Waitrose & Partners Weekend Issue 628

49 8 DECEMBER 2022 Weekending ASHTON CANAL , MANCHESTER Rhiane Fatinikun swaps the countryside for urban surroundings – and enjoys a festive Yorkshire pudding wrap at the city’s Christmas market Weekendwalks Not all walks have to involve hills and hiking poles. Sometimes, amore casual stroll along, say, a canal is in order. All the better if it ends at a festivemarket, as this one, by the Ashton Canal towpath, does. Built in the 1790s to serve the coal industry, the canal sits alongside a remarkablemix of modern and industrial architecture – this route is a slice of its six-mile towpath, which runs from the market town of Ashton-under-Lyne right into the heart of Manchester. Before you write o urbanwalks as dull and grey, let me assure you that this route is surprisingly green, especially if you take a detour to nearby Clayton Vale, a beautiful nature reserve, home to kingfishers and herons. When I was there, I forgot I was in a city. The route starts and finishes at the Etihad Stadium, the home of Manchester City Football Club. Fromhere, head over the bridge and down the steps and you’ll be on the towpath. As you stroll along the centuries-old waterside, take in themills and factories that played host to the Industrial Revolution. Many have been transformed intomodern neighbourhoods, such as the recently regenerated New Islington, one of Manchester’s coolest communities. After a wander around themarina, with its colourful houseboats, continue along the canal. I always stop to appreciate the street art. It might not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s a testament to the creativity of those who live here – as well as their gentle rebelliousness. As you near the city centre, head over the footbridge and through the back of Manchester Piccadilly station. If you can resist the urge to dash o and go Christmas shopping, take a detour to the newMayfield Park. Spanning 6.5 acres, the city centre public park is a tree-filled oasis where you can take a breather on the south-facing seating steps overlooking the RiverMedlock. FromPiccadilly, jump on a tramand go back to where you began. But before you do, let me point you in the direction of Manchester’s excellent Christmas markets and their culinary o erings. My favourite festive fare was a Yorkshire pudding wrap with stu ng and gravy. If that’s not your thing (you’re reallymissing out) more traditional mince pies are available. Rhiane is the founder of the walking group Black Girls Hike, bghuk.com. @rhianesworld Information Best map OS explorer 277 Manchester & Salford Start & nish Etihad Metro Station Distance 2.5 miles Duration 2-3 hours, with exploration Di culty Easy ‘Street art is a testament to the creativity of those who live here, and their gentle rebelliousness’ WALKING WONDERLAND The Old Wellington Inn and Christmas Market (main) in Manchester; May eld Park (top right); mince pies (above right); the striking Chips building and Ashton Canal (left) Photograph: Arpad Benedek / Alamy, GaryRobertsphotography / Alamy, Jon Sparks / Alamy