Whether you’re looking for somewhere to clear your mind during a break from the conference programme, or somewhere to rest your weary feet after a busy few days in Manchester, there are lots of green spaces to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy some quiet reflection.
Here are some suggestions for green spaces dotted around the city centre.
Commemorating the memories of those we’ve lost with its Transgender Remembrance Memorial and Gardens, The Beacon of Hope light sculpture incorporating The Tree of Life, and the bronze, sat-on-bench Alan Turing statue, Sackville Gardens is a spot that is as much about taking time to contemplate, as it is about taking time out for yourself.
Accompanied by the Rochdale Canal waters that run alongside the bustling Canal Street, its city centre location is a great stop-off point for those visitors wanting to pay respects in addition to appreciating some of Manchester’s finest architecture, including the Godlee Observatory-topped Sackville Building, before heading back on their way.
A space first made reference to in 1066, and once cultivated to provide food to its 15th century St Mary’s collegiate church, this patch of land has seen little change since the demolishment of its Parsonage House in 1897. A small yet perfectly cherish-able plot, Parsonage Gardens is surrounded by streets that bear nod-to names of the then-Church’s ownership of the land, and nowadays is framed by benches flocked-to by those escaping the busy-ness of neighbouring Deansgate.
Once the site of St. John’s Church and Graveyard (demolished, buried over, and topped with a garden and now-defunct children’s playground in the 30’s), St. John’s Gardens is now home to the award-winning crab-apple orchard ‘A Stitch In Time Saves Nine’, of whose purpose to provide concrete-jungle relief has proved most successful in its grown-into presence.
With something of a tropical oasis about its offering, the gardens house clumps of whisk-you-away palm trees sat side-by-side with blooms of a more traditional leaning, as well as Britain’s most endangered native tree, The Black (or, Manchester) Poplar, its location in the outer-stretches of Castlefield watched over by Manchester’s Beetham Tower, crafting a most striking contrast between urban and natural life.
In the heart of the Oxford Road Corridor, you’ll find All Saints Park, a luscious green space with plenty of benches and shaded spots where you can enjoy the greenery. This characterful and lively square is surrounded on three sides by Manchester Metropolitan University, whose students form a pretty dense carpet on sunny days before exams.
Closely located to a host of shops and cafes, there’s no reason you can’t languish in the park for a while, but it is also ideal for a moment of calm before carrying on with your day.
Underneath Manchester’s All Saints Park is a hidden history – an estimated 16,000 bodies. For this was the site of a former Victorian Cemetery, set up to cater for the parishioners of All Saints – a church and area just off Oxford Road. Find out more about the history of All Saints burial ground.
Opened in 1890, Whitworth Park boasts some 18 acres of swept-through-with-trees green space (including the steel ‘ghost tree’ sculpted by Anya Gallaccio, created in ode from an architectural scan of a London Plane tree that was removed after its death from natural causes), dotted with pathways lined with wildflowers, and gardens maintained in encouragement of bio-diversity, to raise awareness of wildlife, and nature, and the importance of such spaces, alongside active promotion of pollinators (including a rooftop apiary!). Should you fancy a side of culture, or slice of cake, after all that fresh air, Whitworth Gallery is nestled into the landscape, and has a café that affords great views of the park.
Manchester has a new green heart in Mayfield. Spanning 6.5-acres, Mayfield Park’s sequence of spaces will invite you on a journey of discovery, from informal, through to more natural and wild: an urban square with a buzz of activities; open greens for lawn sport and informal play; adventure play areas; floodable meadows and biodiverse ecological areas beside the River Medlock; quieter spaces for escape and contemplation. Sheltered structures and areas will make sure it’s a park for all weathers – and seasons.
Awarded a National Lottery Heritage grant in 1999 in aid of regenerating the then-neglected site, St Michael’s Flags and Angel Meadow Park (so named for the flagstones that were laid over Meadows’ Victorian burial ground) sits northeast of the centre, in the shadow of One Angel Square.
An almost blink-and-you’ll-miss-it spot that gifts visitors’ low-walled-off space within which to picnic, sunbathe, or dog walk to your (shaded-by-trees) heart’s content, it’s a pretty addition to the Quarter’s built-up area, and a great stop-off for history buffs wanting to have a nose at the site of a once-was slum area dubbed by Friedrich Engels as ‘hell on earth’!