On a recent trip up North to Manchester, we were attending the christening of our niece. Usually we stay with my father-in-law but for one reason or another this wasn’t possible. I looked into the usual hotels nearby, and to be honest, they were expensive.
I turned to trusty Airbnb. Usually used for trips abroad, it only just occurred to me that there would probably be more suitable properties nearer to our family and, as luck would have it, I managed to find a 2-bedroom cottage only five minutes drive away from the church, and just outside the centre of Manchester.
It was in the perfect location, and much more suitable for our needs. Monkey was able to get to sleep in his own room, while we relaxed downstairs – much better than creeping around a dark hotel room! The cottage itself was very comfortable, clean and had a wonderful little garden that had been landscaped around a water feature which Monkey was fascinated by.
But this post isn’t really about our Airbnb accommodation, as much as we enjoyed staying there. The bonus of staying at The Reach was meeting Sally – the owner of the property and finding out about a project she has spearheaded.
On the mantelpiece of the house was a fascinating book that contained photos of a work-in-progress; of a project to turn wasteland into a stunning piece of landscape. And, because we were staying in the house, we had the special code to gain access to this beautiful, hidden garden set in the middle of a housing estate.
Sally was kind enough to tell us a bit more about what has essentially been a labour of love for her and her family for the past three decades:
Let’s just say the photos don’t do it justice. The following morning, we had some breakfast and with excitement headed across the street to the entrance. As a child I always loved the book The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and as an adult I am still filled with wonder when I discover a walled, hidden horticultural oasis. Once through the door, we walked down some steps and came across a little tree house. And, while Monkey was happily scrambling up the ladder, I turned and was blown away by the sight in front of me.
Sally and her family have done a truly amazing job. The Secret Valley Garden has it all and the ethos behind this wonderful space has certainly been achieved 10 times over. Grassy banks with a winding stream with walkways over a lake filled with billowing plants and creepers; ducks and swans roaming freely; pathways leading up to secret sculptures, seating and swinging chairs to enjoy the surroundings; a dining area with a BBQ; an allotment with vegetable patches and fruit trees; play dens for children. But more than anything, a tranquil, peaceful getaway, that feels a million miles away from anywhere.
Monkey was in his element. He chased the ducks with delight; found sticks to play with, climbed up the treehouse, swung in the chairs, chomped on an apple: hid in the den; and played hide and seek. It was also fun for all of us to explore. And explore every inch we did. In fact, we spent so long enjoying the gardens, we had to rush to get ready for the christening!
Although The Valley is only available to the visitors of the two properties at The Reach, members of the public are able to enjoy the garden, together with an organic allotment and the meadow when it is open to the public on the first Sunday of every month from April to September in aid of McMillan nurses in the National Gardens Scheme. However, if you miss out, and need to stay somewhere in or around Manchester, then I would heartily recommend staying at The Reach and becoming a member of a secret club who’ve been fortunate enough to enter the Valley Garden.
Now that we have discovered it, there’s no turning back for us. We will definitely be staying here again, and I look forward to being able to enjoy The Valley once more. Sssshhhh, just don’t tell too many people about it…