Day 29

Hyde to Manchester (Old Trafford) – 9.15 miles (460.35 total)

Because yesterday’s accommodation was slightly off my map it meant that today was a shorter day because we cut a winding canal corner from our route. We had a proper breakfast at the hotel and took our time about setting out. My washing from last night hadn’t dried properly so I was forced to pack it damp hoping to dry it off at our next stop. The hotel room wasn’t particularly warm and the workings of the room thermostat proved beyond us. Either that or the hotel had switched the heating off. Typical British weather, I suppose, one week a heatwave, the next one back to winter.

We immediately crossed the M6 by footbridge, taking the busy main road towards Manchester. At Debdale we turned right, passing Gorton Reservoir on the cycleway, continuing through Openshaw to meet up with the Ashton Canal.

Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City Football Club

Quite soon we reached Sport City, the national centre for a number of sports, including cycling and decathlon that we could spot anyway. Also there was the Etihad Stadium, where Manchester City play. From there we continued right into Manchester city centre, passing many new developments, both commercial and residential. At points our route was NCR 60, the Cheshire Ring Canal Walk and the Medlock Valley Way.

It was interesting to see how the regeneration of old industrial areas, along the Manchester canals, is spreading out from the centre and including those very same canals and their locks into their landscaping.

Manchester city centre development

Around the city centre itself we had to weave in and out, crossing new footbridges and sometimes walking along roads. Soon we were leaving the city, moving westward, the towpath now a haven for youthful joggers. It was a long time before we even saw a barge, the only movement in the water coming from wild geese. These geese seemed like the Manchester equivalent of the ubiquitous seagulls, scavenging for the discarded remnants of fast food.

We changed canals once or twice, it being very confusing at times to know which canal we were actually on. The Bridgewater canal was the final path of the day, however, taking us to our hotel at Old Trafford, just a few yards from the Manchester United stadium. The weather stayed dry for us throughout, although we sometimes found ourselves walking head on into a biting westerly wind. The Manchester Ship Canal, something I remember learning about at school, was a close neighbour as we finished the walk.

Old Trafford, home of Manchester United Football Club
Manchester Ship Canal

Incredibly, this is me now in to my fifth week of walking. As the days roll by I am finding it difficult to remember exactly where I was on what day. My first target was to reach Bristol, then Manchester. My next target is Carlisle which I hope to get to a week on Sunday, 6th May, Day 39. The plan was for Elizabeth to join me there for a short break while I treated myself to two rest days. However, discovering recently that it is a bank holiday weekend, and a hotel was difficult to book, I have instead elected to travel home for the two days and get my clothes washed properly and my pack freshened up, before officially crossing the border to continue my adventure in Scotland.

I cannot exaggerate how important it has been to have company for large parts of the walk to date. Christopher, John, Trevor and now Pete have been an important and much-appreciated aid to getting me started and keeping me going.

Just as important are the friends who would join me if they could but have offered support by e-mail, text and phone. I know that a number of you intend to accompany me as I make my way north, and I look forward to that. Thanks to everyone so far, we still have a long way to go.