GM Ringway: Introduction

Published 16 May 2021

Who doesn’t ❤️ MCR?

How well do you know where you live? Actually know it? All the exciting and interesting places? The little nooks and crannies that make up your local area?

As I type, I’ve lived in a town ten miles south east of Manchester City Centre for a little over five years. It’s on the edge of the county of Greater Manchester, and since moving here I’ve tried to explore the area as much as I can. I’ve done day walks along local rivers and canals. Visited local museums and attractions. Admired parks and gardens. Stood on hills and surveyed all I could see.

But I didn’t seem to be exploring THAT far from my house. Much of what I was exploring was in the borough I lived in, or the neighbouring one where my parents and in-laws resided. Or I was heading to areas I knew reasonably well. Areas like the north of the Peak District National Park, a short train ride from where I live.

I felt the need to get out and explore more. I knew that the Manchester area had much to see, but I wasn’t getting out to find it.

Hodge Lane Dye Vats in Broadbottom
Hodge Lane Dye Vats in Broadbottom

It wasn’t always thus. As a teenager, I was keen on exploration. The key to this was the local bus network. It was cheap and affordable, and would take me all over the place. In the 1980s and 1990s, Greater Manchester had a flat rate concessionary fare scheme. In the early 90s, a journey cost about 30p, a sum easily affordable using the receipts of my pocket money and the £7 a week I made from my paper round.

And there were ways to make things even cheaper too with a thing called a “ClipperCard”. Buy one and you would have a ticket that would allow you to make ten journeys. The price worked out cheaper than making ten individual journeys. The ClipperCard had ten squares on it, one per journey.

When you made a journey one of the squares would be “clipped off”. When no squares remained, you got a new one. Squares got clipped off either with a special machine, or by the driver with a handheld device. But a good chunk of the time the drivers couldn’t be bothered so often you travelled for for free. For the penny conscious teen who wanted to get somewhere, it was wonderful.

As such, Saturdays would often see me sitting on a bus, ClipperCard in pocket, exploring wherever the bus network would take me. Often I would turn up at the local bus station, stare at the list of destinations and decide where to go there and then. True this would often involve me simply wandering round some strange town centre. But journeying there, I was going round a lot of Greater Manchester.

It was beginning to occur to me that my fourteen year old self was doing things better than my adult self. I needed to get out and explore more of my surroundings.

But how?

And then I came across the GM Ringway.

Walking in the woods on the east side of Werneth Low
Walking in the woods on the east side of Werneth Low

The notion of a circular walking route round an area is not a new one. London has two, both created in the 1990s. The Capital Ring offers an inner London trail. The London Outer Orbital Path (or LOOP) is a bit like the walking equivalent of the M25.

Lots of counties have their own walks, round their borders. There’s the Sussex Border Path, a 222km walk that stays close to (funnily enough) the border of the county of Sussex. There’s smaller ones too. Walks round boroughs like the 52km Tameside Trail that goes round the borough next to the one I live in.

The GM Ringway was an attempt to create one such a walk for Greater Manchester. A trail that would go round the county’s more rural areas, following its boundaries. From the minute I learned about it, I was intrigued. With each section starting and ending at a source of public transport, it would be easy to follow. So I resolved to do it.

The route looked intriguing. Country parks, rivers, old railway lines. One section went through the town I lived in using some paths I’d never been down. With 20 stages, covering 300km, it would keep me busy. Pencilling in a section a month, or perhaps every other month, I knew it would take me a while. But that was fine.

So on a rather wet and dreary Sunday in January I arrived at the start, ready to do the first two stages. I got to the end of the day, sat in a pub beer garden with a celebratory pint, and looked forward to what the next section would bring.

And a few weeks later, a global pandemic arrived. The Ringway wast put on the backburner for quite some time. But the goal I wanted to achieve, the itch I wanted to scratch, well that was still there. And nothing was going to stop me.

Or at least I hoped.

Next time: we start off on a Greater Manchester orbital adventure!


Ian Mapp

16 May 2021 at 8:17 am

There’s also the London Countryway… further out than the Loop but the same concept.

I’ll look into the GM Ringway, looks just my cup of tea.

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