Chester to Tarporley. 11 miles.
I started my Two Saints Way “pilgrimage” in Chester. An early morning train had me there by 9am and the Cathedral is not far from the station. The Romans built a settlement here with straight intersecting roads in AD 79. It was later inhabited by a Romano/British population, and it remained an important location for the domination of Wales. At the site of the present Cathedral, Christian worship began in late Roman times. A church and abbey were dedicated to St. Werburgh when her remains were moved here, protected by the Roman walls. At the dissolution,1538, the abbey was destroyed but the Cathedral subsequently survived. As was normal, additions and alterations took place up to the Victorian era. It has to become one of the best representatives of the Gothic and Perpendicular styles. I went to see the shrine of St. Werburgh. I was greeted by a model railway exhibition!
Pete Waterman OBE, the record producer and railway enthusiast, has designed a layout to commemorate the work of Chester’s Civil Engineer Thomas Brassey, 1805 – 1870, who in his lifetime was responsible for many of the railways in Britain and the rest of the world. There is a commemoration bust to him in the cathedral. Lots of excited children and adults were gazing at the little trains whizzing around Pete’s West Coast mainline. Is that the man himself?
The streets of Chester were busy with tourists and shoppers but around the corner was an old cross unnoticed by many, it stands at the central Roman crossroads. Then it was shops galore down Bridge Street…
… leading to Newgate, the Roman amphitheatre and St. John’s Church with its attendant Medieval ruined chapel, the first Saxon Chester Cathedral. I reached the canal and set off Eastwards at last. This area had been the industrial heartland of Chester in the C19th, when it was an important port. There has been a sympathetic preservation of the old alongside modern living. This was the Chester Canal, the first part of the Shropshire Union network. The towpath has been ‘improved’ with tarmac giving fast going, but I found hard going on my heel. More locks followed and at Tarvin Road lock there was a traditional lockkeepers cottage and an unusual round lengthman’s hut.
My first diversion was into the village of Christleton, a wealthy backwater, to visit St. James, a C15th church built on the site of a much older wooden church. Inside were several interesting relics, including a marble font, Millennium stained-glass windows and a wooden carving of a pelican tearing its breast to feed its young.
I found my way back to the canal, now passing elegant houses and gardens. Fishermen were after perch and roach. One chap I chatted to said he had had 20 catches that day but whilst I was there not a single bite!
My destination today was Wharton’s Lock, where I intended to have a drink in the Shady Oak pub whilst waiting for a taxi to Tarporley. Alas, the pub was closed, the first of many. I was preparing to walk up the roads to Tarporley when another disappointed couple who had travelled here for a drink offered me a lift. Before I knew it, I was sat in the beer garden of the Forrester’s Arms. That was fortuitous because by then I was limping on my bad heel and ominous thoughts of having to catch the train home tomorrow were in my mind. A good evening meal and a night’s sleep hopefully would put me in a different frame of mind, if not body, tomorrow.