The day arrived fresh after the rain last night, but unfortunately our truck hadn’t magically become unstuck. We decided to let the ground dry out over the course of the day and have another attempt at freeing ourselves in the evening.
The campsite owner said that the walk into Chester along the canal path would take 45 minutes. Not with small people who like to explore as they walk. We walked forever and ever and ever. After 45 minutes (ha), we came across a lock with a boat approaching, so we watched the boat enter the lock and the people on board gave us a quick lesson in how it all worked. The kids even got to help out with the mechanism, a remarkably simple process for moving a lot of water in a short time with only man-power.
After another half hour walk, or so it seemed, we reached a supermarket to provide us with an emergency snack, and in another while, we made it to the famed Chester Roman Wall. We walked along the wall, handily refurbished by the Victorians, past the cathedral (again an ancient small building continually extended until the Victorians renovated and improved it in 1870ish). Finally, we ended our epic three mile walk at the Queen Vic clock (apparently the most photographed clock in the UK). The footbridge under the clock has an excellent view of the main shopping strip with its Tudor two-storey shopping mall named The Rows.
We’d been looking forward to seeing these streets and reveling in the history, however, the overt commercialism of the space with so many of the same old shops you get in every mall took away some of the charm. Ironically, it is shopping that created this space, and continues to keep it in good condition. The core problem eventually becomes apparent when you look at the buildings in more detail. Many say “built 1643, rebuilt 1914, refurbished 1984” etc and while I appreciate the sentiment that has restored all this history, there is a sense of fake that pervades the town.
We wandered down a few back alleys in an effort to explore a deeper, fresher part of town, only to find back alleys filled with rubbish bins. Just as dismay set in, we came across a fun plaque that made the exploration worthwhile. A plaque that most visitors to Chester wouldn’t find, and one that marks the beginnings of Chester’s Roman archeology.
We had lunch at The Falconry, a decent meal with gorgeous beer in a Tudor tavern. They had some lovely old horse racing paintings on the wall, including one of Bend Or who won the 1880 Derby (or did he? DNA testing done in the 2000s showed that he wasn’t the horse they thought he was).
After lunch, we visited the local museum with plenty of historical archives for researchers, before walking to the Roman Amphitheatre – advertised as the best most complete one in England. This should have been a clue, as the one in Caerleon (technically Wales) was much better. With a sense of dissatisfaction we wandered through the roman gardens, saw the section of the wall that Cromwell wrecked and was since re-built. Seriously, that guy rampaged all over the place destroying stuff. Everywhere we’ve been there have been bits and pieces of ‘destroyed in the English civil war’.
We walked back into town, grabbed some supplies (bread, milk, beer, all the essentials), and grabbed a taxi back to the campsite. Only £8 for the cab, pretty much what six people on a bus costs, so that felt like a win after a mixed day.
With much drama, and much hilarity (“here, hold my beer, while I push the truck”) we eventually extracted ourselves from the Netherwood Mud, thanks to a tow from the campsite owner, and several volunteers to push. We shifted to a new spot, without slippery mud to capture our wheels, and set up for the night.