I left Chester along the Shropshire Union Canal, on a dry, grey and intermittently windy morning. Canals can be surprising varied, and this is an interesting one, where each bridge creates its own little environment, and strange junk punctuates the long miles.
A long stretch of barges made the canal into a kind of watery street, the watercraft and sometimes elaborate moorings an unbroken row of colourful, individualist residences. One or two were burning aromatic logs against the chill; one was on the move, its drivers (?) looking cheerful with mugs of tea. (Note to self: buy Camelbak and fill with fine Assam…)
After a few miles, a watery silhouette of Beeston Castle could be seen over crow stubble fields.
I turned off the canal at Crows Nest Bridge, and walked on roads for a while until I came to Cheshire Ice cream farm. Let me just say that this place is great – as a walker I was given a discount in the tea room, with an offer of free refills for my teapot. I had a nice piece of cake and the rest of the food looked good too.
Many of the other customers were cyclists, streamlined in lycra, every piece of apparel designed to reduce wind resistance. Compared to these, I felt clumpy and flappy, like some eccentric fellow wearing a special apparatus to increase wind resistance, perhaps for a bet. The cyclists looked like a different species, elongated and elegant, like elves or aliens from a low-gravity planet. However, unlike Tolkein’s elves or Bradbury’s Martians, the cyclists are bedecked with logos – perhaps corporate sponsorship is the price they have to pay to visit our lumpen world.
From the farm I headed towards the hills south of Beeston and Peckforton castles. So far the journey has been pretty flat, partly because of the landscape and partly because of my reliance on disused railways and canal paths. This tumbled landscape came as a bit of a shock…
Around 2 I reached the Pheasant, a food-oriented pub overlooking the Cheshire Plain, the kind of place where you can query the provenance of the truffle oil and not be openly mocked. Finally I had my Chester-brewed beer, this time something called ‘Thirst Quencher’ which sounded less walk-derailing than yesterday’s ‘Devastation’.
Feeling slightly waney in the aspic afternoon, I headed onwards. The path skirted wooded hills in a series of curves.
I came down to the A553, left it for a while to cross pathless fields rather than risk the traffic, and reached my stopping point, the Egerton Arms. Not a bad place to end up, one of the large roadhouse type pubs that adorn the old lorry routes.
I explored the crossroads. A good place to bury a vampire I believe, or meet the devil. I did neither, but did meet the proprietor of the a garage-cum-bakery, a good example of roadside enterprise, but unfortunately not open early enough tomorrow for me to get supplies there.
Had some very good fish and chips, a pint of Jennings, and went to bed.