Castlefield Viaduct is one of the projects we are particularly proud of in Manchester, transforming a now disused, but essential, component of the industrial revolution in the heart of Castlefield into a beautiful, usable space for communities and local people. Visitors will once again be able to enjoy Manchester’s sky park, with the gates of Castlefield Viaduct reopening to the public on Saturday 10 February, after being closed for winter.
The elevated park has been closed since early January to allow time for a new community workshop space to be added to the 330-metre steel viaduct.
The new workshop space, created in partnership with viaduct partners Sow the City, will now give members of the public the opportunity to grow their green interests further and benefit more from nature. ‘Green workshops’, craft sessions and DIY activities will be hosted in the space to pass on horticultural skills like seed sowing and propagation.
The National Trust opened the Castlefield Viaduct in July 2022 as a pilot project to gauge public opinion on the future of the Manchester landmark, with every reopening since being extremely popular. Since then, over 85,000 people have benefited from the project either by making a visit to the viaduct or by taking part in community activities in and around the city.
The project is part of the National Trust’s Urban Places work to increase access for all to nature, history and beauty in, around and near urban areas.
Nancy Scheerhout, National Trust Head Gardener for Castlefield Viaduct, said: “”We’re delighted to have worked with our partners, Sow the City, to bring this new workshop space to the viaduct. It will provide us and our community partners with a dedicated area to get more people involved in, and benefitting from, green activities. We’ve made the space as sociable and hands-on as possible, and we have plans to add interactive compost that people can see and hear!
“As a conservation charity dedicated to connecting more people with nature, we know the importance of increasing simple and everyday interactions with nature to enrich lives. Offering ‘green workshops’ and activities in the space, alongside our partners and friends, we can encourage small space growing in the city. It’s a great opportunity to grow people’s confidence and skills in creating their own greenspace, improving the environment, their wellbeing, and their skillset in the process.”
The workshop space features a workbench that can be modified for wheelchair users, mini greenhouses to support growing on the viaduct, peat-free soil for workshop participants, and water and power. Depending on the activity, up to ten people can use the area. The team on the viaduct are inviting local groups and communities to get in touch at email@example.com to enquire about using the space.
Jon Ross, Chief Executive of Sow the City, says: “We’re passionate about enabling more people to get involved with growing, engaging with urban nature and learning new skills and this space will support the communities we work with to do just that. This is the second space on the viaduct we’ve been involved with designing and installing, and we can’t wait to see people using the space and have a go
Sow the City have plans to use the workshop space for Social Prescribing workshops to support mental health and wellbeing. Other partners like Back on Track, Manchester City Council’s climate officers, Castlefield Clean and Green, Manchester Action on Street Health (MASH), and homelessness charity Embassy Village, are also making plans to use the area.
The new workshop space adds to the existing garden areas on the viaduct, including four ‘partner plots’ by Hulme Community Garden Centre, City of Trees, Castlefield Forum and Sow the City. The gardens have been managed and developed to encourage biodiversity and provide year-round interest and connection to the seasons in 2024, and new floral highlights for this year include unusual varieties of narcissus, camassias, fritillarias and anenomes.
In anticipation of the National Trust’s annual Festival of Blossom, the team are also expecting a striking display from native blackthorn, rowan and hawthorne, as well as Fuji Cherries. The city-wide ‘Bloomtown’ blossom trail, launched in spring 2023, will be making a comeback as well, showing off some of the best places to see blossom in Manchester, Salford and Trafford.
The National Trust is seeking partners to support the funding of the viaduct’s summer 2024 events and activities for the local community, alongside plans to extend the viaduct long-term to Salford, a model for which can been seen up on the viaduct in the covered event space.
Entry onto the structure will remain free on the reopening of Castlefield Viaduct this weekend. Members of the public can visit, without booking, every afternoon from 12.30pm and all day on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.
To find out more about the history of the viaduct and this temporary project from the National Trust, visitors can book onto a guided talk in advance on the website. Bookable guided talks take place on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays between 10.30am and 12 midday.
You can find Castlefield Viaduct at Catalan Square, Duke St, Manchester M3 4PU.