Day 12 – Chester to Stoke-on-Trent

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– Sandra Lindsey

Chester Rows, from The Cross

Chester Rows, from The Cross, c. 1895 (but it’s not changed much!) – image from Wikipedia, click to learn more there

The torch is taking the scenic route today. Travelling directly from Chester to Stoke is less than 40 miles, but instead of just going straight down the A51 and onto the A500 as Google would suggest, it’s got a lovely wander down the Marches, before heading east to Much Wenlock (first modern Olympic Games – I guess they couldn’t really miss it out) and Ironbridge (birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, or something like that – I’ve never been because the entrance fee makes my wallet weep although families seem able to get a good deal) and then back north to the most well-known of the Potteries towns.

It’s a journey with plenty of contrasts: from Chester with its Roman ruins, 13th century castle, and medieval ‘Rows’, through Wrexham – birthplace of Elihu Yale and full of other gems though the town seems determined to hide its history away behind bland modern shopping centres – then down through the market towns of Oswestry, Welshpool and Shrewsbury which serve the population of the rural Wales/England border. I get a bit hazy after that, as for me the torch passes out of my local area after Shrewsbury – maybe one of you can use the comments to educate me?

I’ve been amused, driving around this past fortnight, at the differences in signage along the route of the torch. In Wrexham, the signs state “Road closed for Olympic Torch Relay May 30th 07:30 – 08:00″; on the A483 it simply says “Road closed May 30th” (which had at least one colleague of mine spitting at the short notice for closure of a major trunk road), but my favourite is the one I drive past everyday in Welshpool:

Olympic Event - Delays possible

I love the vagueness of it: the way it doesn’t specify which Olympic event is happening in Welshpool on the 30th May. I guess they assume either we know already or we’ll work it out, but part of me is still hoping that it’s something ridiculous like hurdles down the high street, or kayaking on the canal!

I hope the team accompanying the torch enjoys their visit to Welshpool. I think it’s a fab little town. I can understand how people who’ve grown up there and never lived elsewhere might get tired of the lack of national chains, I am constantly amazed – four years after first visiting when considering moving to the area – by the range and variety of things one can buy in the many independent shops in town. It’s got its supermarkets too – big news last year was the arrival of a Tesco – but they’re on the small side and there’s even an independent greengrocer in the centre of town, which I had thought a thing consigned to history!

My daily commute to Welshpool, through 20 miles of Montgmeryshire hills, brought the inspiration for my story Shelter from Storms, in the forthcoming Lashings of Sauce anthology.

I hadn’t driven my new car in snow until the cold snap we had in early April, and I was focusing on staying a good distance from the car in front when I caught sight of this house on the hill before me:

Imposing red-brick residence at top of hill

I’d noticed the house before, though for such a sizeable residence it’s not as easily visible as you’d think – until the white-covered fields and snow-clad bare branches of the surrounding trees threw its red-brick walls into sharp relief, and suddenly I not only had to concentrate on my driving but also on ignoring the ranting of an eighteenth-century frenchman, frozen half to death and cursing the wintery weather and sparsely-populated foreign land he stumbled through.

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11 responses »

  1. Lovely, and very enticing post. I don’t really know that area of Wales. If we head north it tends to be through Llandeilo and Machynlleth to the mountains. You paint such a grand word picture I think I’ll have to visit.

    🙂 am looking forward to getting my paws on Lashings even more. That sounds like a terrific premise for a story.

    • Yes, you should definitely visit up here 😀 Mach isn’t far away, but the border with Snowdownia is at the top of our lake so you can probably imagine the scenery we get (plus lots of historic stuff! Due to the route skirting us I didn’t even mention that our closest town got its charter from Llewellyn ap Gruffudd – one of only a few towns to have received its charter from a Welsh prince!)

      We got a mention on Radio 3 this morning as well! They spoke to a lady from Llanfyllin about their music festival 😀

  2. Looks like my comment got eaten and now I can’t remember what it was! Something like that road sign being a masterpiece of British understatement. And was the house Lindsey Towers?

    • Lol, no, my house is nowhere near that grand! I have no idea who lives there, but this part of the country has loads of grand houses like that – I think land here has always been cheap compared to other parts fo the UK, plus there’s far fewer people (doh! I meant to mention that! Powys has a population density of 25 people per sq km)

    • Having never lived anywhere so rural before, I was a little concerned that I might get cabin fever – but it turns out, I really like it! Now I complain if there’s more than a dozen cars on the road at the same time as me, and queueing has become something of a novelty! My work colleagues laugh at me for waving to pretty much everyone I drive past on the basis that “I miht know them, and if I don’t it doesn’t matter, but if I do know them and I don’t wave then they might take offence!”

  3. Yours is a lovely insight to the area, I confess I’ve never been in that part of the country, but I rather thnk hubby – who gew up in a small village in Devon – would love it! 🙂

    • Come for a holiday! There’s loads of B&Bs in the area, and even steam railways for your husband – there’s the Cambrian Railway in Oswestry, Welshpool & Llanfair, Bala Lake, Llangollen, and even Talyllyn is within day-trip distance! Oh, and the Oswestry Transport Museum which is basically a shed filled with all sorts of railway memorabilia, some of which is labelled and occasionally even explained to those of us who still don’t know what the thing-on-a-stick’s for after reading its name!

  4. Pingback: Meet the Lashings of Sauce Authors! |

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