Chester Walls and Water 28/03/2024

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Fifteen Stramblers took the train to Chester. We walked into the City Centre to Bath Street and the City’s historic Public Baths, housing not just one but two Victorian Swimming Pools and have been at the heart of Chester’s community for well over 100 years. Leaving Bath street, we turned into Forgate Street and saw the Grade II listed Parkers Buildings flats built in 1889 for the first Duke of Westminster. We then made our way to Eastgate Street, where we passed under the Eastgate Clock. Although the original gate was Roman, the present gate was built in Georgian times to allow coaches through. However, the clock wasn’t added until the Victorian era to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. We turned into Northgate Street and then into Hamilton Place to see the remains of a Roman Strongroom. The ‘aerarium’ as it would have been known to the Romans was a secure storage area for the army pay chests. It was located under the floor and was cut into the natural sandstone bedrock for security. Returning to Northgate Street, we passed the Town Hall and turned through the Abbey Gateway into the elegant, historic, Abbey Square. It was built in the mid eighteenth century on the site of the Abbey Bakehouse and Brewery. A plaque here notes that Charles Kingsley was Canon of Chester Cathedral and founder of the Chester Natural Sciences Society which in turn, founded the Grosvenor Museum. We then made our way to the City Walls and followed them north to the King Charles Tower and then round to parallel the Chester Canal. After crossing Northgate Street, we reached Morgan’s Mount and took the steps down past the gun sculpture (named after Captain William Morgan), to the canal towpath. We passed under the Ring Road to Northgate Locks where two canal boats were negotiating the locks. One was a “flyboat” called Saturn, which had been horse drawn, but was now roped alongside a powered boat to make its way through. It was to be horse drawn again the next day to Ellesmere Port Boat Museum. We helped it on its way by pushing the lock gates open. We soon came to a canal basin with a magnificent array of canal boats, gathered for an Easter display. The boats were highly decorated with painted jugs on the roofs, polished brasswork, sculpted ropes and bright paintwork. We were informed by the crew of one boat, “Dispatch”, that it had a Perkins engine taken from a Second World War Hunter Class destroyer HMS Haydon. We returned to the City Walls at the Water Tower and followed south, crossing the railway bridge towards the Roodee Racecourse – recognised by Guinness World Records as the oldest racecourse still in operation. We passed the Castle (built in 1070) and University before reaching the Old Dee Bridge. As we crossed the river we were surprised to see the water so high that the weir was completely submerged. None of us had ever seen the water here so high. On the far side, we turned along the bank and walked along Salmon Leap past the water wheel and stopped for a short break. As the rain began, we crossed back across the river on the Queen’s Park Bridge (opened in 1923) and made our way past the Church of St John the Baptist and the Roman Amphitheatre. As we entered the Church grounds, we heard a Roman Centurian’s stentorian shouts and the responses of his schoolchildren troops, as he marched them towards us. Before we could be recruited, we left the grounds and walked along Park Street with its “Nine Houses” almshouses. We then climbed the walls again and crossed Northgate Street under the Clock Tower. We retraced our earlier steps through Abbey Square to Northgate Street and the Pied Bull pub for our well deserved meals and drinks.

Thanks to Anne and Peter for a very interesting and enjoyable walk.

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