Visitors will be able to enjoy Manchester’s sky park until autumn 2024 after the National Trust has been granted an extension by Manchester City Council to the popular Castlefield Viaduct project.
The temporary green space, that has revitalised an unused Victorian-era railway viaduct, is already a firm favourite with locals, people from across Greater Manchester and tourists visiting the city since it opened last summer, with the pilot made possible thanks to players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.
The announcement has been made just before the project’s first birthday on 30 July 2023 with the conservation charity also announcing the appointment of landscape architects from Manchester based design practice, BDP, which will work with the Trust, partners and the community to develop bigger, bolder plans for the next phase of the viaduct, for which funding is still required.
The gardens – a mix of National Trust planting and plots designed and grown by community organisations – will remain as temporary ‘installations’ while the National Trust continue to gather feedback and fundraise in efforts to create a permanent feature on the 330-metre steel, Grade II listed, viaduct.
The seasonal displays seek to inspire visitors to contribute their ideas of what they would like the space to become in the future – through surveys and leaving feedback.
“We’re delighted to be staying open for another year so we can continue to provide visitors with moments of joy and build momentum to create a future for this fantastic place,” says Duncan Laird Head of Urban Places at the National Trust.
“As we enter this next phase of the project, we can start to truly understand what this space could become – and how it can serve future generations. “This won’t happen without big investment however, and we hope BDP can help us create a vision for this space to reflect ambitious plans for the city that investors want to be part of.
“Bringing nature and beauty to the centre of urban areas is something that we are passionate about. We want to bring more nature, beauty and history to urban areas as we know the benefits it can bring in terms of health, wellbeing, community and placemaking.”
The pilot has been made possible thanks to funding from Postcode Earth Trust supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, as well as gifts from individuals and organisations.
Donations, both large and small, are needed to help create a long-term green future for Castlefield Viaduct.
Events at Castlefield Viaduct
The Trust has also announced a number of new events happening at the Viaduct, including two new series starting this month.
Wednesday At One Talks
Wednesday At One Talks are a chance for visitors to hear from experts on a particular aspect of the viaduct project and the National Trust’s work.
Sundowners are a whole host of evening performances that showcase local talent while the sun sets.
Family trails will also run during the summer school holidays and many more activities are planned throughout the summer months.
Entry to Castlefield Viaduct
Entry onto the viaduct remains free.
Book for a guided visit between 11am to 12.30pm every day except Wednesdays, to find out more about the history of the site.
To explore the garden at your own pace just walk up, without any need to book, every afternoon from 1–3.30pm.
To find out more about Castlefield Viaduct and book for events, visit the website.
Donations can be made online or in person at the viaduct.
A History of Castlefield Viaduct
It holds historical significance as one of the oldest surviving railway viaducts in the world and remains an essential part of Manchester’s industrial heritage.
Construction of the viaduct began in 1848 and was completed in 1849 by the Manchester, South Junction, and Altrincham Railway (MSJAR) company.
The chief engineer responsible for its design was George Watson Buck, who was known for his contributions to several railway projects in the United Kingdom during the Victorian era.
The Castlefield Viaduct was an essential part of the MSJAR’s plans to connect Manchester with its southwestern suburbs and the Cheshire countryside.
The viaduct’s strategic location allowed for the extension of the railway network and facilitated the movement of goods and passengers to and from Manchester.
It played a crucial role in further boosting the city’s status as a prominent industrial centre during the 19th century.
The viaduct itself is an impressive structure, measuring about 2000 feet (610 meters) in length and comprising 33 brick arches.
It was constructed using millions of locally produced bricks, reflecting the architectural style of the period.
The viaduct stands as a testament to the engineering prowess of its time, exemplifying the innovative approach to railway construction during the early years of the Industrial Revolution.
As the railway system expanded in the following decades, the Castlefield Viaduct continued to serve its purpose, witnessing the growth and transformation of Manchester into a major industrial and commercial hub.
In the late 20th century, the viaduct faced challenges as some parts of the railway network were closed or rerouted. However, recognising its historical and architectural significance, conservation efforts were initiated to preserve this historic structure.
The Castlefield Viaduct was subsequently listed as a Grade II* listed building.
And now, it’s the perfect place for a bit of peace in the city, turned into a sky part for all of Manchester’s residents to enjoy.