Bright blue and sunny skies; crisp, frosty mornings; trees resplendent in bright reds, oranges and yellows; autumn and winter are the perfect seasons for blustery walks and warming pub pitstops. Whether you’re a family with children, a happy hill hiker or a mountaineer, some of the most rewarding outdoor experiences take place in the autumn (and winter). So, lace up your boots or pull on your wellies — here’s where to escape the Christmas markets and concrete jungle of the city, without straying too far. Stretch your legs on one of these picturesque routes.
1. Etherow Country Park, Stockport
One of England’s first country parks, Etherow Country Park is perfect for a winter stroll for the whole family. There is plenty to discover from mill ponds, rivers and streams. You might even catch a glimpse of a kingfisher if you are up earlier enough and fortunate enough, although in the colder months they usually move to coastal marshes and gutters. If your not in luck, see if you can spot the kingfisher sculpture.
Situated at Compstall, a small village nestled between Marple Bridge and Romiley, in Stockport is spans 240-acres of parkland. It is a Local Nature Reserve and the starting point of the Goyt Way, which is a 10-mile walking route from Etherow Country Park, Greater Manchester, to Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire.
The country park benefits from a small cafe which serves all day breakfast, freshly made paninis and also as a lunch menu, sides, and serves real artisan coffee (supplied by Manchester’s own Heart and Graft Roastery). The cafe is pet friendly both inside and out.
Next door to the cafe is a visitor centre Etherow Visitor Centre that hosts family events throughout the year.
2. Worsley Woods
Worsley Woods is a great place if you like wandering on or off paths. There are several trails and treks for you to explore and there are plenty of entrances and exits. The woods are a very enchanting place to walk with it’s long sweep of trees with overhanging branches. It is especially a magical place in autumn when the leaves change colour and in winter when the trees and plant life get a frosty coating. It’s quite muddy in parts, especially after heavy rain, so definitely take appropriate footwear. There is a kids playground in the middle with an adventure trail to keep the kids busy and active. There are lots of picturesque spots to stop for pictures, especially along the nearby Bridgewater Canal.
If you fancy a pitstop after your walk, there are a number of pub within a 10 minutes walk.
3. Kenworthy Woods
Once a former south Manchester tip, and tucked away between Chorlton Water Park and the M60, Kenworthy Woods is the city’s latest nature reserve.
If you are looking for a quiet stroll, Kenworthy Woods is the perfect choice. Situated next to the River Mersey between Chorlton and Northern Moor, just across the river from the ever-popular Chorlton Water Park, it is much less crowded, and offers a perfect urban woodland retreat.
Covering 89-acres, Kenworthy Woods has become a haven for wildlife since being rewilded in the 1990s and is home to many different types of birds, including Blackcap, Wren, Jay, Song Thrush and a good amount of tit species, including the Willow Tit. The woods also boast a wide variety of fungi species, flora and fauna.
Despite the peacefulness, the woods are very well used by the local community, this was particularly evident during the Covid pandemic, and you will spot remnants of various activities, from den building, mountain bike trails on homemade tracks, to faces carved into the trees, on your stroll.
4. Urmston Meadows and Old Eea Brook
Urmston Meadows and Old Eea Brook the perfect opportunity to explore on foot some of Trafford’s most beautiful countryside and provide the perfect tonic to the stresses of the Christmas rush.
Just a short walk from the Urmston town centre, the meadows are located on the southern fringes of Urmston close to the River Mersey. The meadow pastures, woodland paths, pond and ditches provide ideal habitat for wildlife, including Tawny Owls, Swallows, and House Martins.
Enjoy the beauty of the ﬂood meadow in the autumn and winter months and indulge in the panoramic view of the River Mersey, and don’t forget to explore the woodland paths and go in search of Urmston’s majestic oak, the ‘climbing tree’.
There are two coffee shops further along the River Mersey on either side of the river in Sale. Riverbank Coffee Ltd on the Ousel Brook side and The Boundary Coffee Shop next to the Ashton on the Mersey Cricket Club. Both serve delicious freshley roasted coffee and a lovely selection of homemade cakes and other light bites.
5. Wythenshawe Park
Wythenshawe Park consists of almost 270 acres of parkland boasting 13 separate woodlands. It is packed full of new and mature ornamental woods, containing a wide variety of trees, formal bedding, open grassland and in the summer, beautiful wildflower meadows. In the colder months, its a great place to unwind and escape the Christmas mayhem.
Wythenshawe Park boasts a wealth of facilities, including a decent children playground with slides, swing, and climbing frames. There is also a cafe called The Courtyard selling hot and cold drinks, snacks and sandwiches. Wythenshawe Community and Wythenshawe Horticultural Centre are located within the park, as is Wythenshawe Hall, a 16th-century timber-framed historic house and former manor house.