Tuesday, 1 February 2011

ENGLAND - Chester

Arriving in Chester at about 1pm, we were too early to check in to the hotel so we went into the Pitcher and Piano, the pub next door for some refreshment. The hotel was situated opposite the remains of the largest Roman Amphitheatre in Britain. It actually seemed quite small but I was comparing it to the Coliseum, so I suppose it would be! It had been partially uncovered and use had been made of mock-ups to aid the imagination. The hotel was within fifty metres of the East Gate. We joined the city wall walk here. Chester has the only complete city wall left in the country and measuring nearly two miles long, makes for a good way to see the town centre. The path follows the top of the town wall for most of the way, only descending to street level briefly along the banks of the River Dee. A weir helps keep the water level in the upper stretches and tour boats ply the waters in season. Below the weir, the river was very obviously tidal and not too attractive, but the town walls soon veered away from the bank to the Chester race course. The walls offered an excellent view of the entire circuit. Interrupting the walk, we visited The Pied Bull pub for a sample of some local ales.

Re-joining the wall, the path soon turned parallel to the Shropshire Union Canal and a locked junction with other waterways. An unusual scene opened up, with a rail bridge crossing a road, crossing a canal. An old open top bus was passing by too. It was a good demonstration of transportation through the ages. The canal was in a deep gorge parallel to the city wall as we passed the cathedral. An unusual clock spanned the path as it crossed a bridge over one of the main shopping streets.
With the walk over, we made the most of the day light and wandered the shopping streets deciding where to eat in the evening. Chester is known for the Chester Rows; shops and restaurants situated on two levels along each side of the road. The ancient walk ways date back to the 13th century, though most of the current buildings date back to the 19th century. One of these was the 12th century Victoria Inn and we rested our legs for a bit. Resuming our walk, we continued through the precincts returning to the hotel to check in.

Overcome with hunger, we ate at the Piccolino Italian restaurant. We enjoyed the most delicious olives we have ever had. Afterwards, as it was still early, we ventured through the Rows finding our way back to The Pied Bull again, via the Slug and Lettuce. As the evening drew to a close, we returned to the Pitcher and Piano before turning in for the night.

Heading out promptly at nine o’clock, our plans were to find out more about the history of Chester. We headed to the cathedral, through the upper galleries of the Rows. The heart of the building is nearly 1000 years old and there have been religious buildings on the site for a thousand years before. The cathedral has the most detailed wood carvings to be seen anywhere and it was evident that the cathedral has strong links still with the military, there being a number of remembrance areas within.
After breakfast in a café overlooking the cathedral, we crossed the town to the Grosvenor Museum, a combined natural history / local history museum. It included a 19th century period house, an expansive silver collection and the largest collection of Roman headstones found in the country. Most had been unearthed within the city walls during a repair project in the 1920s. Why they were there, no one can tell but it was done in the Middle Ages and it managed to preserve them from years of weathering.
At midday, we had finished and it seemed the right time to depart for home. Most memorable will be the city wall walk and the Chester Rows.

No comments: