I love to visit places that I know but look at it through the eyes of a visitor. And that is what I did this week on my trip to walk the Chester walls.
As you might know, I grew up on the Wirral and went to art college in Blacon, Chester. As such, I know the area really well from back streets, to the walls and the outskirts too. That’s not to say I know it all, mind you! So when I was there to walk the walls for some work that I am doing with Northern and Walks Around Britain, I was able to see it in a new light.
As well as taking the trip to walk the Chester walls, I was also there to take some photos for the walk instructions and check the route. Being that I know the walls, it was fun to read the descriptions and follow along. Like it was my first time and I was looking for way markers to get me in the right direction. These are the bits that I was recording too. You can grab the walk details for yourself here, and grab your train tickets while you’re at it.
After arriving 40 minutes early for my train out of Manchester Piccadilly, I finally began my journey to Chester. I absolutely love train trips because you can sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. I also managed to catch up with some of my Twitter friends too, so that was even better. Around lunchtime, we pulled into the station and my time to walk the walls in Chester began. Well, leaving the station I headed into town to the start of the walls.
It is quite funny when you’ve known somewhere for a long time as you see the changes and also enjoy the memories that come flooding back. My friends and I regularly stopped at the bars along the Shropshire Union Canal when we were at college. Pictures of sunny days and ice-cold beers spring to mind. It was fun walking past though, as many of the places I remember were now piles of rubble waiting, or part way through, redevelopment.
Old and New
As with Shrewsbury, another Roman town, there is an abundance of old buildings blended in with the new modern ones. To be honest, it is not one of the things I tended to notice when I was a student in the town. Nor when I would be on a night out. This is a great example of visiting with a new eye. You see things that are in plain sight, but you just didn’t notice. Keeping an eye on my instructions for the walk and making sure that I was getting the right shots kept me focused and looking. A handy way to bring me back to my inner tourist.
It is only a short walk before you reach the start of the walk (so long as you don’t get too distracted by the buildings and alleys along the way) You are greeted onto the walls by the Eastgate clock tower. An icon of the city and possible one the most photographed clocks of the North (don’t fact check me on that!)
Walk the Chester walls
One thing that I realised post visit is that I usually travel around the walls in a clockwise direction where this one was the opposite. It is something that I like to do on a short walk. Take one direction then repeat it the other way around. I constantly find something new when seeing something from a different angle or direction – that goes for finding solutions to things too!
Anyway, to walk the Chester walls is fairly simple as you just follow the sandstone walls to the side of the flag stone path. The benefit of a city with surrounding walls is that you get to see a lot of the highlights on one walk.
The Chester walls take you past the stunning cathedral (where there is currently a great art exhibition both inside and in the gardens), past devas and the River Dee. Most of the walk is evenly paved with large slabs – although I will warn you now that they get VERY slippery when it rains!
One of my favourite things when I walk the Chester walls is the part where it opens up onto the Dee. Usually in summer, there is barely room to move for people eating ice creams, waiting for boat rides, jumping from the bridge or tootling about in pedalos. On the slightly autumnal day that was yesterday, it was much quieter. Not any less enjoyable though as I was able to peep through the glowing leaves to see brightly coloured boats.
Not only that, but the rain brought with it a strange stillness too. There were the odd (not strange!) couple that I met on their circling too. But a lot of people seemed to opt for a museum or afternoon tea when the heavens opened. For me though, it meant I could crouch down for different views, catch glimpses through the trees and pause to catch the angles I hadn’t seen before.
Beyond the usual
As I made my way around the walls for a second time – making sure that I had everything I needed – I was surprised by how many new views I spotted. Seeing the tip of the Eastgate tower peeking through the rooftops was a pleasant discovery. I find it incredible how much we miss due to distractions, other interests and a general blindness to the things we are not yet aware of.
As the rain started to pick, I decided that it was time to make my way back to the station. Only just about managing to resist buying some of the delicious fresh doughnuts being sold at the base of the stairs where I came up. (seriously, get some! He/she makes them there and then!)`
Giving in to the rain
Although I mentioned earlier about my memories of sunshine and beer in Chester, I also have so many more of walking in the rain too. In summer dresses, no less. Yes, I sometimes wear a dress! Anyway, as the rain started to pick up and my feet became cooler, I decided to make my way back to the station.
Passing through the shops and using the shelter to keep my a little dryer, I paused from time to time to reminisce. I love that a place can hold so much and bring so much back to you. Making sure I kept an eye on the time though, I had to continue on.
As my day of fun, memories, dodging rain and seeing new things came to a close, I was glad that I had recorded the day. Not only for me to remember, but to share with you too. There’s nothing quite like visiting with someone else, even if it is virtually.
So please enjoy a day of walking the Chester walls with me.
I’m now anticipating my next ‘new eyes’ walks! And thinking about doing a waterproofing wash too. Autumn is certainly on the way…
Where will you go with fresh eyes this week?
Have you ever walked the Chester walls? Or any other Roman walls?
What do you think about being a tourist somewhere you know well?
Let me know in the comments below
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Northern. I received compensation for writing this post. However, as always, all photographs, content and opinions are honest and my own.