Back to Chester

Back to Chester

This morning it rain, rain, rained, like wet stuff falling from the sky. We waited to elevenish when the rain was down to the soul-destroying drizzle that does so much to create the British sense of overwhelming pessimism, and set out back to Chester. The journey back though the weeds of the North Shropshire Union (which is of course in Cheshire, not Shropshire, if you are keeping track) was interrupted by another stop to remove weed from the prop, and…

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The Mighty Cornflake Barge

The Mighty Cornflake Barge

Imagine if you will a 20th century kernel of maize shipped from the Great Plains through the Great Lakes, down the St Lawrence Seaway, across the Atlantic, up the Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal to the Manchester Docks. From there it must make its way to the heavily fortified Kellogg’s factory on the Bridgewater Canal to be transformed into cornflakes for the breakfast tables of England. For those last few miles it would have been transferred to the Bigmere….

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The Chester Rows

The Chester Rows

Downtown Chester follows the plan of the Roman camp that it was based on, so the streets are straight and in a rough grid system. However, the main shopping streets have another unique feature that is considerably more recent, dating back only to the 13th or 14th century, and that is the two story retail experience that is know as the Chester Rows. The second floor (or first floor if you are English) of all the buildings is set back…

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More Feathered Friends

More Feathered Friends

This is Paula with a gyrfalcon. Gyrs can sell for up to a quarter of a million dollars each in Saudi Arabia, so you could probably buy a house in Chester for the cost of this bird. On the other hand, who needs a house when you could have a pet that can travel at two hundred miles an hour? More feathered friends later, but first, the minstrels’ court. As usual, the Welsh were to blame. 1n 1204 they were…

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Some More Kings Called Henry

Some More Kings Called Henry

Here we are in Chester, where according to popular myth it is still legal to shoot a Welshman with a crossbow after midnight on Sunday if he is within the city walls. According to other versions of the myth you have to use a longbow and be standing on the city walls. This is of course nonsense. The legend stems from the rebellion of Owain Glynd┼Ár (pronounced WHO-CARES-HE’S-WELSH) and Sir Henry “Hotspur” Percy against King Henry VI Part 1, who…

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In Which A Swan Tries To Eat Our Dinner

In Which A Swan Tries To Eat Our Dinner

Battle swans can be quite aggressive about demanding food with menaces. This one stuck its head in the kitchen window and suggested that Paula cook dinner for it. We headed north on the Shropshire Union this morning. Soon we hit the Bunbury staircase locks, where I had to help two boats up before we could go down. That was complicated by the fact that the last people to go through it had not fully closed one of the bottom paddles,…

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The Middlewich Branch

The Middlewich Branch

Today we ended our brief flirtation with the Trent and Mersey and took the Middlewich Branch to the Shropshire Union. We had our first flight of narrow locks of the journey. These are only a few inches wider than the boat, so it’s quite hard to get into them without bumping and scraping. I’m happy to say Paula did a great job, though. If you’ve ever wondered why swans sometimes swim with one foot in the air… … they’re just…

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Salt and Subsidence

Salt and Subsidence

Cheshire, county of cheese and invisible cats, is supported by two strata of salt. Salt been produced here since Roman times. Where an aquifer met the salt and then came to the surface the result was brine springs. The Romans diverted these into lead pans with a fire underneath. The salt crystalized out as the water boiled off. As you probably know, our words salary and salad come from the Latin word for salt. Over the years, the pans got…

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Not The Anderton Boat Lift

Not The Anderton Boat Lift

We started the day with a run towards two short tunnels, about a quarter mile each. Normally with a short tunnel, you just look in and make sure nobody is coming the other way when you enter. The first one, Saltersford tunnel, had timed entry. We found out why when we got there. There is a gentle S-bend in the middle, so you can’t see the other end when you go in. The first couple of hundred yards there is…

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The National Quince Collection

The National Quince Collection

A guy with a really bad migraine. Today we visited the National Quince Collection. Now, quince is not the most fashionable of fruits. People have been discussion getting rid of it for hundreds of years. I have collection of old jokes from 18th century chapbooks, and one of the more comprehensible ones is, “Oh, Paddy, I wonder what this apple and quince pie would taste like without the quince.” But biodiversity is important. When all the bananas die off from…

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