The Castlefield Victorian Viaduct being transformed into a £1.8m Urban Sky Park

National Trust has announced plans for an urban sky park on a significant city landmark in Castlefield.

By Manchester's Finest | March 8th '22

The urban sky park will invite nature into the heart of Manchester’s industrial past.

Built in 1892, the Grade II listed building was designed to carry heavy traffic in and out of the Great Northern Warehouse. Since 1969, the viaduct has stood unused with National Highways undertaking essential repairs and maintenance to keep it safe.

Due to open in July, the £1.8 million project will transform the Victorian viaduct into a green space that stretches halfway across the elevation of the viaduct. Trees, flowers and shrubs will be planted to bring new life to the grey steel work of the industrial structure.

Duncan Laird, Head of Urban Places at the National Trust said: “The viaduct has stood in Manchester for over 125 years, and we want to help the city to protect it, injecting the viaduct with a new lease of life so it becomes a space people can use and be proud of.”

The project will be open for 12 months. During this time visitors will have the opportunity to not only explore part of the structure, but to find out more about the viaduct’s heritage, the city’s long relationship with plants and trees and have the opportunity to learn some urban gardening tips.

The plans for Castlefield viaduct are part of the National Trust’s Urban Places work to increase access to parks and green spaces in and around urban areas, so that more people can access quiet places with wide open skies.

Hilary McGrady, Director-General of the National Trust says: “The pandemic showed us the importance of our local parks and gardens, but it also highlighted significant inequalities in access to green spaces in urban areas like Manchester.”

The four partner organisations working with the charity to create areas on the viaduct include Urban Wilderness, the Science and Industry Museum, City of Trees and Castlefield Forum.

Urban Wilderness will be working with Manchester based charity, 42nd Street, supporting young people who have suffered mental health challenges to create something special in the space.

The Science and Industry Museum are planning a garden with heritage plants, trees and flowers; interpretation of the industrial heritage that can be seen from the viaduct; and themed special talks and events for all ages across the summer and autumn.

The theme of the City of Trees partner plot is ‘Trees – Past, Present and Future’. It aims to showcase a variety of trees, shrubs and flowers that have been used throughout the Industrial Revolution, as well as displaying trees which are significant in Manchester today, and those that will play a role in the city’s response to climate change in the future.

Castlefield Forum will be using its space to tell visitors all about the essence of Castlefield set within the context of a modern sculptural pocket garden.

When the first phase opens in July, 100 people a day will be able to visit. Entry onto the structure will be free, but there will be a booking system in place to help manage numbers. As part of the experience, visitors will be able to join a guided walk on the viaduct.

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