Castlefield Community Supports National Trust Plans for an Ambitious Viaduct Park
Work is now underway in Castlefield to rejuvenate the magnificent Castlefield Viaduct. Currently owned by National Highways Historical Railway Estate and redundant since 1969 this former relic of the Industrial Revolution now has a real future.
Supporting the National Trust as the lead community partner, Castlefield Forum - the local neighbourhood organisation - are thrilled to be part of the team behind the pilot scheme.
Due to open in July, the National Trust will turn the imposing 330 metre viaduct built in 1892 into a temporary park that celebrates the industrial heritage of Castlefield.
The pilot will create a green space stretching halfway along the viaduct. Trees, flowers and shrubs will be planted, and free tours offered.
Made possible thanks to support from Manchester City Council, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Transport for Greater Manchester, the local community, businesses and supporters the pilot will be open for 12 months.
Visitors will have the opportunity to find out more about the viaduct’s heritage and be able to learn some urban gardening tips. A section of the viaduct will be left untouched to show how nature has reclaimed the space since the site closed in 1969. New features will include installations, a community events space and native planting.
For many years people in the Castlefield community have stared up longingly at the viaduct to wonder “what if”? Suddenly, with National Trust taking the lead, the structure can evolve from being a redundant relic in ‘managed decline’ to become an asset of true community value. There is a long journey ahead to realise the full and final scheme; the pilot shows clear intent to help make sure it’s a case of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ the final scheme happens.
In a former industrial city with tight street patterns and relatively small amounts of city centre green space, the viaduct will provide a welcome green lung which will help bridge the two parts of Castlefield currently severed by Mancunian Way. Neighbours in Hulme, Cornbrook, Pomona Wharf and Ordsall are seeing huge re-population following decades of industrial decline. Block after block of new apartments means more people than ever will need places in which to relax. The pandemic and multiple lockdowns have taught us more than ever the importance of green space and unwinding.
The pilot will allow visitors along roughly half of the derelict structure and will include six plots developed with partner organisations including the Forum.
As custodians of the neighbourhood the Castlefield Forum is keen that the viaduct is not just somewhere to visit but has real purpose, and ultimately that the final scheme offers a through route to other parts of Manchester, Trafford and Salford via a green corridor in the sky.
Calum McGowan, Chair of Castlefield Forum, says: “The mighty viaduct has always been top of our wish list but bottom of our to-do list. Suddenly - thanks to the National Trust - there’s a very real chance that this magnificent structure will have a new and permanent purpose. The pilot will be a wonderful opportunity for people to come and experience the space and we hope to inspire some of them to join in and support the full and permanent scheme. Thousands of people live within a short walk of the viaduct and we are thrilled that the gates will open this summer.”
Vice Chair, Lou Pullan adds: “Through our established relationship with the National Trust we have been offered a community plot up on the viaduct and alongside other partners are providing small moments of beauty and interest as part of the pilot experience. We hope that the public fall in love with the viaduct as much as we have, and give us plenty of ideas
and feedback for what the full and final scheme should achieve.”
The Forum and National Trust see this as a scheme that will transform not just a neighbourhood but the lives of the 50,000 people who live within a 20-minute walk of the viaduct.
Crucially, both the pilot and full scheme are not being billed as a visitor attraction but as a true community asset which will be free, forever for everyone.
The Pilot Visitor Experience
The pilot will allow managed groups of visitors to experience the viaduct for themselves. Its aim is to help people understand how important the structure is and can be, to gather opinions for the permanent scheme, and to help drive funding goals.
Costing £1.8 million, the pilot has been made possible thanks to funding from People’s Postcode Lottery and public donations which will cover two-thirds of the build costs.
The pilot will include planted areas which will include sensory and heritage planting as well as planting for pollinators and information on green gardening techniques. There will also be a covered event space as well as several partner plots which include the following organisations:
Urban Wilderness will be working with Manchester based charity, 42nd Street, supporting young people who have suffered mental health challenges.
The Science and Industry Museum is planning a garden with plants, trees and flowers; interpreting the industrial heritage seen from the viaduct; and themed 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 used throughout the Industrial Revolution, as well as trees significant in Manchester today, and those that will play a role in the city’s response to climate change.
Castlefield Forum will be using their space to tell visitors all about the very ‘essence of Castlefield’ set within the context of a modern sculptural pocket garden.
When the pilot opens, 100 people a day will be able to visit. Entry will be free, with a booking system to manage numbers. As part of the experience, visitors will be able to join a guided walk on the viaduct.
The National Trust will also need to raise funds to support the future of Castlefield Viaduct. To find out more about ways to support the project, you can contact National Trust here
To find out more about the project, visit: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/castlefield-viaduct
To find out more about Castlefield Forum and to get involved, contact us here
Images and video courtesy of The National Trust and Twelve Architects and Masterplanners
Updated March 2022