Thursday, October 13, 2005

Chester ~ Northwich ~ Llangollen ~ Wrexham ~ Jodrell Bank

August 21: Sunday Returned to Chester, which I'd visited months before, simply having lunch and a stroll on the city walls. En route to our hotel in Northwich, we visited Beeston Castle in North Cheshire. Sited atop a crag, and overlooking 8 counties, it's a truly spectacular outing (and very fine picnic spot). Starting life as a hill-fort in the Bronze Age, some 4000yrs ago, it has been redeveloped time and again. For the distance, I'm reminded of one of theMayan pyramids at Tikal in Guatemala that I'd visited in 2000: centuries of growth had covered all but the very tips of these structures. Beeston's fort is actually perched on top but is very overgrown and ferny within its walls. From the top you can see Chester, Liverpool and the Pennines. The Floatel at Northwich turned out to be a bit of a let down. It's been around since 1989, and while OK as a cheap pet-friendly hotel, it's suffering from neglect. While the staff are cheerful enough, I don't think anyone had cleaned the water-level porch of my room in months - it was dirty, cobwebbed and strewn with cigarette butts: not a place where one would go for a romantic getaway. I did luck onto a really nice restaurant just up the road - The Curious Orange. The Northwich town centre is mainly timber-framed, but from Victorian times, not Tudor. I'm curious about the human gargoyle that looked like QEII out talking to her public. August 22: Monday Headed southwest again, past Chester and into Wales: destination Llangollen. Home to both a major Eistedfodd and Balloon Festival (it's a wonder it's not called Lung-ollen), this is where my twice-great grandmother and her family lived at census time in 1861. The census record says Abbey St, but I believe Abbey Rd would be the venue; it's the main bit of road skirting the town centre. It reminded me very much of Dolgellau in its location and the way the town was presented, albeit without the narrow winding streets: this was much more of a grid affair. We turned around and stopped a while in Wrexham, the major market-town for North Wales...and in the few hours I was there, I didn't see much to do there but shop. The famous Monday outdoor markets seemed to consist of maybe a dozen food stalls in a car-park, with a butcher calling cuts of meats like a bingo-game. Final stop for the day was the Lovell Radio Telescope at Jodrell Bank, another place I alluded to in one of my first blog entries for this trip. There's a small visitor centre with a handful of displays, a cafeteria, gift-shop inappropriately selling astrological mugs and a theatrette where you can watch a 10 minute Australian-made 3D film about a trip to Mars. Tourist sites may mention a no-longer-open planetarium. There is alsoan arboretum , but since the entire area is off-limits to dogs, it was too hot to leave Bondi in the car and I gave most of it a miss. This evening's TV highlight: on BBC2 a documentary"Taxidermy: Stuff the World", which has some pretty um unique characters. I'm not sure if the winner of a regional competition - "It's a hollow victory" - appreciated the irony of his remarks. However I'm not sure if i was more disturbed by the woman with the refrigerator full of cervine testicles (which she mounts on plaques), or those who go out and shoot animals to mount...

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