Video: how a disused bridge in Manchester became a thriving ‘sky park’

Following the likes of New York and Paris, Manchester has become the latest city to turn old railway infrastructure into a ‘sky park’

A railway viaduct that once brought coal into Manchester has been reborn as an urban ‘sky park’ inspired by New York’s feted High Line. 

Unused since 1969, Castlefield viaduct’s Victorian grandeur had faded over time. Tracks that were once used for coal transport had become overgrown with weeds. As a result, Manchester’s demand for more green space grew louder. 

These calls have been answered by the opening of Castlefield Viaduct Sky Park. It’s part of the National Trust’s Urban Places project, which aims to increase access to nature.

The viaduct has been transformed with hundreds of trees and shrubs. Manchester residents will have the opportunity to comment on the park over the next 12 months and help shape its long-term vision.  

Duncan Laird, head of urban places at the National Trust, said: “As the trees and plants start to bed in and grow it will slowly begin to match the vision for this space. We will be keenly listening to visitor feedback that we will use to shape the ongoing evolution of the viaduct – we’re at the start of the journey, not the end.”

The park’s design pays homage to the Victorian industrial architecture of the viaduct, built in 1892 by Heenan, Froude, who were engineers who worked on Blackpool Tower. The planters are shaped like the bridge’s curve and have the same width as the railway tracks that once carried goods.

Hilary McGrady, director-general of the National Trust, said: “What I love about this space is that it encapsulates so much of what the trust’s work is about: opening up our shared heritage for everyone to enjoy, creating beautiful spaces and bringing people closer to nature. It’s about creating something new for the community, while also protecting an iconic piece of industrial history.”

Similar plans are in the works in London. James Corner (the designer of the New York High Line) has been brought in by Camden to reimagine an abandoned railway. The council received the plans in May. 

The Manhattan muse inspired the design of the Camden HighlineThree quarters of a mile would be run along abandoned viaducts linking Kings Cross and Camden.

“This innovative project has the potential to become a real asset for Camden, and is a great example of a local community taking an idea and garnering support in order to make it a reality,” said Sadiq Khan, mayor of London.

Main image: National Trust

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