Went away with Heather for a few days on a “tour of the north”. We headed to the north-west and Chester before going across, with a stop off in Liverpool, to the north-east and Newcastle before finally heading to Scarborough via York (again!) It’s quite a lot to fit in so things will be split into three posts. This one will cover Chester, the second part Newcastle and the third Scarborough.
Day 1 (Monday)—Departure and Arrival
We met up at London Bridge, aiming to be early to avoid the rush hour. That having plenty of time came in handy as the northern line had a characteristic break down forcing us into a Jubilee–Victoria line route to Euston—not the most convenient thing when dragging cases around.
The journey up to Chester itself was fairly uneventful, though we were delayed a bit while the driver of the train in front put out a track side fire (they’re tough up north, lad). Having safely arrived in Chester the lovely Chester House Guest House phoned to check where we were just as we strolled up the road towards them. A few minutes later we were receiving a warm welcome; just a pity we had to get the cases up stairs!
Following advice from our hosts we headed down the road into the area of Hoole to find some food, eventually chancing upon a nice curry house; good food and stylish cutlery I wanted to steal.
Day 2 (Tuesday)—Around Chester
After Heather had breakfast (I’m told the vegetarian cooked breakfast was nice—don’t do breakfast myself) we headed to town. Made to get a bus in we discovered that they don’t do returns but a single ticket later found ourselves round the back of the impressive town hall. After noting the elephant nearby we went for a look around Chester’s cathedral opposite. It’s a large and impressive place, complete with quiet cloisters and a refectory now housing a cafe. There’s a nice chapter house tucked to one side and the cathedral also contains the only surviving early ecclesiastical courtroom in the country. The garden at the centre of the cloisters is nice and tranquil, despite the strange water sculpture in the middle.
From there we decided to head around the city walls, starting at one of Chester’s best known landmarks, the Eastgate Clock. Personally I don’t see the attraction. While it certainly forms a landmark, to me the clock jars too much with the architecture of the gate it surmounts. It’s a pretty enough thing when seen from on the wall though I suppose.
Clock visited we travelled clockwise around the walls, past the funny little Thimbley’s Tower to Newgate. All the gates through Chester’s walls are fairly recent, old gates being removed and gaps widened to allow for increased traffic flow. Newgate is one of the prettier ones, a large arch that at least feels at home within the walls.
Lunch With Joseph
We descended to take in the Roman Gardens, apparently an area where anything Roman found around Chester is moved to, before taking a stroll down to the riverside. There we came across a very colourful Rhino, to go with the elephant presumably, and watched the comings and goings of the boats and birds for a bit. Stomachs rumbling we temporarily abandoned the walls to head back into town, via the underwhelming Roman Forum before stumbling across the lovely Church Bar/Restaurant.
After nice food we had reached the dessert stage when we were joined by Heather’s sister-in-law Caroline and very young nephew Joseph (meeting him was one of the main reasons for coming to Chester). There was plenty of oooh and arrring and other such baby related things (at least from Heather). Caroline joined us in dessert as Joseph considered consuming a bottle. All refuelled we walked back to town with Caroline and Joseph then parted ways for Heather and I to continue our circuit of Chester.
Further Round The Walls
We picked the walls back up near the nice looking quaint Old Dee Bridge. Following the walls round the scant remains of the castle we got lost trying to find a way in only to realise that it’s disappointingly only open to guided tours at certain times. On then past the “Roodee”, better known as Chester Racecourse (Roodee comes from the Saxon “rood”—cross—and Norman “eye”—Island, the course once having been beneath a tidal pool of the Dee). There were no Gee-Gees (a term coming from Chester’s Lord Mayor at the time of the first race, Henry Gee) to watch, though at least that meant it was quiet! This section feels a little strange as the wall walk is actually level with the adjacent road, dropping away to the racecourse on the other side.
The walls then go over the railway twice in quick succession, the line having basically cut the corner with Bonewaldesthorne’s Tower sitting alone, linked by a spur wall to the Water Tower (the river’s silting leaving it marooned inland). We were getting tired by this point but determinedly pressed on, the walls for a time following the Shropshire Union Canal. There are a couple of further towers (notably Pemberton’s Parlour and The Phoenix Tower) and views of not so distant Wales offered from Morgan’s Mount before our long walk once more reached Eastgate and the town centre.
So tired out by the circuit that we headed back for the hotel, arming ourselves with sandwiches and other provisions, to recuperate for the rest of the night.
Day 3 (Wednesday)—Crier, Boat, And Shakespeare
Rows And The Town Crier
Next morning the Chester Guesthouse’s hospitality continued as they produced “special juice” for Heather at breakfast (actually apple juice as she can’t drink orange). Heather fed and me awake we headed back into town for more wandering. This mainly involved Chester’s unusual Rows, a peculiarity of the city that unfortunately seems to have a fair number of disused premises these days. They do include the rather old and hidden away Boot Inn though where we stopped off for a drink.
Heather was determined that we be at the centre of town at the right time to catch the town crier. Traditionally these would proclaim publicly anything of importance. This one didn’t so much proclaim any news as put on a show for the tourists, giving a little welcome phrase in an impressive array of languages and putting on a show for the cameras (and of course Heather had to have a photo with him).
Down The River And Round The Park
I’d also sort of promised Heather a little trip down the river so she eventually managed to drag me onto a short river cruise. Personally I’m not too sure of the attraction of slowly floating down a river with not much to see but people’s back gardens backing onto it but, as I’d promised, float around for half an hour we did.
We climbed back up from the river bank through Grosvener Park. It’s a nice Victorian Park, though like the Roman Gardens seems to have had things transplanted to it, like the stone arches we past. The lake and miniature railway were a disappointment, the lake being small and lacking something and the railway unimaginative. There seemed to be quite a bit of work going on in the area though so perhaps some improvement will come. On the way out of the park we stopped to look at the exterior of St John the Baptist church. To the east of the present church are the ruinous remains of the once much larger church, including a Roman coffin incorporated into the building!
It’s A Tragedy
As we had a busy evening planned we headed back for the hotel, stopping once more supplies. Refreshed, changed and armed with picnic goodies we headed back into town again and the park once more. There we had tickets for the open air theatre production of Othello. I’d was vaguely aware of the story but had never seen it performed before. It was truly wonderful to see it enacted in such a setting; a thoroughly enjoyable evening that not even a little rain could spoil. Tired and shocked by the tragedy we caught a taxi back to our temporary home to sleep the excitement off.
Day 4 (Thursday)—Early Morning Hoole and Fish
Early Thursday morning I wandered into Hoole for a bit of a look round and returned just in time for Heather’s brother Richard to pick us up. We drove over to Caroline and his place for a quick bite to eat before packing Joseph up and heading to Blue Planet Aquarium. Being surrounded by all those fish (and other water life) was a lot more enjoyable than I’d anticipated it being even if the diver talk was disappointing because no one actually dived! The shark tunnel, with sharks and rays and more swimming around and above, was particularly impressive—though one half of the passage through it being a moving walkway while the other half is static is quite disorienting.
As well as the fish there were a number of snakes, frogs (some looking like tiny plastic models) and spiders. That there were otters outside at the end of the journey through was a bit of a bonus. The shop could use some work though, a bit generic and lacking a thimble for Heather.
After the excitement of the aquarium taking up most of the day we went for a quick drink then found a pub doing good food. A nice relaxing dinner later, and with the rain coming down, Heather and I had to go and get some sleep to be up and off in the morning.
Day 5 (Friday)—Seeing Liverpool
Morning saw us say goodbye to Chester House and us make our way to the station. The ticket machines had helpful notes taped to them explaining the what to buy for the cheapest fare to Liverpool, so money saved we set off. Unfortunately due to engineering the metro services weren’t stopping at Liverpool Lime Street but we soon found our way there from Liverpool Central to deposit cases in left luggage.
Having looked at the sculpture of Billy Fury and Legacy commemorating all those who emigrated from Liverpool we strolled along the Mersey and back around the dock before stopping off at Gusto for a pleasant sunlit lunch.
We couldn’t hang around Liverpool too long though, it was only ever going to be a half day flying visit, for we had a train to Newcastle to catch. That though, is a tale for part 2