Bridgewater case study could see most fertile soils redistributed to other parts of site

Design for walled garden at RHS Garden Bridgewater, by Tom Stuart-Smith

Soil scientists at Tim O’Hare Associates (TOHA) are carrying out a comprehensive soil resource survey for the proposed RHS Garden Bridgewater, Salford, that could see fertile soils relocated to the areas of the site where they will be most needed. The survey will be used as an exemplar case study for the sustainable reuse and management of soils.

The new Bridgewater garden, designed by Tom Stuart-Smith, is to be created on the 63ha site of the former Worsley New Hall beside the Bridgewater Canal. The diverse soils on the site range from a sandy loam, through alluvial silts and clays in the woodland areas, to peaty soils in the meadows abutting the canal.

Baseline assessment of the soils and their potential for reuse in the new garden will help refine the final landscape design and planting scheme. For example, a heavily silted-up boating lake could be restored, with the dredged infertile soil used for perennial meadows. Meanwhile, fertile soil currently on the site of the planned visitor centre and car park could be reused in the original walled garden.

Principal consultant Tim O’Hare said: ‘This is an intriguing project that has the potential to act as an exemplar for future schemes where in-situ soils, if correctly managed, can be reused to their full potential.

‘The range of soils within the four main areas of the site will need to be treated differently. Some of the sandy clay loams are very delicate and susceptible to compaction, for example. A good soil management strategy should be developed to ensure these soils are protected throughout the different phases of the garden’s construction.’

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