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Tameside volunteers sign up as ‘Stage Guardians’ for the GM Ringway

George Walker, George Rivett and Stewart Gainey

Three volunteers from Tameside have been recruited as ‘Stage Guardians’ for the GM Ringway, Greater Manchester’s walking trail.

George Rivett and George Walker, both from Gee Cross, and Stewart Gainey from Hyde will help ensure the on-going success of the trail for years to come.

They will be expected to walk their local trail section regularly to identify any improvements or highlight maintenance issues such as replacing any signage.

They will also report any access problems such as overgrown footpaths or broken stiles as well as temporary obstructions or diversions.

George Rivett, 31, has ‘adopted’ Stage 7 from Marple to Broadbottom. An accountant who works in the city centre, George lives right in the middle of the route and moved to Hyde so he could enjoy the walks on his doorstep.

Stage 7 of the trail includes the Marple Aqueduct, Etherow Country Park, Werneth Low and semi-ancient woodland near Broadbottom.

Talking about the GM Ringway walking trail, George Rivett said: “I’m very conveniently located to look after this section of the GM Ringway.

"I walk most of it regularly so know it well. We are fortunate to have a lovely pub at the end of the route, the Hare and Hounds at Broadbottom, which is great for a pint after the walk. I’m passionate about walking and maintenance of footpaths in the area. My local knowledge will allow me to focus my efforts on areas of the route that will likely cause the most issues and I will try to rectify them accordingly.”

George Walker, 71, and Stewart Gainey, 70, are Stage Guardians for Stage 5 of the GM Ringway.

This section starts at Middlewood Station and goes through Lyme Park before heading across Disley Golf Course and then along the Peak Forest Canal, ending at Strines Station. 

Originally from Belfast, George worked in HR until 2002 before moving into the criminal justice sector and is a long-time member of Stockport Harriers, a keen fell runner and has completed a number of marathons.

He now stays fit by walking as well as running and, along with Stewart, undertakes an annual long-distance walking challenge, including the Peak District Boundary Way and the West Highland Way. The pair have also cycled 1,066 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats!

George Walker commented: “Stewart and I finished the Peak District Boundary Way and were looking for the next thing and we heard about the GM Ringway. We know the south and east parts quite well but are looking forward to discovering the rest. It’ll be great to have a section to look after to help ensure the trail is maintained now and in the future.” 

Stewart Gainey is originally from Gorton and worked in the textiles industry before running a signage company. He then supported young adults with special needs before his retirement.

He now enjoys walking locally at least three times a week when he’s not spending time with his four grandchildren. 

Commenting on his new role, Stewart said: “I’ve known George Walker for 15 years, so it will be good to share the Stage 5 guardian role with him as we enjoy getting out on walks together.

"We’re both keen and experienced walkers and are looking forward to discovering more of the GM Ringway together.”

Andrew Read, GM Ringway’s project lead said: “We’re currently recruiting one or two people to look after each of the 20 stages of the 200-mile trail and so far we’ve had a great response, with more than half the roles filled. 

"Stage Guardians like these guys will play a vital role as our eyes and ears on the trail and ensure that the route is clear and safe for everyone to enjoy. We anticipate that the volunteers will live fairly locally to their stage and know the area well.

He continued: "We also hope the Stage Guardians will build further awareness for their sections of the GM Ringway, perhaps by organising guided walks or promoting the trail and events on social media.

“We are very grateful for the support from the CPRE, the Countryside Charity, who want everyone to be able to access and enjoy our wonderful countryside and green spaces, whether they live in cities or in rural areas.

"That’s why CPRE believes so strongly in supporting the GM Ringway walking trail – it is just a brilliant way to help many more people to explore and enjoy the wonderful green spaces right here in Greater Manchester.” 

Anyone interested in applying for a Stage Guardian volunteer role can email info@gmringway.org.

The GM Ringway project is led by two charities –  CPRE, the countryside charity, The Ramblers, (Greater Manchester & High Peak Area) – and is supported by a £250,000 Heritage Fund grant. In addition, the project has received a £2,000 grant from Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust and £10,000 from TfGM’s Cycle & Stride for Active Lives initiative.

George Walker, George Rivett and Stewart Gainey 

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