A long-distance walking footpath covering 186 miles of Greater Manchester scenery and landmarks has been given the green light.
The GM Ringway will snake its way through all 10 boroughs of the city-region along a meandering circular route celebrating the area’s natural and cultural heritage, The trail will make its way through green landscapes and visit dozens of sites of historic interest along the way.
It is hoped that the long-distance route will help to connect Greater Manchester’s 2.8m residents with the wealth of culture and heritage on their doorsteps as well as help them appreciate the city-region’s natural landscapes and wildlife habitats.
And now, thanks to a £250,000 grant from The National Lottery, the idea has taken another massive step closer to becoming a reality.
What is the GM Ringway, where will it go and how will it work?
The GM Ringway is a planned long-distance walking footpath that traces a circular path around the city-region and covers 186 miles, or 300km. It is going to be designed around existing footpaths, parks and open-access land and is being created by a partnership of the countryside charity, the CPRE and The Ramblers.
The route will be divided into 20 stages and the team behind it want the beginning and end of each to be accessible by public transport to make the footpath as accessible as possible.
The GM Ringway will pass more than 40 Grade I and II*-listed buildings across Greater Manchester, including Bramall Hall in Stockport and Haigh Hall in Wigan. There will also be 13 accredited museums, such as the Imperial War Museum North in Trafford, along the way, as well as 14 scheduled ancient monuments including Blackstone Edge Roman Road in Rochdale.
There are also plenty of beautiful green landscapes and sections of open countryside on the route too, as the trail guides walkers through 57 conservation areas, nine sites of special scientific interest (SSSI), 18 local nature reserves and parts of the Peak District National Park.
The £250,000 Heritage Fund grant from National Lottery players which the CPRE and The Ramblers have been awarded will be spent on signposting and setting up an improved app and website 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 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester. It is hoped that once the trail is fully established at least 30,000 people will walk part of the route every year.
Other ideas being developed at the moment include a GM Ringway trail passport which would allow walkers to mark their progress on the route while also offering discounts at 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 spreading the word about the benefits of walking, nature and heritage to residents, and manage the trail long-term.
What has been said about the GM Ringway?
Debbie McConnell, chair of CPRE Lancashire, Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester, said: “The GM Ringway project is truly innovative and could act as a blueprint for other city-regions. Here in the north west, we’re fortunate to have a wealth of heritage and natural beauty on our doorstep and we want more people to get out and discover it.
“We’ve already had an enthusiastic response from residents, community groups and official bodies. This inspiring initiative will get a wider range of people involved in heritage, give the local economy a boost, and promote personal wellbeing. And with its intrinsic focus on active travel and public transport, the route should be easy for local residents to access, as well as being positive for the environment.”
Margaret Manning, chair of Greater Manchester and High Peak Area Ramblers said: “The grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund is just fantastic as it will enable us to make the GM Ringway project a reality, which is so exciting. The GM Ringway will open up opportunities to collaborate with local community groups, charities and partners in the health, heritage and environmental sectors on trail-related events and activities.
“We also hope heritage sites and hospitality businesses will benefit as visitors discover them on foot. The grant will allow us to establish this wonderful trail as a long-term asset for the region.”
Andrew Read, GM Ringway project lead, said: “Our core aim is to connect even more people with our local nature and heritage. We know there are proven health benefits that come from moving more and from spending time in nature.
“We’re particularly keen to enable those currently under-represented in the walking community to enjoy Greater Manchester’s incredible landscapes and heritage sites, especially those living in deprived areas, young people, those with disabilities or long-term health conditions, and different ethnic and faith groups. We believe that, as people explore Greater Manchester’s rich landscapes and history, it will increase their appreciation of and pride in their local area.”