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By Local Pilot, GM Moving | 24 February 2023 | TAGS: Rochdale, Local Pilot

An over-50s group in Rochdale have begun efforts to complete the South Pennine Canal Ring after successfully completing the 32-mile Rochdale canal in 2022.  

Led by conversations with members, HMR Circle wanted to build a sense of adventure and excitement with a unique challenge and received support from Rochdale’s community investment fund.  

The community investment fund was made possible by the Local Pilot, a Sport England funded approach to test a whole-system approach to inactivity which runs across Greater Manchester. 

The membership social enterprise broke the canal down into seven walks, each approximately five miles long, and used public transport to get to and from the start and end of each walk.  

HMR Circle director Mark Wynn takes a selfie with walkers at a train station

Each section was completed on the last Thursday of the month from April to October 2022, attracting new walkers and encouraging older adults to get out and about more, without the need to drive a car.  

HMR Circle’s successes with walking has now evolved into a new challenge – the 69-mile mile canal loop featuring the Rochdale, Huddersfield Broad, Huddersfield Narrow and Ashton canals and the Calder and Hebble Navigation. 

Circle director Mark Wynn said:  

“The Rochdale canal walks were really popular, and members wanted to carry them on so we’re creating this big loop whilst also repeating sections that people have missed. 

“People know the benefits of physical exercise, but the beauty of the canals is that they’re flat so it’s not that arduous a walk. We do four to five miles each time.

“They’re really exciting and one of things we wanted to do is build a sense of adventure. We always stop for a brew and something to eat and it’s always a great social event.” 

Jane Gardiner, GreaterSport’s Strategic Lead – Local Pilot Network, said:  

“Walking is the simplest way to move more so it’s brilliant to see Rochdale using the Local Pilot to support groups who know the local needs and want to use the spaces on their doorstep. 

“It’s great to see the walking group grow throughout the project and I’m delighted that they’ll be continuing to offer walking, and a new challenge, well beyond the length of the initial funding.”

 Sarah Shard, Rochdale’s Local Pilot Lead, said:  

“The Community Investment Fund grants have been a fantastic opportunity for local community groups to apply for funding at local level to pilot new, innovative ways of moving more.

"This has been a great project to support people to walking more, meeting other people, and giving them the confidence to use public transport and feeling safe going out as a group”.

For more information on the Local Pilot, please click here

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