Transitioning from Zimbabwe to UK cannot be done at a better time of the year than currently. As our summer begins, theirs is ending, so the temperature contrast is nowhere near as shocking as it can be. What started as a strong desire to attend the Dorset wedding of my oldest friend’s son (Deb and I met in Zim aged 8!) has also turned into a part-business trip to London for Sarah, plus a fine opportunity to look up my herd of friendly relatives who live in or near the historic city of Chester. Packing all of this into two weeks requires the stamina of several oxen!
Report by Rosie Mitchell
Chester was founded by the Romans back in the year 79 AD, one of their original strongholds when they colonised England. It was a walled city and much of the original wall remains to this day, along with many other interesting remnants of the Roman era and those following, including the medieval “Rows”, covered walkways at first floor level behind which are entrances to shops, allowing for two tiers of premises. The bottom premises are often lower than street level, requiring steps down to enter. These rows are unique to Chester. There are also some original medieval black-and-white buildings, and many others which were later restored by the Victorians. The originals are clearly distinguishable by the very much less than straight lines seen in their structures!
Driving round England in a hire car is far less daunting than one might imagine and with the technology of this age, made even easier. Our “sat-nav” makes it a piece of cake and we’ve enjoyed a marvellous road trip so far, with some epic wandering down various memory lanes. It’s an unfamiliar and pleasant experience to drive on pothole free roads through litter-free streets and countryside!
Having discovered geocaching by accident in South Africa last year, it has now become an enjoyable added-extra feature of travelling. A geocache is a small hidden container tracked down using GPS technology. One records one’s find in the log book (or rolled up piece of paper in the tiny “nano” or microcaches) within, and later, on the www.geocaching.com website. It was started in 2000 by GPS enthusiast Dave Ulmer when super-accurate GPS technology became available to all of us, not just the America military — and has gone global, with close to 2 million caches worldwide. What I like most about it, beyond the fun and the extra dimension it adds to exploring somewhere new, is its essential nature as a community run exercise in enjoyment! No one does this for financial gain, it is merely a way of sharing interesting and scenic places with complete strangers, who, in the process of searching for geocaches like hidden treasure, are taken to places they might otherwise not pay attention to — often learning something new in the process.
So when my aunt Joan, first cousin Vivienne and her daughter Nicky, took us for a wonderful ramble through quintessentially picturesque English countryside for a pub lunch, it was only natural to introduce them to the joys of geocaching!
Our delightful walk took us through Peckforton Woods in Cheshire, near the Victorian replica of the original medieval castle of the same name, and the genuinely medieval Beeston Castle, to The Pheasant, a pub so well-known for its cuisine, ambience and view, that booking well in advance was essential! It lived up to its reputation in every way. Confessing a lack of experience in real English ale, Sarah was treated to her own private ale tasting to facilitate her settling on one that pleased her palate. The food, the wide variety of choices offered, and its elegant presentation, were top notch.
With nibbles, light meals, full meals, cheeseboards, desserts, and some “either/or” choices (make it a light bite or starter, or a larger portion main course), superb service and spectacular view, this was a memorable dining experience, combined with the joy of reunion of extended family members who live on different continents and see one another all too infrequently.
Then it was time to introduce them to geocaching in the gorgeous rolling countryside we saw below us, energised by the delicious food! There were many geocaches in the area, which we’d downloaded in advance, and unbelievable numbers of them in and around Chester itself -— over 400 within the 10km radius of the city centre alone, a few of which we tracked down a couple of days later!
My cousin Vivienne was particularly taken with the exercise, which simply provided another reason besides the beauty, fresh air and company, to ramble through the countryside a little longer, and was placed with a really good view of both nearby castles.
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