The rediscovered ‘lost’ garden in Greater Manchester that’s a ‘hidden gem’

The Shakespearean Garden
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Platt Fields Park is more commonly associated with students gathering for picnics and barbeques than it is for hidden horticultural gems. Yet, tucked away in a corner of the park is a rare garden, one of the only a few in the country.

Up until recently The Shakespeare Garden, which lies just off Wilmslow Road, was left to grow wild and untamed, having been neglected for years. But since 2021, restoration work by a group of volunteers has been underway, to restore it to its former glory.

A Shakespearean Garden is one which contains some or all of the 175 plants named in the famous playwright's works and they were largely created during the late 19th and early 20th century. Manchester’s was created in 1916 by Rosa Grindon, a Shakespearean lecturer, suffragist and keen botanist; and officially opened in 1922.

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Many Shakespearean gardens have been lost to the mists of time, and there are only a handful left in the country, which makes this corner of Platt Fields Park a very special place indeed. Kattie Kincaid has been leading the restoration work and wants to shine a light on this rare ‘hidden gem.’

The garden is being restored by volunteers
The garden is being restored by volunteers

She’s been working alongside a group of volunteers to inject life back into the garden. Kattie told the Manchester Evening News: “When I first visited the garden it was overgrown with weeds and it needed a lot doing to it. It seemed such a shame to lose this piece of our heritage so I began gardening it.”

Gathering together a team of volunteers, they’ve steadily transformed ‘Shakey’, as it's affectionately known. Although it’s still a ‘work in progress’, many of the features have been restored while new ones have been added, including a ‘human sunclock’. There have been some challenges, such as box blight which has damaged the box hedges, but Kattie is determined to ensure Shakey will be around for future generations to enjoy.

She added: “It’s a lovely place to visit and very special, as it's a sunken garden it feels like you’re entering an auditorium - in fact we’re looking at creating a space for performances, and we had a group of actors perform for the garden’s centenary.

It's affectionately known as 'Shakey'
It's affectionately known as 'Shakey'

“It’s a hidden gem which many people don’t know about, although we’ve had a lot of older visitors come down and say they remember visiting it when they were younger. It’s a really important part of our heritage and it’s vital that we preserve it.”

Although the garden is free to visit, the National Garden Scheme will be hosting an open day there on July 6 and July 7, with refreshments, plant stalls and more available. Tickets cost £5 and all the money raised from ticket sales goes to the NGS and their charities which include MacMillan, Marie Curie and other healthcare charities and also some small garden charities. Money from the sale of cakes and plants goes back into the Shakespearean Garden.

Kattie added: "It's a little gem on people's doorsteps. We don't have any regular funding and the team of volunteers works hard to maintain the garden. The open days will be a chance to celebrate Shakey, and if the weather is nice we will put up some suffragette bunting in honour of Rosa too."

For more details, visit the National Garden Scheme’s website here.

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