Manchester's Countryside has launched a new project aimed at unlocking the tourism potential of the countryside within the Greater Manchester area.
The organisation held an official launch at Nutters Restaurant in Rochdale on Wednesday of a new scheme that looks to build on the rural economy of the area.
The project was in existence for four years, but is to being re-introduced following a successful application to the North West Development Agency for Rural Development Programme for England funding.
A £226,000 financial injection will be added to private sector and local authority support to enable the development of Greater Manchester rural short breaks, countryside activities, events, marketing activity and industry support.
Jonny Hewitt, chairman of Manchester's Countryside, said: "We will build and showcase the many and varied attractions that exist in the 500 square miles that make up Manchester's Countryside."
"We are introducing an alternative rural experience to countryside lovers. An experience that compliments the Manchester city experience. We will be encouraging national audiences to step outside the cosmopolitan squares and urban style of Manchester city and discover our rich and diverse countryside. Where they will find quiet secluded greenery, wonderful waterways and lakes, hidden gems of villages, walks, cycle trails, bridleways and more. All wrapped in a countryside charm and character that is different to expectations and unique to Greater Manchester.
"Manchester's Countryside is one of the North West's best kept secrets and an untapped tourism commodity."
In 2005, a partnership of the tourism offices of Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale and Wigan along with Visit Manchester was formed to investigate and develop the tourism potential of rural Greater Manchester. The partnership was expanded in 2009 to include the tourism offices of Salford, Stockport, Tameside and Trafford.
The tourism offices of the Greater Manchester local authorities have joined with Visit Manchester, the tourist board for Greater Manchester, and with the private sector to deliver Manchester's Countryside.
Manchester's Countryside said rural tourism in Greater Manchester is currently valued at over £120m. The Manchester's Countryside initiative will look to increase this by attracting an additional 70,000 visitors and pushing total visitor numbers to approximately 5.9m by December 2012.
Paul Simpson, managing director of Marketing Manchester, said: "The rural tourism offer is very valuable. Last year 24% of all domestic short and long stays were to the countryside and this market is growing.
"We've made huge in-roads in the last four years but this new investment will allow us to really enhance our countryside offerings."
The launch will see the unveiling of repackaged as well as new walking trails highlighting outdoor destinations including Saddleworth, the Rochdale and Pennine Way, Leeds to Liverpool and Huddersfield narrow canals, the new Pennine Bridleway, Two Brooks Valley and the Douglas Valley.
A new Manchester's Countryside cycle routes guide was also introduced at the Rochdale event. The guide will include rides for all interests and abilities including rural road rides from Haigh Hall, Wigan and across the West Pennine Moors.
These will feature alongside family friendly tours such as Worsley Village tow path rides, mountain bike loops around Delph and much more.
A future short break campaign will sell the region on the back of the activity presented by Manchester's Countryside and events from the usual, such as riding the steam railway of east Lancashire, through to the unusual, such as llama trekking in Oldham and black pudding throwing in Bury.
The Manchester's Countryside project is part financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas. The project is being delivered through the NWDA with Defra as the managing authority.