Week 48 East: Cheshire to Denbighshire

July 20th till 27th, 2014

Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living. – Miriam Beard


The Black-and-white Revival was an architectural movement from the middle of the 19th century which re-used the vernacular elements of the past, using timber framing. The wooden framing is painted black and the panels between the frames are painted white. The style was part of a wider Tudor Revival in 19th-century architecture.

The movement was improved when John Douglas and T. M. Lockwood “discovered the medium”. They were the principal architects of the movement, and they “transformed the street frontages of the city with their black and white buildings”. Major examples of their work are Lockwood’s building opposite Chester Cross at No. 1 Bridge Street of 1888 and the terrace of buildings on the east side of St Werburgh Street of 1895–99 by Douglas. The black-and-white tradition in Chester continued into the 20th century. – Wiki

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Walking the walls

Eastgate Clock1We were met by our kind couch surfing host Jon and after depositing our bags in his lovely home, set off together to explore the town. We started at Chester’s famous Eastgate clock, then walked the restored Roman walls of the city, licked ice-creams by the Dee river and admired the restored buildings with their distinctive ‘rows’. The Rows are a second level of shops above street level.

Here we co-surfed with two lovely Russian girls who are cycling across the UK. Take a look at their post about our time together on their blog here. Jon is an Englishman who loved mountaineering and Russia. He travelled/lived in Russia, spoke Russian and enjoyed cooking a variety of Russian food for us all.

Jon told us about a curious woman who lived next door in the 16th century. Amazingly in our neighbouring house, lived one of Chester’s most bizarre residents, Mary Davies, the “horned woman of Saughall”. Accounts of Mary Davies vary slightly in all sources but she does seem to have been born in 1598 or 1600 and lived in a farm where the present Vernon Institute stands. Although it sounds fantastical, there are many documented accounts of this woman. From the portrait held at the British Museum, the horns appear to rise at a point behind and above the ears, and then to curve down towards the back of the neck. Apparently although she removed them she grew many sets!

You that love wonders to behold,

Here you may of wonder read,

The strangest that was ever seen or told,

A woman with horns upon her head.

We enjoyed just wondering around Chester and seeing the sights. We crossed the Shropshire Union Canal and sat by the river Dee, took a peek at it’s famous racecourse now often a venue for concerts and events. We wandered the town hall, saw the Castle, Roman amphitheatre, Roman gardens and the boys enjoyed completing the Summer Reading Challenge at the Chester library.

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Though we admired several churches, we couldn’t help being in awe at Chester’s Cathedral. There has been a church on this site for over 1000 years and the current church has been built in parts from 1093 till the 16th century.

Jon took us on a lovely day trip to visit the ice-cream farm (for what else but fun and ice-cream!) and the historic Tyddyn Pwrpas. Here we had a lovely walk through a wood, saw a small waterfall and enjoyed exploring the ruined castle.

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Chester is a fascinating and friendly city. The clocks on all the church towers have the one facing Wales removed and there still exists an ancient law that says that if a Welsh man is found within the walls after dark he may be shot with an arrow.

We had some great adventurers there, loved listening to the town crier and even had a chat after buying him a cup of tea.

We will miss our friend Jon and remember fondly our time together.



Rhuddlan was recorded in the Doomsday book in 1086 as “Roeland”. Some say that it was in Rhuddlan castle (not Caernarfon) that Edward the first proclaimed his baby son the first Prince of Wales – born in Wales with not a word of English.

Rhuddlan94So it was to Rhuddlan we came. Our hosts Martin and visiting Aussie Cheryl, welcomed us to the old gamekeepers cottage on the edge of an estate’s forbidden wood. Whist there we all became firm friends, got to know their dogs mad Meg and Ruby, had blazing bonfires every night and learned about foraging for food in their organic, wildlife garden. One night under the stars we even listened for bats on a bat detector.

Martin taught the boys to light a fire with a bow drill and then with a flint.

Cheryl dug up potatoes with them and cooked us home made pizza. Their home was a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of life.

The Rhuddlan Sights

Whilst in and around Rhuddlan we visited many great spots. We had a huge eight kilometre walk one day which started at the friendly library and local playground. We stopped for cordial and some coin puzzling at the New Inn Hotel. The friendly bartender let us use the coins from her till.

Mark Dent, 26, from Bangor, was the winning entry in 2008 to design the first new British coin series for 40 years. The designs on each coin from the 1p to the £1, feature a part of the royal coat of arms with the familiar Queen’s head image on the other side. It is the first time a single design has been used across a range of coins in this way. Each of our boys had a turn creating the shield.

Rhuddlan32We saw the stone bridge over the River Clwyd. This river had once been shallow but was made into a wide channel to allow ships to navigate to the castle. The Parish Church of Saint Mary was a delight and we were soon given a private tour including a peak at the famous ancient oak ladder.


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A stop at the Rhuddlan Castle. (Which we later entered and explored with our host Martin). Started in 1277, it was built as one of the ‘iron ring’ of fortresses put in place by Edward I. It was the first of the ‘concentric fortresses’ and designed by James of St George. In 1284, a parliament held here producing the Statute of Rhuddlan including the constitution of later medieval Wales.

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Then onwards via the public walk way to Twthill Mound. This earthern mound was once crowned with a timber tower, built of motte-and-bailey construction, with a stockade enclosure and a ditched Norman town beyond. It was the strongpoint of the Norman predecessor of the Edwardian Castle. Built in 1073 by Robert of Rhuddlan (nephew of Earl of Chester), on the site of an earlier Welsh Palace.

Now it is a peaceful place to see the views of the River Clwyd. Beneath us, the local teenagers hangout and swim. We continue onwards along the public walkway to the last remnants of the Friary at Abbey Farm before wheeling away out of town towards home. We stopped at the Rhuddlan golf course for a pint of lemonade. (Besides the bar staff I was the only female on the site). We headed down bridleways and eventually walking a little of the Northern Wales Walkway before becoming lost. A call to our host found we were not far off the mark and he came out to join us for the last small leg home.

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On another day Cheryl took for a lovely day trip to Rhyl for ice-creams at the beach. We perused the local op-shops, enjoyed the small markets and frolicked by the Irish Sea shore.

Rhuddlan was a great adventure for us all. Another place where the boys enjoyed life outdoors and their was no call for television or electronics. Martin and Cheryl took the boys under the wing, soothing nettle stings, carrying the boys over fences and imparting their deep knowledge of the area’s ecology. It was an honour to spend a few days in this unusual setting with two kind and caring friends. We will keep in touch and hope to catch up again on day, in person – maybe in Australia?

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