It had been too long (mainly thanks to Covid) since the last trip to the north-west, so Heather and I headed up for a quick weekend break, complete with return to open air theatre!
After an uneventful train up we tried to do our usual trick of going to the Town Crier opposite the station. That turned out to be insanely busy so we gave up after about ten minutes of trying to get served and headed instead to the Old Harkers Arms, which was much quieter. We had a drink and a bit of lunch before a quick check in at the hotel. We still had time for a bit of a wander, so took a slow stroll into Chester centre, marvelling at some twiddling buildings and finding our way down to an old favourite in the Bear And Billet.
We only had time for one though before finding a little Tesco because really we were on our way to the park, for open air theatre; this year the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet. The venue goes from strength to strength, with an increasing food and drink offering—they just need to get some toilets a bit closer than the trek through the park! We even got almost to the end before the traditional rain came down; so we hurried off straight back to the hotel and bed, thoroughly entertained.
Come we were up bright and waiting to be picked up from the hotel by Richard. Having said hello to the injured Caroline (who injures themselves playing cricket?!) we picked up Joe and Ben and headed off on an adventure to the Anderton Boat Lift. The lift is one of those marvels of Victorian engineering that still works and serves a purpose today. Built to link the River Weaver and the Trent & Mersey Canal, the structure houses a massive caisson (two of them actually) to lift or lower canal boats between the two. It originally operated from 1875 until its deterioration caused a closer in the mid-80’s. Restoration was to follow about twenty years later though, so the lift can once more be used, and enjoyed by visitors. These days it’s a tourist attraction as well as working link, with a visitor’s centre (housing a cafe and collection of old arcade machines), and a picnic and play area. There’s also a (rather simple) maze formed from old counterweights.
We had lunch in the cafe and explored the visitor centre before taking the class roofed and sided tourist boat on a journey down the lift and along a pleasant stretch of the river, before returning to the foot of the lift (no ride back up, sadly). On the way back to the car park we even had a chance to feed the ducks (the centre wisely sells food). An enjoyable little day out.
We went back to see Caroline before heading off for an early dinner at The Shrewsbury Arms. It was early though, so once Heather and I were dropped off back in Chester proper we sneaked out like naughty children to Pied Bull for one last drink.
We had a bit of time the before having to head off, so went for a wander into Monday morning Chester. We made our way to the cathedral, where the Lego model is coming along well (there’s basically the tower left as far as major parts go). We’d actually wandered in to see Pete Waterman’s big train set, a recreation of some of the West Coast Mainline in miniature (it wasn’t actually as big as we were expecting).
Then it was time to head back and checkout, ready for home. At least the Town Crier was empty enough for us to wait for the train, carrying us south again.