Castlefield Viaduct has now reopened to the public tomorrow, featuring some new additions to Manchester’s sky park such as new partner gardens by Hulme Community Garden Centre and Sow the City. The elevated park was closed between December and February to allow time for the team of National Trust gardeners, volunteers, and community partners to prune, plant and create new areas on the giant 330-metre steel viaduct.
The National Trust opened the viaduct in July 2022 as a pilot project to gauge public opinion on the future of the Manchester landmark and so far, over ten thousand visitors have explored part of the structure. In addition to a variety of seasonal planting displays created by National Trust gardeners and volunteers, four plots on the viaduct were handed over to local groups and partner organisations to create their own unique gardens for visitors to enjoy.
Hulme Community Centre have introduced a new edible garden, where they’ll be growing all sorts of fruit, veg, and herbs, as well as an urban forest garden. The canopy consists of dwarf family fruit trees; a shrub layer of blackcurrant and cranberry; kiwi, hop, and nasturtium climbers; an understorey of edible herbaceous perennials such as rhubarb, globe artichoke, and strawberry, plus a selection of self-seeding biennials and annuals.
Kath Gavin, Sustainability Co-ordinator at Hulme Community Garden Centre, said: “We combine an environmentally conscious garden centre, organic gardens, and hands-on educational activities, to provide the inspiration and practical means for people to green up their local spaces and provide for wildlife in the city. Our mini forest garden demonstrates how visitors to the viaduct can re-connect with nature on their doorstep whilst growing nutritious additions to their diet for improved health and well-being.”
Another plot has been designed and planted by Sow the City, working with Hubbub to bring a sensory nature garden to the viaduct, complete with a pond – a first for the industrial viaduct that was originally built to carry heavy rail traffic in and out of the Great Northern Warehouse. The ‘In Our Nature Garden’ aims to encourage a connection between people and nature and features wildlife habitats and bee-friendly planting.
The garden’s design draws its inspiration from the latest research in environmental psychology which indicates that the closer an individual’s relationship is with nature, the more likely they are to care for wildlife and the wider environment. The aim of the garden is to give those living in cities the opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of Manchester’s city centre through tranquil sights, earthy smells, and an immersive audio recording that can be downloaded as part of the nature experience.
Entry to Castlefield Viaduct remains free, displaying the brand new community gardens, and the team will be testing a new way to welcome visitors. A booking system will remain in place for guided walk visits between 11.00am to 12.30pm, but visitors wanting to explore the viaduct at their own pace after 1.00pm can now just turn up on the day.
There are also plans to host events throughout the spring and summer, including new family tours both on and off the viaduct, yoga, planting events, lunch-hour talks on weekdays and community-led plays. The team of National Trust volunteers and staff on the viaduct are also planning to ask members of the public to become ‘Castlefield Viaduct Heritage Detectives’ and help track down the people and stories behind the Manchester landmark.