• Start: St Mary’s Parish Church
  • End: St Mary’s Parish Church
  • Country: England
  • County: Cheshire
  • Type: Country
  • Difficulty: Medium
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No, not the Hale near Altrincham renowned for its café society... Hale on the Mersey estuary, something completely different WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY KEITH CARTER

Aglance at the map shows just how hemmed in Hale and the Mersey estuary has become by industrial development and by the ever-expanding Liverpool Airport. Runcorn and Widnes on one side, Speke and Halewood on the other, it is a wonder that the village retains its individuality and one may say its serenity. It is a haven in the eye of the storm.

Hale’s most famous resident was John Middleton known as the Childe of Hale. At nine feet three inches tall, he was summoned to the court of James I and was matched against the king’s champion at wrestling, defeating him and it is said, breaking his thumb.

The king was displeased and sent him home with £20 but on the way home he was robbed of his money. His grave can be seen surrounded by railings in the churchyard of St Mary’s Parish Church in Hale and the cottage in which he was born still stands nearby on Church Road. He is also remembered in the pub of the same name in the village centre and in a splendid carving from an old tree opposite the church. Nobody is

likely to forget the village’s most famous son, that’s for sure.

Parking is limited but there is a lay-by just past the church at the roadside with space for a few cars. Having made sure you have left nothing worth stealing in the car, walk back towards the village centre and

take the first right onto Withins Way.

A path is seen almost immediately ahead through a barrier and we take this on a pot-holed and rutted track between hedges with fields either side.Where it bends right, keep ahead on a narrower path down to the shore to reach a kissing-gate with a signpost beside it and we follow the way it points us, right.

This is the Mersey Way, a 22-mile trail which runs from Rixton near Warrington to Garston. Hale Marsh is to the left, an area of Special Scientific Interest thanks to the abundance of wildlife there

The path follows the shore, the views dominated by the chemical works clearly seen across on the other bank of the river with clouds of steam and smoke billowing up from the industrial superstructures that create a sense of slight unease. Compared with these my carbon footprint seems

rather insignificant. Runcorn Bridge is prominent up river, quite an elegant structure, proving that function and style can go hand in hand.

The view is better when the eye travels right to the sandstone ridge above Helsby and Frodsham and once we see the Clwydian Hills the effects on our spirits at the sight of the industrial blight is dispelled.

The shore path brings us to the decommissioned Hale Head Lighthouse, built in 1907, which now seems to be part of a private property. Cross

the lane to another kissing-gate, remaining on the shore path and keep forward, at one point crossing a stream by a footbridge.

Head for a line of trees at right-angles to The Childe of Hale the path named on the map as Icehouse Plantation, a possible reference to when it was part of the estate of Hale Hall.

We go through a kissing-gate and remain on the same course beside the estuary, the path diverting around a property with a neatly trimmed hedge down steps then up more steeply to Hale Cliff.

Within a few hundred yards we reach a rough lane where we turn our back to the estuary and walk up a badly-rutted track to turn right on a metalled road with the perimeter fence of the airport over to the left. This is an area favoured by aircraft spotters watching the planes coming in to land. This was never a pastime that caught my imagination but no doubt it appeals to some.

Walk along what is Dungeon Lane to its junction with Hale Road. A shorter route would be to take the first on the right through Hale Heath joining Hale Road nearer to the village but I wanted to check out the Trans-Pennine Trail. The maps shows that it passes along Hale Road but it is clearly not one of the most scenic stretches of this 200-mile major route for walkers, horse riders and cyclists.

Remain on Hale Road along which are built the substantial villas and

residences, some thatched, which used to house the great and the good of Liverpool commerce.

Soon we come to the heart of the village where the impressive war memorial stands with a field gun as a relic of wars past. The Childe of Hale pub is on the right, a traditional establishment with wood panelling and several bars and our only opportunity for refreshment on this walk.

Continue beyond the pub and the pavement brings us back to where we left the car just beyond the church. A nice walk, this, with interest all the

way, fine estuary scenery, a lighthouse, bird life and a welcoming pub at the end, just right for stretching the legs and shaking off the temptation to stay indoors stagnating.

Go for it!

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