Why Chester has so much going on

PUBLISHED: 15:22 15 August 2011 | UPDATED: 19:51 20 February 2013

Why Chester has so much going on

Why Chester has so much going on

Join our tour of Chester and discover the strangest jobs of all: 'dinosaur keepers', who join the tour guides, Roman soldiers, actors and artists to make this the most entertaining city<br/>WORDS BY PATRICK O'NEILL MAIN PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS

Chester is a city where almost anything goes. In my many years of wandering within the walls and watering holes of our most ancient city, I have grown accustomed to the curious, the outrageous and the unbelievable.

But this summer there is an even bigger attraction for visitors. In the citys long history of myths and mysteries, this is a real whopper. Chester has advertised for Dinosaur Keepers.

Im not kidding. The job description is quite specific. The successful applicants must not be scared of big, sharp teeth, and are expected to make sure that 13 of the biggest and most terrifying creatures to have walked the planet are carefully guarded. And, of course, they must know a stegosaurus from a diplodocus.

Rachael Wheatley, spokesperson for Chester Zoo, explained: You could say that this job has been 65 million years in the making.

And before any sceptic shouts out: Do you think Theysaurus coming? they must visit the Zoo, where 14 life-sized animatronic dinosaurs will be on display all summer. The new exhibition - called Dinosaurs at Large- shows visitors exactly what it would have been like to get up close and personal with such monstrous beasts.

It is the first time ever that the robotic dinosaurs have appeared in any European zoo. Among them will be the giant apatosaurus - with its distinctive long neck - and the infamous tyrannosaurus rex, the most-feared land predator of all time, explains Rachael. The event, aims to spread the message that all species face extinction without careful conservation. It will run until October.

And that is just one of many attractions you can find in Chester this summer and into the autumn.

Cheshire Life photographer John Cocks had a good idea. Lets find places around the city walls that I can photograph and you can write about, says he. So we co-opted Tom Jones, a Chester guide with a comprehensive knowledge of the city, to take us on a tour Up the Walls.

We started at Northgate, with the best view of the Roman remnants of the original wall. Then it was on to the King Charles Tower, where King Charles I is supposed to have seen his troops defeated at the battle of Rowton Moor. He must have had amazing eyesight, because you cant see Rowton from here.

Thence it was a short hop to The Cathedral and the bell tower, which is an exact replica of a Roman watchtower. Here you have the perfect viewpoint to watch out for marauding Welshmen: the main reason Chester walls were built here in the first place.

Now it is just a short stroll to the Eastgate Clock, the second most photographed clock in England, (the first of course being Big Ben). A cockstride from here is the Amphitheatre, where gladiators fought and Christians were martyred. But, though it is undoubtedly ancient, mysterious, romantic and circular, it would take more than Merlins magic to persuade me that it was also the site of King Arthurs Round Table.

Finish your tour of the walls at the Old Dee Bridge, where the original Miller of Dee once plied his trade. Here you must climb The Wishing Steps. To make a wish, just run up the stairs and back down again without stopping.

Easy, you might say, but heres the catch. You must run all the way up the stairs and back down again, and hold your breath at the same time, says Tom Jones


Tour guide Tom Jones (above) is an expert on Chesters general history, Civil War, Romans, Victorians, ghost tours and much more. Visit him on www.chesterguidedtours.com

Chesters Rows are unique in Britain. They consist of buildings with shops or dwellings on the lowest two storeys. Those on the ground floor are entered by steps, which sometimes lead to crypt-like vaults. Those on the first floor are protected behind a continuous walkway. They are the perfect answer to our summer weather, being covered and completely rain-proof.

Artist John Donnelly paints Chester views for his position below the Eastgate Clock. He has even painted Daleks on the city wall. You can contact him on johndartschester@aol.com
The major public park in Chester is Grosvenor Park. On the south side of the River Dee, in Handbridge, is Edgars Field, another public park, which contains Minervas shrine, dedicated to the Roman goddess.

Amy Bishop of Chester Performs says that, apart from Theatre in the Park, you should know about Up the Wall, a performing arts event that takes place in the city. The evening festival of live art and new media works, will take place in and around Chester Castle on October 21 and 22.

Junko Kuramoto-Headey, Chesters Japanese guide, tells us that Japanese tourists enjoy the River Dee, shopping and historic buildings. If you want to welcome them to Chester in Japanese, just say: Yokoso, Chester

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