Thursday, April 21, 2011


We had an early start this morning (Thursday), leaving London by train from Euston Station, to Crewe and then on to the historic city of Chester in the county of Cheshire, England. We were very impressed with the efficiency and comfort of our rail service, provided on this line by Richard Branson's Virgin Rail.

Even with this early start, and only three hours travel time by rail to Chester it was well past 2.00pm by the time we had settled into Chester House our B&B on Poole Road. We only have a one night stopover in Chester so we kept our reviving cup of tea break as short as possible before starting our exploration of this very interesting city.

A twenty minute walk got us into the centre of this city with its rich and fascinating history: originally a Roman fort, a major centre in Medieval times and a significant player in the Industrial Revolution. It is the most complete walled city in Britain (some of the walls dating from Medieval times - built on Roman wall foundations), has a very famous cathedral and is well known for its unique Rows (galleries or shops in the city centre). The black and white buildings, with shops or dwellings on the bottom two stories look Medieval (Tudor) and some are, but almost all of them are Victorian era buildings. It's all very picturesque and reminds us a lot of some towns in France (especially Albi).

We are really hungry by now (4.00pm) and the day has been very warm so we settle into the Brewery Tap Ale House on Lower Bridge Street for a pint (yes I had a pint) of one of their own ales: the Spitting Feathers Farmhouse Ale.

After our protestations about only eating salads today after our Ottolenghi feast last night you might be amazed to see what we ordered for our lunch/dinner. The livestock that goes into all the ale house food comes from the farm that is attached to the Spitting Feather Brewery located at Waverton on the outskirts of Chester beside Rowton Moor. How could we resist the rabbit stew with Jersey Royal potatoes (me) and the braised Wavertonian beef pie (Rob)?

The ale house has been set up in Gamul House, a Jacobean great hall, originally home to the Gamul family. During the Civil war era in the 17th century Francis Gamul provided an army to defend King Charles 1st. The king even stayed at Gamul House at a very decisive time in the civil war. Gamul House had fallen into almost complete disrepair before it was restored in the last decade or so.

It was a wonderful experience to discover the Brewery Tap Ale House in Chester.

There was a Roman amphitheatre in Chester, the remains of which can still be seen today. Apparently the Romans thought Chester had great strategic importance as the gateway to Wales!

The canals are from the Industrial Revolution but the old stone city walls are Roman/Medieval.

But the crowning glory of the city is Chester Cathedral, a national treasure in the heart of Chester.

1000 years of history (at least)...The church we see today was mostly rebuilt from about 1250 onwards in the Gothic style.

We were at the cathedral quite late in the afternoon (around 6.00pm) at Evensong. It was the most beautiful experience sitting quietly in the church as the choir sang. The sound was amazing and the late setting sun provided the perfect backdrop to the soft pink glow of the ancient red sandstone interior. It appears a beautifully light and airy structure; the vaulted ceiling is made of wood not stone as in most Gothic churches so that probably makes the difference.

Apparently Handel heard his Messiah sung for the first time, in Chester Cathedral. Sitting here this afternoon I could really imagine how he must have felt!


Maxine said...

We are all sitting in Ros's kitchen at Sandy Beach reading your wonderful blog entries Judy. That is a cracker photo of littel Ed in the bath a few days ago. And how lovely your family reunion at Ottolenghi! Wish we were there!!!!Again gorgeous photos.
And Rod and I have just got to visit and have a good look at Chester. What a beautiful city.

judy l said...

I had to lol on the Rick Stein fish pie. Rick cooked this in his Sydney Opera House show. The secret is the sharp English mustard. This pie sent him on his way to fame and glory. In accountants speak this translates to huge profit margin!! Enjoying the blog while listening to great music at the National Folk festival.