Living in such a big city, it’s natural to want to escape and spend a while in nature. And although the picturesque Peak District is just an hour away, you needn’t leave the city to immerse yourself in the countryside. Bradley Sansom rounds up some of Manchester’s best green spaces…
Flowing through the city centre is the River Irwell, an often overlooked waterway that links some of Greater Manchester’s greenest hidden gems. Follow the riverbanks up from Salford’s Peel Park, the UK’s first publicly funded park, through to Kersal Wetlands, where a former racecourse has been converted into a huge nature reserve. As well as providing a home for birds and roe deer, the fields protect the city from flooding by storing stormwater. For a great arty day out, follow the Irwell Sculpture Trail up through the peaceful Drinkwater Park and into the Lancashire countryside.
Opened in September 2022 as the city centre’s first new park in a century, Mayfield is a fantastic place to relax and take some time out just around the corner from Piccadilly station. As part of the development, a disused former railway depot has been transformed and the old River Medlock has been opened back up into a lush landscaped valley. It’s perfect for a break from the hustle and bustle while enjoying everything the city centre has to offer.
Although the Mersey is better known for running through Liverpool, in fact the river starts here in Manchester, and its banks are an ideal place to walk and surround yourself with nature. Flowing through Chorlton, Didsbury, and Stockport, it’s easily accessed by public transport yet makes the city feel miles away. Alongside the river, the paths give access to some great green spaces such as Kenworthy Woods, Sale Ees, and the Trafford Watersports Centre at Sale Water Park, which is brilliant for kayaking and wild swimming. The banks also form part of the Trans Pennine Trail, a coast-to-coast route linking some of the most scenic parts of the north.
Fletcher Moss Botanical Gardens
Down in Didsbury, on the banks of the Mersey sits a haven for wildlife at Fletcher Moss. For over a century, the tranquillity of the botanical gardens has been an inspiration to many, including the founder of the RSPB, Emily Williamson. Their inaugural meeting was held in the park in 1899, campaigning to protect birds from harm. The gardens’ sheltered microclimate means non-native plants have thrived there, and the park is also home to a flock of parakeets, with their bright green plumage and unmistakable chirping.
On the outskirts of the city is Heaton Park, the biggest municipal park in Europe. Known for holding summer concerts as well as the Parklife music festival, it’s also home to a wide range of activities, including everything from orienteering to rowing. Within its 600 acres, you’ll find a garden centre, golf course, Manchester’s beekeeping visitor centre, and a farmyard with a herd of highland cattle. There’s a tramway museum, with vintage tram rides running on weekends, or you could climb to the top of the hill and look out over Manchester’s impressive skyline.