Today my local region, called Cheshire West and Chester, was deemed to be Tier 2 at ‘High’ risk from Covid-19. We had planned to go higher up the coast, to that tongue of land between the estuaries of the Dee and Mersey called The Wirral, but that was at Tier 3 ‘Very High’ with government advice not to travel there or back. So we went to Parkgate – at the edge of Cheshire and Wirral, the land and the sea. Part of all these places, and yet not really entirely in any of them.
It looks over to Wales: when I taught at a school there, some of the pupils had a history of families who traded across the water, and seemed to know Parkgate as much as they knew their own town. They bought and sold fish, they ate chips and ice-cream and maybe brought it back across the estuary to Wales. The streets leading down the thoroughfare of Parkgate are named after these old towns along the Welsh coast: Mostyn, Holywell.
Parkgate itself used to be Chester’s Port when the Dee silted up, and now it is silted up itself. Only at a very high tide does water lap against this wall: a spectacle that chases out birds and rodents. Or so I’ve heard. It is something I have yet to see.
This time we walked all the way along to where the local public school once built a bath and filled it with the filtered water of the estuary until the second world war seemed inevitable and they sold it to build their own air raid shelter.
The school itself is gone now, its grounds converted into a housing development but with the school chapel retained: another relic of a town with a busy past of industry, mining, ocean going-ships and exotic cargoes. The remnants are still here: a collection of white-painted buildings once custom houses, luxurious hotels and meeting rooms.
And now so is a trail. Something to investigate next time I’m here – balancing along the harbour wall in a post-Covid world – no longer flinching at approaching faces and their intimidating breath.