Posts Tagged ‘parkgate’

Home now, with leads aplenty, I’ve added pictures from phone and camera to the interweb, for your viewing pleasure.

To whet your appetite, there’s a rather painterly shot of a crane in Leeds.

Moving on, pictures of the Parkgate-to-Chester leg of my main walk are in a set on Flickr.


And in another set,  images in and around the Orbital 2008 SF Convention…

car park

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I’m writing this on Easter Saturday, an in-between-time in the Christian calendar, G-d’s absence made official for a day. I’m in a hotel at Heathrow, a place that exists mainly to be part of the way to other places; sited just within the M25, the imposed city boundary explored by Iain Sinclair in his book London Orbital. We’re not actually going anywhere, though: I’m at Orbital, a science fiction convention, mingling with 1,200 people fluent in reimagined worlds, alternative realities, futures that break in to the present. Resting up. Two days ago I completed the latest leg of my walk, from Parkgate to Chester, through land I don’t know, weaving between countries, between pilgrimage and leisure ramble, art and lark, present and past. Jennie dropped me off and headed on down to Birmingham University to pursue her transgender theology research. As she left, a heron on the saltmarsh ate a fish and flapped lazily away towards the industrial park.

Ultimately I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m getting something about crossing and recrossing boundaries.

After the heron sighting, possibly the closest I have ever been to one of these birds, I resumed my walk. An immediate sidetrack took me along the Ropewalk, a path through a narrow park, presumably once an actual ropewalk where great lengths of rope would be twisted into being. I tried to skirt Little Neston but (after photographing a dead, abandoned Christmas tree – the first of three seen on this trip) was hurtled into suburban streets. Despite having lived most of my life in suburbs, I find walking through strange ones rather unnerving (more so than cities or countryside.) Perhaps it is because they exist purely to domicile the residents – they do not offer anything for the casual visitor to interact with.

Back in the open, wet wind cutting through me, just walking, the Dee on my right. Veering inland, through villages and farms that are pretty but somehow forbidding (similarly to the suburbs) – without shops, pubs or pavements, these seem like places for the residents only. Handwritten signs warning about traveller sightings in the vicinity add to the exclusive atmosphere. At Shotwick I visited St Michael’s Church, and learned that, like Parkgate, this had been a thriving port before the silting of the river prevented navigation by larger craft. Hard to imagine it as a bustling port, now. You can’t beat geography, it will get you in the end, playing some unexpected trump card. (I wonder what equivalent of silt will eventually silence today’s transport and communication hubs – rendering Heathrow, Spaghetti Junction, and Google as quiet as this place).

Soon after this I negotiated the roundabout where the A550 meets the A558 and found myself (actually a bit lost) in an industrial estate which featured a substantial rookery (ie trees with rooks’ nests, not a mazelike slum filled with Dickensian crime-urchins). Dual-language signs indicated that I had crossed into Wales. I found a disused railway line, transformed into a cycling track and footpath, which headed towards Chester. These kind of paths are like bit like the hyperspace wormholes of science fiction – the directness of the former railways enables you to get to places quickly, without the need to navigate – just keep walking, mile on mile – it almost feels like cheating.


They also act as a kind of subconscious to the towns they pass through, the place where awkward detritus ends up – abandoned beds, dead Christmas trees (artificial and organic), wild growth, secret burnings and scribblings. Some graffiti was quite nice – Ryan’s account of his love for Rachel, recounted on the bench where their first date and kiss occurred, et seq.

A mile or so outside Chester I switched to the path along the Shropshire Union Canal. Entering a city via a waterway is a gentle and somewhat covert way in – it’s hard to tell where the city limits have been crossed, you just sort of arrive, behind things. I climbed up to street level when the buildings looked big enough to be interesting; walked through a terrace/student area and found the city walls. A bookshop on the wall offered some restorative moments. I decided to save a proper exploration of Chester for another time (science fiction was calling me by then), and walked briskly to the station, stopping only for a pint in the Union Vaults, a corner pub with nice beer and an excitable clientele (on this day discussing loudly whether, if we all marched to Westminster at once to institute an Anarchist state, they would be allowed to shoot at us).

The places on this journey were not mine – across flat landscapes where the sky seemed big and empty. Now and again a strange cluster of things caught my eye: daffodils around a No Through Road sign; a discarded leather jacket behind a stone gatepost, snails clustered in its empty socket. Metal fenceposts sang in the wind.


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new brighton

This was the most sociable part of the journey so far. Professor Rhiannon Evans accompanied me on the long trek around the Wirral coast, and we met up with Jennie at the end. A great day of walking, through some once-thriving resorts. Occasional steel frames sketching out the spaces of new buildings – I can never take buildings seriously these days, knowing that they’re just cladding on a metal skeleton – they just seem like provisional spaces, needing strong brands and service-level pacts to hold them in place.

New Brighton may not strike fear into the hearts of the Brighton, Sussex tourism industry, but it has a charm of its own and I envied the cooked breakfasts in the cafe where we had frothy coffee. We skirted round miles of coast; promenades, country parks, golf courses. Watched a fox cross a railway track; saw a bandstand with composers’ names around its rim: ‘Wagner | Sullivan’ made a nice juxtaposition. Our eventual destination, Parkgate, was (according to Rhiannon) a significant port and a bathing resort frequented by Lady Hamilton and Handel, amongst others – silt put an end to that, though there is a surreal appeal to seeing a grass-filled harbour, like the aftermath of a quiet apocalypse.

On the way, I added another souvenir to my small collection (alongside a piece of melted wheelie bin): a playing card that was lying somewhere on the miles of promenade: a Three of Hearts. Translated into the archetypal mnemonics of the Tarot this would be the Three of Cups – according to the Golden Dawn (the Ordnance Survey of the occult world) this signifies ‘Correct judgement; full measure of all good things upon proper understanding of the situation at hand; a verdict of law that offers benefit, pleasure and prosperity; the understanding of death gives one access to the pleasures of life.’ I expect the Council leave them lying around to convey this message.

Finished in the Red Lion, had a pint of Brains, perhaps the most suitable beverage to drink with Welsh hills in sight as the sun went down over the saltmarsh.

Driving back, past refineries and warehousing, noticed that the Seacombe ferry terminal is signed as a spaceport – maybe next time the itinerary will include a side-trip to Andromeda…


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