Tag Archives: Chester

The Chester playground with its very own Roman goddess

There’s a goddess down the end of my road. She’s called Minerva and a bit of a stunner by all accounts.

I never knew she lived close by and my four-year-old toddler has been playing on the swings on her doorstep for ages, oblivious to the secret siren who dwells within.

I only found out myself after a story in the local newspaper, the Chester Chronicle, reported that a £210,000 revamp of Edgar’s Field Park, a park and kids’ playground with views of the River Dee in Handbridge, Chester, gets under way today, March 8.

Roman soldierHidden heritage

But, aside from the prospect of new swings, what really caught my eye is the field at the end of my road, given to Chester by the Duke of Westminster in 1892, is home to a hidden gem of Roman history.

The park is built on the site of a Roman quarry and is designated as a Regionally Important Geodiversity Site.

The Roman shrine to the goddess Minerva, images of which here, is believed to be the only example of an in-situ rock carving of the goddess in Western Europe.

Local support

Hit the North is all for promoting tourism in our own backyard but this site of major historical interest, completely unknown to me until this week, is literally five minutes from my front door.

Why does it take a new roundabout for the local kids to bring this story to light?

Local tourism body, Visit Chester & Cheshire, recently announced Chestival 2010, a summer arts festival of town criers, mystery plays and, err, giant sculpted rhinos. But it’s a group of local volunteers that fought for Edgar’s Fields.

Chester trades a lot on some pretty hackneyed images of its Roman history but here’s a genuine opportunity to showcase a real find. The project needs support to both protect and celebrate Minerva’s Handbridge residency.

Besides, it’s not every day you find a bone-fide goddess down the end of your street.

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When Hilton gets it right – and wrong

It’s not often I share a guest list with mutton-as-lamb D-listers or orange-hued WAGS. I’m grateful for such small mercies in life.

But a few days ago I joined Coleen McCloughlin, assorted cast members of Hollyoaks and the non-original Sugarbabes at the opening of the new Hilton Liverpool hotel.

It was an event marked by the Hilton Rocks party, a rush on leopard-skin prints at Primark and a night of tumbleweed blowing across the tanning parlours of Merseyside.

John Terry would have been in his element.

On the night the paps got their pictures and the Liverpool Daily Post got their front-page lead for Friday. But, for me, Hilton got this one wrong.

Image problem

Hilton is a bit dull, right? It’s safe and corporate and gets away with charging £15 for 24 hours of WiFi access because most people staying are on company expenses.

The £55m Liverpool property is all shiny and new but, when check into your room, and it’s clearly just another Hilton. So I can’t blame the management for trying to inject a frisson of excitement into their opening night.

But Liverpool has far more to offer than WAGs and wannabes. From the Unesco World Heritage-listed waterfront to the cultural powerhouses of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and FACT, there’s plenty to celebrate about post-Capital of Culture Liverpool.

After all, 15m people attended a cultural event or attraction during the city’s year in the international spotlight. So why pander to the lowest common denominator?

As one of the partygoers told me on the night, “It’s all, well, a bit tacky, isn’t it?” And he’s one of the investors.

Different brands

The new Novotel Liverpool opened around the corner from the Hilton before Christmas and opted to generate interest with quirky features, such as TV diners in the restaurant and offbeat meeting rooms, not a glitzy launch followed by a long, soul-searching hangover.

The new DoubleTree by Hilton, Chester, the £28m redevelopment of the Hoole Hall Hotel, came under the Hilton franchise last year and is one of the few DoubleTree properties in the UK.

Ever since it has been quietly garnering plaudits for its less corporate, more refined take on the Hilton brand. The hotel feels quietly professional, not flashy and needy.

The Steakhouse Bar and Grill opens at the DoubleTree in a couple of weeks with a menu by Marco Pierre White. Marco will be heading north in March for the big opening (watch this space), but I’m sure the famously surly chef would have little truck with perma-tanned hangers on gurning for the paparazzi flashbulbs.

In the cold light of the day the fact remains: the best hotels are the ones that don’t have to try too hard.

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Is Chester safe after dark?

I’m not much of a night owl these days. With a small child at home, I’m more likely to be found reading bedtime stories than out on the town.

An article on the Guardian’s website caught my eye, however. The piece about Chester’s budget eats is more top-10 standard fare. Some of the tips are pretty decent, although Cestrians may baulk at inclusion of DeliKate (below, right) with its surly staff.

DeliKate

But the comments section – you gotta love the comments section – provides a more stimulating read, especially the bit about Chester par nuit. Try this for size:

‘In the evening the town centre seems to be entirely populated by youths in Corsa’s and Saxo’s driving at breakneck speed and slowing down only to stick their pimply little heads out the window to shout racial abuse and tell you to go home.’

I’m hardly a regular at the Cruise nightclub, or often found propping up the bar in Brannigans, but is Chester really that bad after dark?

The comments come soon after local tourism authorities revealed plans for a £20m economic boost to the city, aiming to of attract an extra 200,000 visitors.

The centrepiece of the initiative is Rhino Mania, a project involving 70 life-size fibreglass rhinos to form a tourist trail around the city.

Hoodies in Corsas or rhinos hiding in the bushes – has anyone else had a bad experience in Chester after dark?

And is this harming Chester’s image as a tourist-spot city?

Post your comments below.

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