Monday, 22 August 2016

a bridge too far

“I want to go somewhere!” exclaimed Paula early one morning recently.

I thought for a few moments before coming up with an idea. Chester. I’d never visited the city, but I was aware of its history, which dates back to Roman times, and I’d seen plenty of photographs. It looked interesting. And it wasn’t too far away.

Within the hour, we were on the next train south, and three hours later we’d arrived in Chester. The city’s railway station is some distance from the city centre, but the route between the two is well signposted, so we decided to have a look round before finding somewhere to stay for the night. The obvious place to start was a walk along the city walls, which are almost intact and which provide excellent views of the city’s other attractions:

This is a picture of Bridge Gate, which leads to a fourteenth-century bridge over the River Dee. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of this bridge, for reasons that will be explained later. Anyway, having circumnavigated the city walls, we walked back towards the station to look for overnight accommodation. I’d noticed, as we walked between the station and the city centre, that we passed over a canal—the Shropshire Union Canal—and, having found somewhere to stay, I thought that a walk along the canal towpath might prove interesting. And I assumed that we’d eventually reach the river.

However, I’d begun to have doubts about this assumption by the time we’d reached the third lock on the canal. Surely, I thought, we shouldn’t be going uphill to reach the river. This is a picture of one of these locks, looking back the way we’d come. The white house on the right is the lock-keeper’s cottage (operating locks on England’s canal system is a full-time job):

Nevertheless, we continued along the towpath because it was quiet and peaceful, and there was quite a lot to see, including this moorhen:

The next three photos are of successive bridges over the canal. In each case, we climbed up onto the bridge to see where, if anywhere, it might lead. The answer, in each case, was nowhere, but I did note that there was a road sign at the entrance to each bridge advising motorists who aspired to cross that this was a ‘weak bridge’. Indeed, the hump on one bridge was so pronounced that deep grooves had been gouged out of the crest of the hump by vehicles that didn’t have sufficient clearance to negotiate the bridge safely.

We eventually returned the way we’d come. Had we gone the other way at the beginning, we would have passed directly below the city walls:

When we did finally reach the river, I took these two photos of Grosvenor Bridge, which at the time of its completion in 1832 was the longest masonry arch in the world. It remains the longest masonry arch in Britain:

Having mentioned my failure to take a photo of the Old Dee Bridge earlier, I can now reflect on the reason. It’s easy to throw a few things into a bag at short notice, but it isn’t possible to ensure that one’s camera is fully charged. Having taken a few photos of Grosvenor Bridge, we continued upstream towards the Old Dee Bridge, but my camera battery was by then completely flat.