And finally it's not pie in the sky any longer, Manchester has a real greenspace in the air.

Manchester’s new sky park set to open to the public - The National Trust

Visitors will soon be able to enjoy Manchester’s new sky park just five months after work began to transform a giant 330 metre steel viaduct into an elevated park with trees, plants and flowers.

Tackling the challenge of ‘greening’ Castlefield Viaduct and to celebrate this well-known, historic landmark, construction company MC Construction, Twelve architects, and four local partners have been working with National Trust gardening specialists and apprentices to create the new park with thousands of plants, shrubs and trees planted over the past five months.

With the final finishing touches now being made, the temporary urban park will open on Saturday 30 July for the next 12 months with green spaces stretching across the elevation.

Foreground is filled with lots of green plants of many different sorts, behind are two people in yellow hi-vis vests and whoite hard hats (back to camera) working to plant trees in a large rust coloured metal container. Behind everything is a complex network of metalwork, girders to one side and arching overhead with a woven effect metal cut out behind the planters.
National Trust gardeners planting trees, planting has turned Castlefield viaduct into a green sky park © National Trust Images / Annapurna Mellor

During this time, visitors will have the opportunity to explore part of the structure and find out more about the viaduct’s heritage, the city’s long relationship with plants and trees and learn urban gardening tips. They’ll experience a variety of planting displays as they walk along the viaduct while enjoying the elevated setting above the historic cobbled streets. They’ll also see the park develop and evolve, responding to the different seasons.

The conservation charity hopes to inspire and capture visitor and community opinions to help shape the longer-term future of the Grade II listed structure.

The design of the planters gives a subtle nod to the industrial architecture of the viaduct which was built in 1892 by Heenan and Froude, the engineers who worked on Blackpool Tower. The shape of the planters mirrors the curve of the viaduct and their width is the same as the railway tracks that once transported goods across the structure to the Great Northern Warehouse.

A section of the viaduct has also been left untouched to provide a sense of how nature has reclaimed the space since the site closed in the late 1960s.

Taking inspiration from what was already starting to grow naturally, much of the viaduct includes shrubs, ferns and grasses which frame the more colourful seasonal planting. Sections of the planting mimic the diamond shape of the viaduct’s criss-cross steelwork, achieved through diagonal blossom hedges and other plants.

Andy Jasper, National Head of Gardens & Parklands at the National Trust said: “Creating a garden on an industrial heritage structure such as this is new territory for us and we have created a test bed that represents how the park in the sky might be, if the people of Manchester want it. I cannot wait to see what people say and I am intrigued to see how the plant life will take in its new surroundings. With more than 3,000 individual plants planted in completely peat free growing media over the past couple of months, we’ve been literally trialling new planting techniques as we go – working with limited growing depths and thinking about how these plants will deal with the more challenging conditions of being 17 metres in the air. Due to weight limits on the structure, we have used a specially commissioned, extra light peat-free compost in all its planting on the viaduct. The planting will take a little while to establish and will develop through the seasons under the care of the Castlefield Gardener and volunteers. "

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Posted On: 22/07/2022

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