The idyllic Manchester walk on leafy viaduct path that takes you through an oasis hidden above the city
The National Trust-run spot is a repurposed use of a piece of Manchester’s history- and one which if you pass on the tram you might not even spot.
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Manchester’s vast network of canals is a reminder of days gone by when the city and wider region were part of an industrial powerhouse. Viaducts played a key role in the transportation of materials and products, and these acted as the main arteries of the city’s beating heart.
The age of heavy industry has been consigned to the history books now, but what remains is key to not forgetting the region's proud past. One of these viaducts has been repurposed into something which is far flung from its original use.
Castlefield Viaduct is a symbol of Victorian engineering, and it was used to carry the heavy railway traffic out of Manchester Central and surrounding warehouses for over 70 years. From 1969, it was left unused but in 2023, it is well on its way to becoming a ‘garden in the sky’ above one of the oldest areas of Manchester.
The Grade II listed structure is brutal in architectural nature, it was built for a necessary purpose rather than needing to look good. But its transformation into a peaceful community garden walk creates a stunning contrast of brutal human architecture and the tranquillity of nature.
The entrance to the walk along the viaduct can be reached by using stairs or the lift at Deansgate-Castlefield Metrolink stop. The close proximity of the park to one of the busiest tram stops in the city does create a startling contrast, and the iconic yellow trams rumbling past the path on another bridge are regular reminders that you’re in a big city.
The walk is lined with plants and shrubbery, mostly blocking off the concrete jungle of the city and giving an impression of solitude. When I made the walk, it was a quiet mid-afternoon stroll and I felt as though I was above and away from Manchester going about its business.
The garden is funded and supported by many different groups from around Manchester. This helps to add to the community aspect of it, and adds to the idea that it should be enjoyed by everyone.
A nice feature of the garden is a large mirrored wall, which reads 'Reflect on your visit' and is a perfect chance to take a photo. The benches dotted along the path also allow you to take in the scenery and carry on your escape from the busy streets.
A building at the far end of the walk is used for educational purposes, and on the other side is the rest of the viaduct which has remained untouched since the late 1960s. It gives a glimpse into what the structure looked like before it was conceived as a community spot, and shows the potential of what it could be as a full-time sky garden.
After walking back towards the tram stop and down the stair onto the streets, it feels as though you never left. Yet the opportunity to experience the peaceful nature of the garden away from the busy nature of a vibrant city is one which is recommended by us to be taken.
The National Trust garden at present is temporary, but the group is using ideas and feedback from visitors to make it a permanent feature of the Manchester skyline. To find out more about how you can help, visit the National Trust website.