A weekend walk up Helsby Hill was a regular outing for us as children, so it’s one of my favourite places to take mine to.
Roughly located between Chester and Warrington you’ve probably all spotted the large sandstone outcrop from the M56, next to its neighbor Frodsham Hill. At 141 metres high the views from the top are fantastic, but there’s also some wonderful woodlands and quarries to explore.
The car park is located at Helsby Quarry Nature Reserve, but there’s only room for about 15 cars and it does get very busy (you could squeeze in on the roadside if it’s full).
I’ll describe the basic 2.3km circular walk up Helsby Hill, but I’ve also added in two diversions you might like to do if you want a longer walk - Helsby Quarry Nature Reserve and Harmers Wood. My OS Map of the route (see Info bar) is for the basic hill walk plus Harmers Wood.
Main Hill route: Turn left out of the car park, then after about 50 metres turn right up ‘Hill Road S’. Walk up this road past some large residential houses and at the top you’ll see the National Trust Helsby Hill sign where you’ll enter the woods.
At this junction, continue straight, signposted ‘Helsby Hilltop’. If you want to do the diversion walk to Harmers Wood, then scroll down to the Harmers Wood section below.
It’s a slow ascent up to the top of the hill, but just keep following the path and you can’t go wrong. From the top of the hill the panoramic views stretch over the Cheshire plain, Wales and the industrial Mersey Estuary. See if the kids can spot the city of Liverpool on the horizon. Not surprisingly, there used to be a prehistoric hillfort on top of the hill, I believe there is some evidence of this left but I think you may need an archeologist’s degree to find it!
Just a note of caution, do watch the little ones up here as there are some very big drops.
If you’re standing at the white trig point facing the view*, turn right and follow the path as it descends, quite steeply at first, down the hill.
Look out for three upturned trees along the way which are good fun to play on. One of them is still actually in the ground but is practically growing horizontally.
Keep going and when you get to the below spot take the left hand path which steeply runs down to another path, where you’ll turn left, (I’ve artistically drawn this on the pic below with arrows!) If you miss this turning, then don’t worry, as if you continue on you’ll come to the main junction where you’ll turn left).
This new path known as middle walk, more or less runs parallel to the path you walked up the hill on, but at a lower level so about halfway along this path if you look up you’ll see the big sandstone crag of the hill towering above you. It’s a lovely walk, especially in the Autumn and is level all the way, so no more climbing!
Follow it all the way to the end, past a gate and you’ll arrive at the road.
Turn left up the hill et voila you’ll be back at the car park in a matter of minutes.
Helsby Quarry Nature Reserve: Opposite the car park entrance is Helsby Quarry Nature Reserve. This seven acre woodland was once a former quarry in the 19th Century, before it was reclaimed as a reserve in the 1980s. The rock was quarried and taken via a tramway to Ince Pier where it was loaded onto boats destined for Liverpool, indeed rock from here was apparently used to construct the Albert Dock.
The main attraction here for the kids is a big sandstone tunnel which mine love running in and out of. You’ll also see lots of the exposed cliff faces from the days of the quarry and a cute little stick box by a lily pond. To get to the tunnel, veer off to the right from the entrance on the newly resurfaced path.
Harmers Wood: You can take a diversion to see yet another wooded quarry - Harmers Wood (anyone who likes former quarries is in for a real treat on this walk!). At this point here, instead of heading straight up to the top of the hill, take the right hand turn signposted ‘Harmers Lake’. There’s some good exposed rock the kids like climbing on here.
Follow the path ahead, then when you get to the below point carry straight on (you’ll see a small lake on your left).
At the bottom of here is a house, turn right onto the road, then after about 50ish metres look for this cutout in the trees and enter the woods.
Harmers Wood is only 9 acres so you can go off and explore yourselves, but to get to the main quarry, from this point, take a right here, then after a minute or two you’ll be standing at the top of the quarry, then just follow the fence downwards to get into it.
I highly recommend visiting here, it’s got quite an Indiana Jones vibe about it!
Retrace your steps back to this point, but this time turn right to go to the top of Helsby Hill (you’ll pass a really good tree for climbing on the way).
From here follow the instructions on the main hill walk from the step where you turn left at the trig point (marked it with *).