavy, wooded silence, all within the space of a handful of footsteps. It brought to mind noise cancelling headphones, where complete silence can be summoned at the press of a button.

Getting lost in woodland

I’ve always felt a pull to forests, so the dense woods at RHS Bridgewater were right up my street. Something primal tugs at you when you enter the dappled sunlight of a woodland canopy, every step you take stealing you away from the conscious world, taking you further into the unconscious, into mystery, into the unknown.

RHS Bridgewater is open now, find out more on the RHS website here.

By TomAntonyDavies

Writing sort. Manchester, England.

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