WaterAid Garden set to flourish in new home at the Manchester ‘sky park’ after winning Gold at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

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An artist impression of The WaterAid Garden on the Castlefield Viaduct in Manchester | © Tom Massey Studio

WaterAid is delighted to announce the relocation of its striking Gold medal-winning garden from this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show to Castlefield Viaduct in Manchester, where it will inspire even more people to think about sustainable water management.

The WaterAid Garden will stand at the entrance of the Victorian-era Grade ll listed steel viaduct in the heart of Manchester, which was opened as a sky park by the National Trust in 2022, providing vital green space and helping preserve part of the city’s industrial heritage. 

The charity’s garden, which celebrates water as our most precious resource, was a collaboration between architect Je Ahn and landscape designer Tom Massey, and both the garden and its relocation were made possible thanks to support from the grant-making charity Project Giving Back. 

The centrepiece of the thought-provoking design is a planted rainwater harvesting pavilion, which filters and stores rainfall for irrigation, while also slowing the flow of heavy downpours and providing shade. The structure was inspired by WaterAid’s work alongside communities around the world to develop relevant and sustainable clean water solutions and build resilience to climate change. Almost one in ten people globally do not have clean water close to home, and climate change is making the situation worse, as a staggering 90% of all natural disasters are water-related.

Tim Wainwright, WaterAid Chief Executive, said: 

We are delighted to partner with the National Trust for the relocation of The WaterAid Garden to the iconic Castlefield Viaduct in Manchester. It’s an exciting move to a great community space, which will enable more people to visit the garden and be inspired to use water sustainably and learn about the crucial role of rainwater. 

The climate crisis is a water crisis, with more frequent and extreme floods polluting water sources and droughts drying up springs. At WaterAid, we are working alongside communities on the frontline of the climate crisis globally to ensure a reliable supply of life-changing clean water. It is this work that has inspired our garden, and its new location will serve as a living example of how innovative water management can create beautiful, functional green spaces here in the UK, as well as sharing the powerful message that clean water changes lives.”

The National Trust envisions Castlefield Viaduct as a permanent, free park and community meeting place, a vibrant space where people and nature coexist. It celebrates the viaduct’s historical significance, while embracing innovative, sustainable solutions.

The conservation charity recently announced its ‘phase 2’ ambition to extend the sky park to the full length of the 330-metre-long viaduct, subject to planning approval, as well as its longer term ‘vision’ for the site. While a large proportion of the funding for phase 2 has been provisionally secured, the Trust is keen to hear from anyone who wishes to lend their support and turn the plans into a reality for Manchester.

National Trust Director of Gardens & Parklands, Andy Jasper, said: 

Making Castlefield Viaduct the new home of The WaterAid Garden will mark a huge milestone in our efforts to create a vibrant urban horticultural oasis in the heart of Manchester. It will also help us weave sustainable, environmental solutions into the day-to-day running of this beautiful historic space. Rainwater harvesting is one of those important solutions and has been tested using water-butts on the deck during the project’s first phase. WaterAid’s stunning rainwater harvesting pavilion and climate resilient planting are the perfect next step as we move into the new phase of our ‘sky park’.

The WaterAid Garden, together with the plans we recently announced for phase 2 of the viaduct, mean the future of Castlefield Viaduct is looking very bright indeed. We are so grateful to Project Giving Back, WaterAid and Tom Massey for this fantastic addition to the already very popular Castlefield Viaduct. It’s brilliant that the garden can continue to inspire people to think about climate resilient gardening. We couldn’t be prouder to be able to bring this multi award winning scheme to Manchester.

The relocation of The WaterAid Garden to Castlefield Viaduct is intended to begin in October this year, with construction commencing in February 2025 and welcoming visitors to the newly enhanced viaduct in summer 2025.

Elisa Davies from Project Giving Back, said:

We are delighted that The WaterAid Garden is being relocated to the iconic Castlefield Viaduct in the heart of Manchester where it will join a growing family of legacy gardens for good causes supported by Project Giving Back across the UK. As a proud Mancunian myself, and not unaccustomed to rainfall here in the North West, it will provide an incredible source of inspiration and joy for thousands of visitors each year, helping us all to become more water-wise and efficient as the effects of climate change begin to bite.

Designer Tom Massey said:

I’m really excited about the relocation of The WaterAid Garden to Castlefield Viaduct as a natural new home – providing a green haven that celebrates water as our most precious resource while showcasing the power of harnessing rainwater. 

The garden also features a colourful array of plant species designed to deal with varying amounts of rainfall. I hope it will make people think about sustainability and biodiversity in their own gardens, how they use water, and the types of plants that are resilient in the face of climate change.” 

Je Ahn, architect with Studio Weave, said:

By moving The WaterAid Garden to the Castlefield Viaduct we aim to blend sustainable, innovative design with historic architecture. The rainwater harvesting pavilion will create a dramatic entrance to this historic site. In the context of increasingly extreme weather, it conveys a powerful message about the value of rainwater, while practically helping to conserve the resource – this is an example of how architecture can provide solutions to our biggest challenges, like climate change. I am proud to be part of this transformative project.

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