The grave of John Middleton, the Childe of Hale, in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Hale, records that he was 2.8m (9ft 3in) tall. Legend has it that he traced a huge figure in the sand on the shore of the Mersey and fell asleep inside it. When he woke up he had grown to fill the outline. Improbable as this great height is, the real Middleton was taken by a local landowner in 1617 to wrestle at the court of James I.
Park at the Childe of Hale pub and turn right along Church End. Follow the road round to where the pavement narrows and a whitewashed thatched cottage juts out into the road. This is where Middleton lived.
Continue on Church Road, where St Mary’s Church sits in a pretty churchyard. Middleton’s grave is easy to spot – it’s the huge one with railings around it, with the inscription: “Here lyeth the bodie of John Middleton the Childe. Nine feet three. Borne 1578. Dyede 1623.”
To the east you can see the Runcorn road bridge and the industrial landscape of Runcorn and Widnes. Go back through the lychgate and turn left. Over the road is a modern carving of the Childe of Hale, created from an old elm tree. Carry on down Church Road to where the road peters out. The hills of Frodsham and Helsby are now visible ahead. To the right across the fields you can see the Hale Head lighthouse. At the end of this road there is a two-bay parking area and a wide gate across Lighthouse Road. Go through one of the two gates to the left of this main gate and walk down to the lighthouse.
Hale Head lighthouse was decommissioned in 1958 and is now a private residence. Hundreds of thousands of birds over-winter on the Mersey estuary. Turn right from the lighthouse and take the path, part of the Mersey Way, along the low cliffs above the grassy foreshore towards Speke and the airport.
Cross a footbridge and carry on until you reach a bench overlooking the river just before steps down to the shore. You can enjoy fine views over the Wirral Peninsula and the Clwydian Hills in North Wales. Retrace your steps to the lighthouse and continue along the path signposted Within Way behind it. Before the Manchester Ship Canal was built people could wade across the river at Hale Ford, bringing goods such as Cheshire cheeses and livestock to market. It was a dangerous occupation, as several gravestones in the churchyard attest.
Carry on until you get to a gate where you can only turn left. Leave the river behind you and continue until you reach the village. At the top of Within Way turn right onto Church Road and back to the pub.
Concrete road, dirt road,
low clifftop and well-worn grassy paths.
HOW TO GET THERE
By car: Hale is one mile south-east of Liverpool John Lennon Airport off the A561. Follow the airport signs and turn left off Speke Hall Road into Hale Road. From Runcorn or Widnes, take the second exit off the A533 for Ditton at the end of Queensway (Runcorn Bridge) and continue along Hale Road.
By Public transport: 82A or 82B bus from Liverpool city centre, every 30 minutues. No 82B service evenings or Sundays, 82A hourly in the evenings.
Childe of Hale, 6 Church End, Hale Village, L24 4AX
0151 425 2954
Explorer Map 275
Grid Ref: SJ 469 822
The Walk, Liverpool L24 1XD
0151 427 7231