Jonathan Schofield loves this idea but suggests you don't enjoy the moors as he did
Moors are my lungs. The wide-open spaces, the solace of weather, the race of the clouds is a specific species of freedom. My moors are the Greater Manchester borders. They are Blackstone Edge, Brown Wardle, Rooley Moor, Greenbooth, those north eastern fringes. Living in central Manchester does not mean I forget them, living in central Manchester makes me want to get back to them.
The best way to learn about any landscape, rural or urban, is through the soles of your feet
Growing up in Shawclough, Rochdale, the moors were an ever present, the promise and threat of adventure, whispering their challenge: old quarries to climb, old pits to mine, reservoirs to plunge into, the stony fringes of the River Spodden to leap across, the disused viaduct in Healey Dell a place to walk along - on the wrong side, edging on my toes on the string course 100ft above a deathly drop.
Ha. This is not recommended but it is what we did. The moors were the ultimate adventure playground.
People might have more incentive to feel what I feel now, although I understand they may not want to be as foolhardy.
The incentive comes in the form of a new long-distance trail around Greater Manchester spanning 190 miles of the traditional counties of Lancashire, Cheshire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire. A £250,000 National Lottery grant has helped oil the wheels of what will be called GM Ringway.
Here is what the press release says.
“The countryside charity, CPRE, together with The Ramblers, Britain’s walking charity, 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 2.9 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. It also gives 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 press release continues: “The 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.”
The idea is for two hundred volunteer "footpath guardians to help signpost the route, get involved in community events, and manage the trail long-term." This is a good as it means the maintenance of the trail will come from the heart and provide motivation and focus for numerous community groups.
For me it is an incentive for a moorland lover to go lowlanding. I have scant knowledge of the Lancashire plain on the Wigan side of Greater Manchester so I look forward to the pleasures of Pennington Flash and Haigh Hall.
The trail doesn’t just follow the borders of Greater Manchester but swoops into the city centre from the south. This is clever as the centre of Manchester is a real joy, a different type of landscape. Overall the route is excellently chosen, although given the name of the trail is GM Ringway it's a little curious that it doesn't pass Ringway, the original name for Manchester Airport.
Andrew Read, GM Ringway Project Lead, says: “Our core aim is to connect even more people with our nature and heritage. We believe as people explore Greater Manchester’s rich landscapes and history it will increase their appreciation of and pride in their local area.”
The best way to learn about any landscape, rural or urban, is through the soles of your feet. If the area you walk is part of your area then that breeds a sense of identity, it becomes enriching. The message from this initiative is treat Greater Manchester as your adventure playground - if not quite in the way I did as a kid.
For more information and news on the GM Ringway, including route maps, visit GMRingway.org If you want to get walking this weekend Jonathan Schofield is offering tours of Chorlton and Heaton Hall. The main image on this page is of Saddleworth and was provided by GM Ringway.
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