My hobby turned into stunning 200-mile walking route for Greater Manchester from city centre to hidden gems

"We’ve got such fantastic scenery right here, you don’t need to go that far."
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Greater Manchester is full of glorious countryside - plenty of which you can explore by foot.

Some 15 years ago, one man had an idea about creating a walking trail so people could make the most of exploring the region. Now thanks, to lots of hard work from enthusiastic volunteers, Greater Manchester Ringway project leader Andrew Read and his team are well on their way to connecting 200 miles of Greater Manchester. Each of the 20 stages has in-depth details, and each has a story to tell those who choose to walk it. 

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I worked out the other day that it was about 15 years ago that I came up with the idea for the GM Ringway, which didn’t have that name back then," he tells Manchester World. “It was a hobby project to start with, I’ve been a keen hiker since my 20s and I’ve gone to the Peak District, Lake District, North Wales for walks. I’ve also done a few multi-day long distance trails and I like the rhythm of walking from place to place and exploring that way. 

“What I realised from living in Manchester, which I’ve done for around 20 years, is that there is lots of great, varied scenery around Greater Manchester within easy reach, some of which people don’t know about. It struck me that we’ve got really good potential for creating a walking trail here. 

“One particular aspect as well is that, when I do walks I often take public transport. I’ve given up my car altogether now and I think lots of people in Manchester are like that now, especially if you’re in the city.

Walkers on the GM RingwayWalkers on the GM Ringway
Walkers on the GM Ringway

“There are so many train and tram lines going in and out of the city and we’re lucky with this. I realised we could create a really varied trail with each stage starting and finishing at a train or tram stop. I carried on personally investigating it and my original idea was just to create a guidebook.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Andrew saw a bigger possibility than just a guide book, and he found that other people shared his enthusiasm for this trail idea. 

“Then about four or five years ago I ended up taking a community group out on part of the walk," he continues. "There was so much enthusiasm and it made me think ‘gosh we really have to make this official’. After this point I started putting myself in front of people and bodies such as GM Moving who promote healthy living. Everyone was really enthusiastic but unfortunately at that time it didn't fit into any funding projects. 

“Instead I was involved with Ramblers, Britain's biggest walking charity with about 10 groups across Greater Manchester and the countryside charity CPRE. With these bodies we started applying for funding and after the third go we were successful in securing £250,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund two years ago. Since then we’ve been implementing the project to make it a permanent fixture for Greater Manchester.”

The Ringway has step-by-step and pictured guidance for each of the stages through the walking app Go Jauntly. Andrew added that they were keen to make the Ringway as inclusive as possible, and having the information on an app is hoped to help with this. 

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He said: “I’m an experienced hiker I’m used to using the ordnance survey maps. There are of course lots of people who aren’t so experienced and we wanted to open it out to them really. 

One of the many stretches of canal path on the GM Ringway walk (Photo: ManchesterWorld) One of the many stretches of canal path on the GM Ringway walk (Photo: ManchesterWorld)
One of the many stretches of canal path on the GM Ringway walk (Photo: ManchesterWorld)

“One of the ways we’ve done this is by making sure the route is on an app so it has photos and descriptions of the stages. As well as that we included lots of community events so people can join in a guided walk if they want to. These are available on the GM Ringway site too. We’ve also created 10 shorter walks that sample part of the trail, one in each borough of Greater Manchester and some of these are completely step free. 

“The whole planning process has been much longer than just the two years of the funded project. Lots of it just included my friends and I walking out on the trail, this took me to some areas I’d not been before including Wigan.  

“We’ve also refined the trail by talking to local rambling groups and we’ve also liaison with big landowners and the local authorities who have been really supportive of the whole project. Some areas of the route have needed to be refined if we discover part of it is liable to flooding or if there is a right of way issue. This has gone up to the final day but we do think that, fingers crossed, we have the final route now.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The physical marking out of the route has proven to be tricky, but the project is well on its way to being fully signposted with a rough competition date outlined. 

“The way marking has been the hardest point of the process," Andrew said. "If you think about it, we’re signposting 200 miles of route. Greater Manchester isn’t that big, but the trail is very winding and it does explore lots of interesting scenery and heritage features. To get this way marked is a complicated process, but we have a fantastic team of volunteers that have been helping to mark out the route and we’re well over halfway through the route. We’re confident the rest of the route will be completed within the next three months. 

“It’s nicer to walk on a trail when the weather is dry, but what I will say is that the walks are available to walk now and the maps are available through the app. There’s nothing to stop people from taking part in the trail now and we’ve already had lots of walkers use the trail."

Greater Manchestr Ringway (Photo:Martin Pickup Photography for GM Ringway)Greater Manchestr Ringway (Photo:Martin Pickup Photography for GM Ringway)
Greater Manchestr Ringway (Photo:Martin Pickup Photography for GM Ringway)

The region has an array of stunning places to visit without the need for a car, and even an experienced rambler like Andrew has had his eyes opened to more hidden gems over the course of the project.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It’s something that is personal for me," he said. "It is good to be out in nature and exploring heritage points. So much of the time in Greater Manchester there is a lot of traffic around and it feels like there aren’t many green spaces. Through planning this project, I’ve found that there are lots of lovely places you can visit. 

“The aim of this is to show people that locally you can get to these places by public transport and that there are so many interesting and beautiful places you can visit in Greater Manchester on foot. 

“For personal well-being, it really does people good to be out there. It’s proven to have benefits for us both in mental and physical health. Even experienced walkers sometimes thing you need to travel further afield from Greater Manchester to places like North Wales but we’ve got such fantastic scenery right here, you don’t need to go that far and you can fit in one of these walks at the weekend.”

To find out more about each stage and to plan your walk, visit the Ringway website. The project is also on the lookout for long-term funding and is always in need of more volunteers - including 'stage guardians'.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.