It has been described as the biggest gardening project in Europe – a patch of green off the M62 and almost lost in the urban sprawl of Manchester.
The once magnificent estate of Worsley New Hall, a stately home demolished in the 1940s, will from next year be home to Bridgewater, the Royal Horticultural Society’s first new garden in 17 years, sitting alongside Chelsea, and Harlow Carr in Harrogate.
The 154 acres of woodland and meadows will incorporate a restored 11-acre walled kitchen garden originally constructed 170 years ago – and yesterday Sophia Mason and Philippa Charles briefly laid down their trowels after putting in the 100,000th brick.
They are trustee and director respectively of the Garfield Weston Foundation, set up by the family that built up Associated British Foods, which has given the RHS £5m towards the £31m project.
Bridgewater is being landscaped by the designer Tom Stuart-Smith who is also behind the new ornamental garden that will surround The Hepworth Wakefield gallery later this year.
The original 19th century Bridgewater gardens took 50 years to landscape, and included a lake with island grotto, a croquet lawn and tennis court.
Queen Victoria visited twice, travelling to the hall by way of the Bridgewater Canal, which was dyed blue in her honour.
Edward VII also went there, before the land was taken over for use as a war hospital and for training troops – after which it fell into decline. Weakened by dry rot and partly destroyed by fire, it was eventually demolished by a scrap merchant.
Alan Titchmarsh, the Ilkley gardener who is the RHS vice-president, said the project was the biggest in the charity’s 211-year history and it had been “fascinating” to see the walled garden take shape.