No, not The Secret Garden of Frances Hodgson Burnett, but the Secret Garden at Quarry Bank Mill, Styal in Cheshire, to which we recently repaired.
Quarry Bank Mill, in the care of the National Trust, is one of several important industrial heritage sites in North West England.
Set beside the River Bollin, it was built as a cotton mill by Samuel Greg in 1784 and it still produces 10,000 yards of cloth a year from the various machines that have been lovingly restored for demonstrations to the public. The Greg family were notably humane toward their workers but, as the mill exhibition shows, working days were long, dirty, noisy and dangerous. The Gregs bought children from the workhouses to train as apprentices (you can visit The Apprentice House where they lived), giving them better conditions than the workhouse, with decent education and health care. Nevertheless, the whole set-up still seems shocking to us.
Right next door to the mill (a bit too close for comfort, I would have thought!), the Gregs built an elegant family house
overlooking the River Bollin, with a landscaped garden that ran along the side of the valley. It's this garden, long hidden from view, that The National Trust has spent some years restoring as the Gregs would have known it, and it was opened to the public in March this year. It still looks rather new and raw in places, but it will be interesting to visit again over the next few years as it "beds in":