Having reached the end of the canal we were now backtracking, through the basin with Telfords warehouse and Taylor’s Boatyard and the canal link onto the River Dee in Chester.
Then back up the 3 deep staircase locks. On our we down we had earnt brownie points for working the staircase shuffle, that’s two down and one up, crossing over in the middle. Perfectly doable, but not for the faint hearted. This time we worked on our own, a bit scary in a 30foot deep lock.
We crept underneath the steep walls with bridges overhead
We moored overnight in Chester to stock up on groceries but although it’s a beautiful and fascinating city, we were ready to move on. And of course we know there will be more to explore next time. Our goal now was to reach Hurleston junction to turn onto the llangollen canal.
It felt good to be back out in the countryside again until we came to the Golden Nook Farm moorings which stretch further than the eye can see, probably for 2 miles, and 2 miles of enforced tick over feels incredibly tedious.
But hey, it is what it is and at least the canal isn’t full of weed. And we were rewarded with another glorious sky at our mooring near Beeston
We took a few days to get back to the Barbridge junction where the Middlewich branch joins the main line
We made good use of our stay in Chester, so much to see and do, all within easy walking distance. The Cathedral was playing host to a model railway display which proved a big draw, not so much the layout of the track but how the circuitry behind the scenes enabled the movement of the trains around it. The track was built by the music producer Pete Waterman, and he was on hand to chat very knowledgably about the set up.
Whilst Eric was chatting to Pete and the engineers I wandered around the beautiful building and came across a scale model of the Cathedral being built out of Lego
For a fundraising pound I could purchase a brick and add it to the structure. My dad would have been proud of me, for he was a builder and back in the 70’s our family spent a couple of years abroad whilst he built a church. He’ll be looking down from heaven laughing cause I’ve now helped build a cathedral.
I’m not sure the 12th century stone masons would appreciate my efforts as much as I appreciate theirs. I took full advantage of being moored 5 minutes walk from such a magnificent building, and the choristers were just back from their summer break. Like many people, we haven’t been able to worship inside a church for so long, that it was a very emotional moment when the bells rang out on the Sunday morning and we were able to attend the service. Ironically the last time we were in a church was in February 2020 when we went to Liverpool cathedral. The Cathedral isn’t the only place in Chester to offer spiritual sanctuary. The StoryHouse is a theatre, library and creative communal. Well worth a visit if you’d had your fill of old buildings.
Chester is the end of the line on Mersey rail system so I hopped across the water and met up with my Aunty, we had lunch in the John Lewis restaurant where I could just about look onto the waterfront where we spent 8 months last year.
On the way to the station I came across a full size gable end mural celebrating Chester’s Brook street heritage. In the 1980s regeneration replaced demolition for these simple streets that belonged to the working classes, and ten years ago this mural was commissioned to celebrate this vibrant community. Its worth leaving the grandeur of the city centre to stand and stare, and if you’re lucky to chat to someone who knows the stories.
Chester train station has good connections so I also took advantage of being able to get up to the Lake District to see Mum, it was the Westmoreland County show week and the weather was good so we had a lovely few days together.
The train journey back to firecrest was amusing, I felt very underdressed in my comfortable shoes and snug fleece, I thought there must be a business conference going on, but then I realised the women were all in heels and hats. Of course it was race day. It wasn’t the trains going round a circular track but the horses. Part of me would love to go, but if I started drinking champagne at 11am, I’d be asleep before the first race.
We took a few more days to cruise up into Chester, stopping under the Egg bridge at Waverly and outside the Cheshire Cat, but eventually found ourselves the perfect mooring in King Charles’s garden.
The early morning golden sunshine lit up his tower on the Roman wall filling us with a sense of adventure as we explored the city. It is suggested that during the first English Civil war (1642-1646) this is where Charles I stood and watched his soldiers being defeated at the Battle of Rowton Heath. Personally I think he was enjoying looking at the narrowboats moored below, until Eric pointed out that he might have been plotting the route but the canal wasn’t actually built until the 1770’s.
Chester has a fascinating history, far too complex for me to do justice to. However it’s proximity to the River Dee made it ideal for the Romans to establish it as a major fortress between England and Wales. They named it Deva Vitrix , and built the original wall. The Anglo-Saxons maintained, repaired and strengthened the wall to help defend against the marauding Danes. And it continued to protect its residents until the disastrous 16 month siege in 1645 when the Royalists fell to the parliamentarians. Chester then realised it was more profitable to welcome visitors, both traders and tourists, and the wall became a 2 mile circular pedestrian thoroughfare.
Until the 1800’s Chester had thrived as an inland port, and although hard to imagine now, taking some quite big ships on the River Dee.
Sadly or fortuitously -I would say the latter, the combination of the River Dee silting up and Liverpool being able to take the bigger ships on the Mersey, the port faded away. But the local entrepreneurs realised that a canal could help maintain trade links both onto the Dee and the Mersey.
Beside the canal, one of the highlights of the city, is the stunning architecture. Many of the original Tudor buildings remain, but the spectacular city centre is predominantly Victorian. We shouldn’t complain because we fall into this catergory but they are a significant draw for the tourists making it a strangely busy place to be. Both Eric and I were content just to wander around looking up and all the intricate wooden carvings, and the unique balcony walkways,
and at the same time looking down to the Roman ruins
Luckily for us the mooring below the wall is 14 day so we had plenty of time to explore.