Around Woodhouse Hill
Last updated 1st September 2013
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This is a particulary beautiful walk of about 5½ miles (9 km) over and around the hills at the northern end of the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge with about 650 ft (200m) of total ascent. Much of the walk is through luxuriant woodland with some impressive views and dramatic sandstone cliffs. It uses the northern section of the Sandstone Trail and includes the deep defile of Dunsdale (with the interesting scramble known as Jacob's Ladder for those up to it), passes by the Iron Age Woodhouse Hill Fort and saves the spectacular viewpoint at Frodsham War Memorial until near the end. Mostly, though, this is a walk on which to enjoy the exceptionally beautiful countryside in this part of Cheshire. The going is fairly easy for the most part but quite rough in a few places, where there are steep slopes, rocks or possible mud, so walking boots are strongly recommended. The paths are mostly well-defined and there are a few stretches of quiet country lane. I would not recommend the northern part of the walk to those with very young children, because it passes quite close to some unfenced clifftops with sheer drops. There are no refreshments available along the route unless you take your own.

The relevant Ordnance Survey 1:25000 Explorer map is No. 267. For further information on the locations visited, click on the images.

Detailed mapping and satellite photography for this walk courtesy of Bing Maps
Printer friendly page for this walk (no photos)

Start at the car park [1] off Simons Lane near the top of Beacon Hill. Turn right out of the car park and a short way down the lane take the path that descends to the left signposted Sandstone Trail. Cross the golf course straight ahead keeping an eye out for golfers. On reaching the other side, keep ahead and then go left when you reach the top of Dunsdale. Ignore the rough path that heads downhill to the right a little way along - this leads to Jacob's Ladder, a steep scramble that is not recommended as a route for descent (see later). Instead keep going ahead until you reach steep steps down into Dunsdale, an impressive amphitheatre bounded on three sides by sandstone cliffs. At the bottom of the steps you will see Jacob's Ladder on the right.

Take the path signposted Delamere Forest, which has the cliffs on its left. As you exit Dunsdale, turn sharp right and scramble up the rocks of Abraham's Leap [2], emerging at the top of Dunsdale. Follow the path ahead through the trees on Woodhouse Hill, where there is soon a fine view over a completely wooded Dunsdale.

Continue along the path to reach a fine cliff-top viewpoint [3] with a bench, a nice spot to sit for a while and survey the distinctive escarpment of Helsby Hill, the town of Helsby itself and the Mersey estuary. Just past here, take the path up the hill on the left that soon breaks into steps. Past the top of the hill, bear right taking the path that has an ancient stone wall on its left hand side. Up the hill on the right here are the remains of Woodhouse Hill Fort [4], an Iron Age relic that you can explore if you wish.

The path skirts the left hand (eastern) edge of the fort and there are intermittent views over the countryside towards Beacon Hill. Keep to the right and go downhill to emerge eventually on The Ridgeway by a holiday park [5]. Turn left up The Ridgeway and very shortly take the path up the steps to the right. After a short distance, this descends the hill via steps to a small brook. Turn left through the trees, with the brook on your right, and you come to a convenient bench - a nice secluded place for some refreshments. A little further, cross a footbridge over the brook and go through a kissing gate. Keep to the left hand side of the next few fields, going through another kissing gate. A final gate emerges onto Commonside, which you follow to the right. Then turn right into the quiet and leafy Burrows Lane that rejoins The Ridgeway at the bottom of the hill. If you look up here you will see an isolated tower [6] in the woods on the hillside in front of you. Follow The Ridgeway to the left, and at the junction with Tarvin Road go to the left for a few yards to locate a rough footpath that heads to the right along the right hand boundary of a farm field with a brook on its right. Near the far end of the field, follow the path through the trees and over a footbridge into a quiet lane. At the end of the lane, go right along Chestnut Lane to rejoin Tarvin Road. A short distance to the left along Tarvin Road, take the lane on the right towards the bottom edge of the woods on Woodhouse Hill.

Enter the woods through a gate on the left and follow the lower boundary of the woods for some way. Eventually there are some ups and downs and you reach the lower end of Dunsdale. Keep on ahead up a steep path with intermittent steps and a wall on the left hand side [7]. Go sharp right at the top along a broad path following the side of the valley, eventually leading alongside some sheer sandstone cliffs on the left. There is a fleeting view of Helsby Hill through the trees on the right.

At the end of the cliffs is the foot of Jacob's Ladder [8]. This is a fairly easy scramble up sandstone rocks for those used to scrambling. If you are not, don't attempt it, but return up the steps you descended earlier. The hand and foot holds on Jacob's Ladder are plentiful but severely eroded, and there are vertical drops to the left. The trickiest part, however, is near the bottom, so you can safely turn back from here if necessary. Once past this short stretch, the remainder presents no real difficulty, but the rock is still worn and care is needed. Once at the top, by whichever route, retrace your steps to the signpost at the edge of the golf course.

Follow the sign to Frodsham Centre with the golf course on your right and very steep slopes and cliffs on your left. The path is narrow and skirts several interesting rocky combes [9,10] on a smaller scale than Dunsdale.

The path continues down some steep steps. Keeping to the higher ground eventually brings you out at Frodsham War Memorial [11] with its magnificent views - that over the Mersey estuary is particularly fine. Take the path to the back of the memorial to the left of but parallel to the hard surfaced path that leads to Forest Hills Hotel [12]. This emerges via wrought iron gates onto Bellemonte Road. Go to the right, where it becomes Simons Lane, and you are soon back at the start.