“As long as Helsby wears a hood
The weather’s never very good”
J.C. Bridge no.409, p.161
There’s no doubt that this proverb carries real authority for anyone who sees Helsby Hill on a regular basis. It can look perfectly angelic under a blue sky, particularly across a sea of bright yellow rapeseed, but when the clouds cluster over its apex, it looks like the devil’s work.
This is one of the “Weather Sayings” listed in Bridge’s 1917 book Proverbs, Sayings and Rhymes Connected with the City and County Palatine of Chester. The saying requires no explanation, which is just as well as Bridge, often enjoyably loquacious on the subject of the proverbs and sayings that he compiled, offers no comment at all on this one.
Walking along the footpaths from Churton towards Aldford during late spring, it was immediately noticeable that Helsby Hill near Frodsham is rarely out of sight, a constant companion on all those footpath walks. During the spring and early summer it was a benign presence but since then I have seen it look particularly malevolent under heavy clouds, the “hood” to which the saying refers. With its distinctively carved profile rising out of the flat landscape, it is often truly dramatic against a dark sky.
The far northern outpost of the Mid-Cheshire Ridge, Helsby Hill is today a Scheduled Monument, the site of a late Bronze Age and/or Iron Age promontory hillfort (usually dated to between the sixth century BC and the mid-first century AD). It takes strategic advantage of that dramatically steep drop down to the Cheshire Plain (370 feet / 110 metres above sea level) with views across the surrounding landscape and the Mersey and its floodplain. I will be talking a lot more about the Iron Age hillforts along the Mid-Cheshire Ridge on future posts.
If we have cause to complain about the weather as autumn gives way to winter, just imagine what it was like during the Iron Age, sitting in a round-hut or patrolling the defences on the top of Helsby Hill when the weather was closing in 🙂
For more about J.C. Bridge and this Cheshire Proverbs series, see Cheshire Proverbs 1
For the previous posts in the Cheshire Proverbs series, see the Cheshire Proverbs category in the right hand margin