Holiday to Chester 13- 17th July 2015

Our first destination was in Wales, but we were destined not to reach it without incident, since the coach broke down en-route. Plan B featured delaying our reservation on the Lee Valley Railway, an impromptu Al Fresco lunch, and arranging a local coach to get us to LLangollen. Once there, we joined the vintage engine and carriages to trundle gracefully along, following the course of the river, viewing fields of sheep and cattle, through a tunnel, and multiple bridges over the river.  The return stopped at stations Berwyn, Carrog,  Coren and and Glynyfrdwee. A treat for the railway enthusiasts amongst us.

A good night’s sleep at the Mercure Hotel, revived us for Chester, only a stones throw away. A tour of the towns historic hotspots by (replaced) coach with guide Mary Ann Cameron, was supplemented by a walking tour with Mary or Gerry Tighe, which together, completed an excellent exposition of the history of Chester.  with explanations of the 3 layers of Roman ampitheatres (built one on top of the other), the history of the development of the Rows – the historic shops (also built one on top of the other), and examples of ghosts in the town –almost every shop and building seemed to have a tale of some form of voices, apparition, visitation or manifestation. During free time in Chester, Members listened to the town crier, visited the cathedral for a light lunch (or even starred in the Korean veterans celebration).


Third day, Liverpool, for free time. With so many options of varied Museums and Galleries, refurbished docks, the Mersey Estuary and Ferries, and Cathedrals to choose from. Drop-off point was Albert Dock, but many decided to start the day with a lift to the Roman Catholic Cathedral at the top of the hill. Very impressive with the circular layout main altar  in the centre and individual altars around – all in a very modern style. And a bracing walk back to Albert Dock for lunch

In the afternoon, another water-biased attraction was available by coach   the beach at Crosby, where an ‘installation’ entitled ‘Another Place’ of some 30 to 40 naked Gormley men were immersed in the sand, but accessible at low tide. I cannot repeat what parts of the naked bodies were examined closely by the ladies (even if they were covered in seaweed and moss), whilst the rest of us were battered by the strong seaside breeze, ate ice-creams and watched Anne Giles do wheelies with her scooter.


The evening’s entertainment, adopted a theme of the oldest racecourse in the country - the local Chester Rodee racecourse. Punters were treated to televised horse races, with the opportunity to back any of the horses to win, and to buy ownership of one of the runners. We had a room to ourselves, where we could shout as loudly as we liked, whilst the races were on.

Day Four  started sunny for our cruise on the Manchester Ship Canal.  Coach to Seacombe, to board the Royal Iris.  First stop was Pier Head (so that leg of the trip, was really a bonus trip on the ’Ferry cross the Mersey’) providing views of the famous Liverpool waterfront from a different angle.  Then a return leg across the estuary to Eastham, to enter the Canal via the locks to discover the section of the canal built in the flood plain of the estuary, so that boats could enter/leave a canal even at the lowest tides.

At Runcorn, we passed the original entrance to the canal - much higher up the estuary. A couple of hundred yards further on, we passed under Runcorn rail bridge with its iconic brick towers and latticed panels and Runcorn-Widnes Road  bridge almost at the same location.  Up next, the Old Quay Swing Bridge – the first of six similar bridges of basically the same design, spread along the canal –well-organised such that road traffic stopped and the bridges swung open as we approached.  We passed under several Railway viaducts at high level, usually at an angle, following their original route before the canal was built.

The most fascinating bridge was the Bridgewater Canal aqueduct crossing, a triumph of Victorian engineering, being a swing bridge of 1450 tons, of which 800 tons is water held in a watertight tank compartment. Shame we didn’t see an example of a ship going over a ship.  There were other high level road bridges and another variation, was the Centenary Lift bridge, with vertical lift road section, opened in 1994, to celebrate the canals centenary.

And of course there were the five locks –but after the first, were rather repetitive and time-consuming.  The cruise would have benefitted by by-passing the locks.

But the wait was worthwhile, just to arrive at Salford Quays – a modern regeneration of previous docks with all-new buildings for the Lowry Museum, the Lowry outlet, the Imperial War Museum North, BBC Studios, ITV studios with Corrie Street and many more. But our time to explore was limited - most people chose to fight their way through the tail end of the Graduation Ceremony and enter the Lowry Museum and could have spent a long time there.

Friday - sad to leave Chester behind. Back in the original coach (but still with major faults), on the way to the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas – close to …..nowhere. We only knew that we had a ‘Land Train’ booked, and I think we were expecting something like Brookwood.  But it turned out to be a large site with over 300 memorials to not only the Armed Forces and specific battles, but also to firemen, nurses, RNLI, football, Shot at Dawn, pets and everything. Glad we had the train – we would not have been able to cover a tenth of the area on foot even if we had the energy to do so.

So In Retrospect

Excellent well-balanced holiday - Vintage train in Wales, old Roman-based town, vibrant waterfront, museums and cathedrals, sculptures in the sea, a unique industrial canal cruise and a National Memorial - something for everyone  

A very comfortable modern hotel - good bar facilities, delicious meals with choice and very compliant and co-operative with our special needs – separate dining room and separate entertainments room.

An excellent and hard-working driver (who perhaps should not have been working that week with his ailment) but let down by his employers who did not provide a coach fit for purpose.

But as usual, it was the spirit of friendship and fellowship of the Probians, who really made it so enjoyable. Everyone mixed in together and talked to everyone else - the noise level at dinner every night proved this – we always had to shout at the person just next to us.

Many thanks to organiser John Clark, who took all the hiccups in his stride and minimised the disruption to the programme, all with a smile.

                                                                                                       Alan Boyd

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Outings Report page 23

Llangollen Steam Railway

Smoke dispersed-Engine required?

The Chester “Rows”

The miscreant in the stocks. The Probus rabble awaiting word from Chesters’ Town Crier to start pelting the poor woman.

Liverpools’ Roman Catholic cathedral

Mr Gormley.

Number 26

Or thereabouts

The central memorial in the Arboretum.

Right - died before end of WW II

Left - died in conflicts since then

Souvenir of Burma Railway, and 16000 dead slaves.

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