The BGA Chester Garden Trip 4 to 8 September was a wonderful holiday enjoyed by all of the 34 members that joined us. This was helped by some fantastic weather, great people and some lovely gardens.

We stayed at the Mill Hotel & Spa right beside the canal in Chester, an ideal location allowing us to easily walk into the beautiful city of Chester with its cathedral, the striking city walls and black and white medieval and Victorian half-timbered buildings.

We visited 6 separate varied gardens on the trip, including a full day at RHS Bridgewater, the newest of the RHS gardens opened just 2 years ago. There was also half a day of free time to explore Chester or to relax on a boat trip meandering up the River Dee enjoying the scenery and glorious sunshine.

Browse through the photos below and see what a great trip we all had.

Some of those that went on the trip to Chester

We stayed in the magnificent city of Chester

Day 1 – Hill Close Gardens, Warwick

We stopped off at Hill Close Gardens for lunch on the outward journey to Chester. They are a rare survival of Victorian gardens once used by townsfolk who lived above their business and wanted to escape from the crowded town centre. In the mid 1840’s the owner of Hill Close divided up his land into individual plots and rented them out to townspeople to be used as detached gardens to visit after work or on Sundays to tend their flowers, fruit and vegetables or to relax. The gardens were used until after the Second World War when they stared to become derelict.  A Trust was established to save the plot from being developed for housing by the Warwick District Council and then in 2006 with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund, restoration of 16 of the gardens started, which we were able to explore.

We were given a guided tour around the individual garden plots

Day 2 – RHS Bridgewater (Salford, Manchester)

The newest RHS garden built in the former site of Worsley New Hall, in Salford, is a heritage landscape that has been transformed into an iconic RHS Garden bringing the ‘gardens within a garden’ to life by blending history with world-class horticulture. The transformation had taken place since 2017 when the RHS bought the site, is truly inspiring. The highlight of the garden is the wonderful Western Walled Garden, split into two areas: the Paradise Garden and the Kitchen Garden. Other areas though were not to be missed including Chinese Streamside Garden, which is still under development but already looks amazing.

Day 3 – Tatton Park & Dunham Massey

Day 3 included visiting two National Trust properties Tatton Park and Dunham Massey, both Country Houses with wonderful, but distinctly different gardens.

Tatton Park is one of the finest gardens in the British Isles
The terraced Italian garden which graces the south face of the mansion affords beautiful views across the park.
There is so much more to see at Tatton including probably one of the best Japanese gardens in Europe. The other gardens include The Walled Kitchen Garden, the Rose Garden, the contrasting Tower Garden with its topiary backdrop, the Fernery as well as other noteworthy features around the estate.

The garden at Dunham Massey is French in style and includes the moat and mount and a sawmill with its restored waterwheel. There is a parterre and delightful Orangery and an old Well House. The acid soils are home to moisture loving plants as well as Rhododendrons and an extensive range of Hydrangeas. There are Himalayan blue poppies in early summer. The garden, which is a real plantsman’s garden, has a number of separate areas including a Water Garden, a Rose Garden, a Moss Garden and a new Winter Garden has been developed to much acclaim. There is also an extensive park and estate with trees dating back to the Norman times.

Day 4 – Bridgemere Show Gardens

Our last day in Chester included a visit to a Blue Diamond Garden Centre, one of Britain’s largest, which includes 17 individual show gardens all cleverly linked together within an overall garden The gardens include seven RHS gold and silver medal award-winning show gardens which are recreations from RHS Chelsea, RHS Hampton Court and RHS Tatton Flower Shows and also includes other medal winning show garden recreations from the Garden Festivals in Hanley and Liverpool as well as the garden in which the 1993 -1997 television series ‘Gardener’s Diary’ was filmed.

In 2022 two new show gardens were created, the ‘Blue Diamond Forge Garden’, winner of a Silver Medal and the Best Artisan Garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021 and also the ‘Down Memory Lane Garden’, winner of a Silver Gilt at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show 2021, which was designed in conjunction with Alzheimer’s Society. We returned to the hotel in the afternoon for free time exploring the delights of Chester.

Day 5 – Coughton Court

Our last day saw us visiting Coughton Court another National Trust property near Alcester on the journey back to Bidborough. Since 1991 the previously somewhat desolate garden has been transformed by Clare Throckmorton and her daughter Christina Williams, who won two gold medals at the 2010 Chelse Flower Show. Together they continue to guide what has been one of the most ambitious garden revival projects in the Midlands.

The ‘jewel in the crown’  at Coughton Court Gardens is undoubtedly the walled garden and it looked absolutely stunning. This was opened by Alan Titchmarsh in the summer of 1996. The statue of Rosamund surrounded by Rosa Mundi is the focal point of this feature. 
There are two main areas, the first being the formal gardens, comprising beautifully maintained herbaceous borders and garden rooms. The second is the informal area which is a riot of colour in July and August with buddleias, many clematis and rambling roses over arches, and gravel paths leading you through islands of massed planting.