Chester, 10th December 2023

From the station, we walked down City Road, along Russell Street and Dee Lane, and turned into Grosvenor Park by its north-east corner. There had been drizzly rain earlier, but it soon stopped, and it wasn’t cold. However the paths were littered with twigs and small branches following last night’s Storm Elin.  The only birds we saw were Wood Pigeons, Crows, Blue Tits, a Robin, and on the lake some Mallards and Moorhens. But there were occasional signs of the turning year.

Immature Hazel Catkins
Viburnum bodnantense flowering

The Tulip tree by the Rose Garden was full of its weird cone-like fruit.

Across the lawn is a splendid Cedar of Lebanon. A fallen branch showed off the even-length needles, the pointy cones and the odd remains of a mature cone, looking like a small candle, with just the base and central pillar remaining, all the seed scales having flaked off.

We lunched by the River Dee. One Cormorant flew over the water, but we were soon surrounded by Black-headed Gulls, all on the lookout for scraps.  Many had blue Darvic rings, and we were able to note six of them – 2B82, 261A, 285A, 295H, 296H, 297H,

In the evening I reported them on the website of the Waterbird colour-marking Group which returns all the previous sightings immediately. This group were ringed at Chester between February 2021 and December 2022. All previous sightings had been in Chester, although they were all missing every summer, presumably returning to their breeding grounds. We have in the past found BHGs at Chester which had been reported in Norway or Poland in the summer, but nobody has reported any of these recently-ringed birds anywhere other than Chester.

We went a different way after lunch. Over Queens Park Bridge to the Welsh side. The path there is called Salmon Leap.  It overlooks the weir and what appears to be an old water wheel. Apparently there is a Salmon fish trap in the adjacent little building, which is used and monitored at some times of the year, and the scientists reckon about 4000 Salmon a year go up the Dee, mostly quite small ones.

Just south of the Old Dee Bridge is a little green area called Edgar’s Field Park, named after Edgar the Peaceful, Saxon King of Wessex and All England, 943-975, nephew of Athelstan and older half-brother of Ethelred the Unready. He is said to have had a palace on this site. Long before him, the site was a quarry where the Romans cut the sandstone to build the fortress of Deva. There is a surviving shrine to Minerva, the patron goddess of quarrymen, carved into a rock face. She is standing within a stylised temple and holds a spear in her right hand and possibly a shield in her left. An owl is perched on her left shoulder and an altar is shown to her right.

We returned to the station via Bridge Street, passing the Grade II* listed King’s Head pub. It looks like a portrait of Charles I on the pub sign, a king who famously lost his. The building is prominently dated 1622, but it is said to have been re-built at that date on 13th century foundations.  It claims to be multiply haunted and does a thriving trade in “Haunted Hotel” tours.

Public transport details: Train from Central at 10.15, arriving Chester 10.55. Returned on 2.30 train, arriving Liverpool 3.15.

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