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I spent a couple of days in Chester last week and finally got to see the Eastgate Clock.

I’ve often seen photos of the clock on the internet; on instagram and travel sites, but didn’t realise at the time that the clock resides on the actual Roman city walls.

The Eastgate Clock in Chester

The Eastgate Clock in Chester

When I arrived in Chester on Wednesday, the first thing I did was walk into the city to see the clock. It was quite late and already dark, so all I managed to do was take a couple of very dark images.

The following day, at the Tourist information office is when I discovered to my delight that it was situated right above the city walls, and a walk around the city walls was on my list of things to do.

How amazing it was to not only see the clock up close, but to be able to walk along the beautifully preserved walls, along which Roman soldiers had once tramped in their leather sandals.

Roman city walls in Chester

Roman city walls in Chester

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I’ve been wanting to visit Chester for ever such a long time, and suddenly, due to circumstances on the work front, I’m able to plan a visit.

I’ve been working up in Nottingham for 2 weeks in February/March and tacked on 2 days for exploring the city while I’m here. I then tackled Google maps to see which places of interest were nearby…..voila Chester came up in my search, and since its just a 2.5 hour train journey away, I’ve decided to travel to Chester afterwards and spend a few days there as well.

Chester, located on the River Dee, has long been on my travel dream list as well as another location for Project101. A walled Roman city, Chester has a fascinating history, some of the most amazing Tudor architecture, a castle, an amphitheatre and a cathedral and nestles alongside a river, over which I’m sure there is a bridge or two. Perfect – at least 6 or 7 of the categories I’m aiming to fulfil. Founded as a ‘castrum’ or fort during the reign of Emperor Vespasian in AD79, Chester was one of the main Roman army camps, it’s original name: Deva Victrix, it was also briefly located in Wales, and is of course mentioned in the Domesday Book.

Known for it’s extensive Roman walls made of the local red sandstone, within the medieval city is The Rows, now a shopping precinct with Tudor-style half-timbered buildings, some of which are Victorian renovations. Just beyond the city’s old walls there’s a Roman amphitheatre and ongoing excavations. I’m excited to see my 3rd Roman amphitheatre.

The Minster Church of West Mercia, founded by King AEthelred of Mercia in 689, became Chester’s cathedral and the town was granted city status in 1541 during the reign of Henry VIII.  Apparently it has one of the best preserved Roman walls in Britain, which the Saxons extended and strengthened to protect the city against the Danes. Chester was one of the last cities in England to fall to the Normans after which William the Conqueror constructed a castle, to dominate not only the town but also the nearby Welsh border.

Chester experienced substantial development during the Industrial Revolution which saw railways, canals and new roads being built. I’m so excited to be visiting there and wish I had a few more days…..but 2.5 will have to do for now.

Things I plan to see/do while I’m there:

Walk a circuit of the City Walls; 3kms approx and visit the city gates, of which there are by all accounts 7: Bridgegate, Eastgate, Newgate, Northgate, St Martin’s Gate, Watergate, and Wolf Gate. Awesome. I wonder how it compares to the city walls at Canterbury?

The amphitheatre and excavations – it will be interesting to see the comparison to the Roman amphitheatre at Guildhall in London.

The Castle (of course 🙂 ) – I love a good castle

The Cathedral – one of my favourite types of buildings to visit, they are usually quite exquisite.

The Row with it’s Tudor-style buildings – an absolute favourite in terms of architecture.

Walk alongside the river and cross at least two bridges….a must do 🙂

And last but absolutely not least….visit the famous Eastgate Clock; apparently the most photographed clock in England after Big Ben, which seems hard to believe…. This was one of the very first things about Chester that made the decision for me; I had to visit.

And so to Chester I go…..

 

 

 

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As mentioned in an earlier post I’ve been planning my summer pilgrimage from Winchester to Canterbury, prior to flying to Spain for the Camino Inglés. One of the best aspects of planning a pilgrimage is the research. I’ve uncovered so many wonderful places to see and visit; castles, Roman villas, ancient churches, Domesday villages. I’ll be walking along two ancient routes; St Swithun’s Way and the North Downs Way that combine to make The Pilgrim’s Way.

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I’m sure to see a few of these along the Pilgrim’s Way

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The chalk landscape along the Pilgrim’s Way in Surrey – North Downs

The Pilgrim’s Way, an ancient trackway, is an historical route followed by medieval and modern pilgrims from Winchester in Hampshire to the shrine of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent.

From medieval cathedral to medieval cathedral, winding its way through the English counties of Hampshire, Surrey and Kent, the track takes the pilgrim along both Roman and modern roads, through ancient towns and cities, taking in historical castles and ancient churches, Roman villas, past numerous ‘tumulus’, through fields and forests, over chalk hills that offer picturesque vistas of the English countryside, alongside and over flowing rivers.

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along the Pilgrim’s Way

With an archaeological age of between 600-450 BC dated by finds along the route, the course has been dictated by natural geological contours and causeways, and is now a culmination of various routes followed over the aeons from as far back as the Stone Age. Although I doubt the stone age dudes were on a pilgrimage!

The names of the towns, villages and cities roll off the tongue like a lesson in history; Winchester, Abbots Worthy, Martyr Worthy, Itchen Abbas, Bishops Sutton, Four Marks, Holybourne, Upper Froyle, Lower Froyle, Farnham, Seale, Puttenham, Guildford, Shere, Oxted, Limpsfield, Otford, Kemsing, Trottisford, Detling, Thurnham, Lenham, Boughton Lees, Old Wives Lees, Chilham and then hoorah…Canterbury.

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Limpsfield – Domesday Book village

The chalk landscape along the Pilgrim's Way in Surrey - North Downs

Tatsfield – Domesday Book village

Along the way I’ll pass places like Avington Park, Jane Austen’s house, Farnham Castle, Guildford Castle, the Silent Pool, Kit’s Coty House, the White Horse Stones and the Black Prince’s Well before reaching the historical walled city of Canterbury and thus to my ultimate destination; Canterbury Cathedral.

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The Silent Pool

It’s been really tricky trying to work out the most conducive distance between towns. I really don’t want to walk more than 20kms a day. Besides the distances, I have to consider whether or not I’ll find suitable accommodation. I’m seriously considering taking my sleeping bag along just in case there are some days I am without something suitable….I can always sleep on a church porch! Although there are a lot of venues listed on the Pilgrim’s Way UK website, many of them are in the region of £100+p.n. which frankly is ludicrous and I’m certainly not prepared to pay that much. Unlike the European Camino routes that have hostels or albergues in virtually every hamlet, village or town, the accommodation along the Pilgrim’s Way is sketchy to say the least. I’m sure there are loads of places to stay, but as mentioned earlier, the prices are exorbitant.

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I’ve ordered the guide book; ‘The Pilgrim’s Way To Canterbury from Winchester and London’ by Leigh Hatts, recommended on their site. I’m hoping it will be at home waiting for me when I return this weekend 🙂 Can’t wait to start digging into it. (*update! It’s arrived!! Happy dance.)

I’ve spent hours on their site reviewing the map, calculating distances, checking ‘places to see along the way’, reviewing the churches…I’m only looking at the churches that actually provide a pilgrim’s passport stamp. If I have time and happen across any others that look interesting, of course I’ll pop in, but I won’t be going out of my way.

 

When reviewing the map on their website I noticed I’ll be walking sections of the Pilgrim’s Way that I’ve walked in the past, so it will be quite exciting to walk those again.

I’m trying to decide what I should pack in Pepe (my rucksack). I’ll be leaving for Spain 2 days after I reach Canterbury, so won’t have much time to repack….I’m going to keep it as light as possible and of course I won’t be taking my flip flops LOL According to the weather website, the best months to travel in England are May, June, September and October. These months generally have the most pleasant temperatures and less rain. July and August are the warmest months, but are also the wettest…. which is not what I want to read!!!! Does this mean I’ll need my rain poncho? I hope my shoes can handle the mud LOL

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my walking poles will definitely be helping me along the Pilgrim’s Way

Thankfully I don’t have to buy the rucksack, shoes, walking poles and all the paraphernalia that I had to buy in 2016/17 for my Portuguese Camino. So hopefully it will be a lot less costly than that trip. However, I’ve been investigating the prices and boy, it’s not cheap to fly to Spain anymore. No surprise there I guess.

There’s quite a lot to be considered when planning these walks. I’m not one of those people that can just sling on a rucksack, head out and start walking….I like to plan things. If I decide to do something impulsive along the way, then that’s fine. But I like to know where I’m going and how I’m going to get there. So atm I’m researching, listing, checking venues, and deciding on dates et al.  Anyway, I just enjoy creating spreadsheets, and to the truth of that, my daughter would testify. LOL

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The Pilgrim’s Way Lenham – Domesday Book village

Onwards…….along The Pilgrim’s Way

 

 

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