Manchester ‘park in the sky’ to open in Grade II-listed former viaduct

National Trust garden at Castlefield Viaduct is inspired by New York public park and features 3,000 plant species

A “park in the sky” at a former viaduct in Manchester is to open at the end of the month, the National Trust has announced.

Situated along the Grade II-listed Castlefield Viaduct, the 330-metre temporary park is inspired by New York’s High Line public park, and features 3,000 plant species in gardens created by architects and community groups.

As part of the National Trust’s move into more deprived urban areas, the 12-month pilot project aims to explore Manchester’s history and introduce some greenery into a post-industrial landscape dominated by grey and brown steel and red brick. It will be open to visitors from 30 July.

The £1.8m development has been made possible by funds raised by the People’s Postcode Lottery and public donations. Charity fundraising aims to make the site a permanent feature of Manchester’s skyline.

The shape of the planters emulates the curve of the viaduct.
The shape of the planters emulates the curve of the viaduct. Photograph: Mark Waugh/The Guardian

Speaking at a launch event on Friday, accompanied by Manchester drizzle and the soundscape of whirring trams, the National Trust’s director general, Hilary McGrady, described the development as “a collision of everything that the National Trust stands for”, combining architectural beauty, gardens and history.

The viaduct was built in 1892 by the engineering company behind Blackpool Tower, Heenan and Froude. The shape of the planters emulates the curve of the viaduct and is the same width as the railway tracks that once transported goods to the Great Northern warehouse. Diagonal blossom hedges mimic the diamond shape of the viaduct’s crisscross steelwork.

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The viaduct closed in the 1960s and the wild flowers that grew around it have since been a staple window view for passengers on the trains and trams through central Manchester. A much-loved site for filming Coronation Street, the area below the viaduct also recently found fame as the setting of the Garrison pub in the final episode of Peaky Blinders.

Castlefield Viaduct’s experience and visitor programming manager, Dympna Gould, discussed her hopes for the site, speculating about potential Happy Mondays events, catwalks and collaborations with film and gaming students.

The viaduct closed in the 1960s.
The viaduct closed in the 1960s and has often been used as a backdrop in Coronation Street. Photograph: Mark Waugh/The Guardian

A range of community groups have partner plots at the site. Urban Wilderness has worked with the Manchester-based charity 42nd Street, supporting young people who have experienced mental health challenges. Its Garden of Possibilities features plants known for having positive effects on mental health.

The Castlefield Forum garden symbolises the topology of the area. Red caladiums reflect Castlefield’s redbrick warehouses. Blue salvias represent the blue of the canal and the viaduct’s steel. Taller foxtail lilies are a nod to the recent influx of skyscrapers on the Castlefield skyline.

Up to 100 people a day will be able to visit the viaduct and entry will be free, with a booking system to help manage numbers – a different visitor model to other National Trust properties.

Castlefield, nearby Hume and other inner-city areas are densely populated with a lack of green space. About 52,000 people live within 20 minutes of the site, according to Gould, and she hopes every one of them will visit the garden.

Hope Philpott

The GuardianTramp

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