We sometimes forget what’s on our doorstep and what lovely landscapes surround the city, luckily a new, long-distance walking trail looping around Greater Manchester has been given the go-ahead, allowing us to explore the nearby countryside easily. The countryside charity, CPRE, together with Britain’s walking charity, The Ramblers, have been awarded a £250,000 grant by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to establish the ‘GM Ringway’ – the new long-distance walking trail for Greater Manchester.
Designed around existing footpaths, parks and open-access land, the GM Ringway will connect Greater Manchester’s 2.8 million residents with the natural and cultural heritage on their doorstep. Green in every way, all 20 stages of the 300-km (186-mile) route are designed to be accessed by public transport.
The trail takes in a wide variety of landscapes within the city-region’s countryside and other green spaces, as well as giving communities access to heritage sites across all ten Greater Manchester boroughs. The route passes more than 40 Grade I and II*-listed buildings, including Bramall Hall in Stockport and Haigh Hall in Wigan; 13 accredited museums, such as the Imperial War Museum in Trafford, and 14 scheduled ancient monuments including Blackstone Edge Roman Road in Rochdale. The trail also guides walkers through 57 conservation areas, nine sites of special scientific interest, 18 local nature reserves and parts of the Peak District National Park.
The anti-clockwise route naturally falls into four broad sections, each made up of five one-day stages. These can be described as:
- The Southern Start-Up, which uses waterways and green spaces to trace an almost traffic-free route from Manchester city centre to the edge of the Peak District.
- The Exhilarating East, which explores the lovely line of hills that rise above Stockport, Tameside and Oldham.
- The Noble North, in which five fairly challenging stages connect the dramatic peaks and valleys of the South and West Pennines within Rochdale, Bury and Bolton.
- The Western Wind-Down, which brings the GM Ringway to a gentle finish via the wetlands, mosslands, farmland and canals of Wigan, Trafford, and Salford.
There are also plans to add western, northern and eastern link routes from the city centre to the circular route, providing even more Greater Manchester residents with direct access to the walking trail network.
The National Lottery Heritage Fund grant will enable signposting and an improved app and website to be established so that a wide range of people, including less experienced walkers, can enjoy the trail. It will also support the organisation of community events across all ten boroughs of Greater Manchester. Once the trail is fully established, it’s estimated that at least 30,000 people will walk part of the route every year.
A GM Ringway ‘trail passport’ will also be developed which, it is hoped, will not only allow walkers to mark their progress on the route but also offer discounts to visitor attractions and pubs, cafés and hotels along the way. A network of at least 200 volunteer ‘footpath guardians’ will be recruited and trained to help signpost the route, get involved in community events, and manage the trail long-term.
For more information and news on the GM Ringway, including route maps, head to the website here.