The English Countryside

Went out driving around today with Mick, his son Dave, and the dog, Duke. Dave, Duke, Mick and I had a great time driving around the Northwestern English countryside getting a PhD in English history from Mick. We headed out of Crewe towards Mow Cow and ended up taking a wide tour of areas within Cheshire County. Counties here are a lot like states are back home, with a county seat that acts a sort of capital for the county.

There is a lot of national asset land up here. The Peak District is a park area similar to our National Park land that expands a great distance. There are mountainous regions, low and high spots and towns in between. The landscape is brilliant, even with the leaves off the trees as they are now.

The sun would peek through the clouds every now and then, often offering a perfect photo opportunity to be just missed a moment later. Mick was gracious enough to pull over quite a few times for me to jump out. It gave him a chance to catch up on the map, or run the dog for a walk.

One major difference in English countryside is their use of rock walls that setup boundaries and perimeters across large land areas or keep cattle and sheep in. Tedious work must have to be put into these walls to take a mass of rocks and form them into relatively sturdy walls.

Though, these stone walls often have to be rebuilt. It’s interesting that they haven’t moved on to a more reliable type of fence structure but one thing is for sure, it retains the rustic landscape of the countryside.
We stopped in Congelton at a Chippy shop to get fish and chips to go (they don’t have any place for you to sit inside). I missed the opportunity to get gravy and peas dumped on everything. I guess I hadn’t realized that they don’t come as sides. Dave got a load of chips (fries) and had them dump peas and gravy all over them to be eaten with a fork. I was quite happy with my fried mess of goodness washed down with a sinful Coca-Cola (hey! I’m on vacation).

Mick should really work as a narrator for some History Channel show or whatever the British equivalent is. I had a difficult time keeping up with him because he knew so much about the area. Not having the base knowledge made it more difficult as well because of the fact that many of the periods that Mick was speaking about, I wasn’t very aware of, especially the impact or relevance to the country at the time. Not to say all Americans are like that, just History disabled like I am.

Fargusson would have loved this trip. Would have remembered everything, and have been taking notes.

We went into the town of Congelton which is where a good friend of mine was born. Snapped a picture of his boyhood home and posted it to Flickr to a laugh.

Most towns in the area have quite a bit of history and do quite a bit to protect that image, it seems. Roads are generally old paths that have been converted over time and they aren’t really configured for car traffic at speed. They are curvy and fun, and remind me a lot of the American East Coast roads and culture. Even the towns have a lot of similarities.

We stopped in at the cat & fiddle to have a pint. Watched the sun go down over the motorway as the nighttime started taking over the countryside.

There are a lot of motorcycle deaths on these windy, narrow roads. Hell, Mick and I got into a couple of tight spots meeting oncoming traffic at different time. It doesn’t surprise me too much that they have signs like the one posted below around the pubs to remind motorbike drivers that the sport is a bit dangerous and even though the roads are fun and enjoyable, there is a bit of danger ahead.

Basically it was just us driving around all day stopping to take pictures. We dropped Dave off, stopped at Micks and then went over to Cath’s.
Oh yeah, forgot to update you all. Cath is Chris’ girlfriend…makes sense that she was possibly going to pick me up the other day. I wasn’t really sure at first, but the thought of rendezvousing with a stranger was a little fun anyway. Remember, the codeword is “hamburgers.”

A few work mates joined us for an evening of a few beers, some good food and loads of laughter. Moules Marinieres (Mussels) with bread, chips, ham, and chocolate éclairs for dessert. Cath started to take older records (LPs) and convert them into chip bowls by melting them over a pot. Below, Mick inspects the process. Funny, the only picture I have of Mick right now is his bum.

Crashed out a bit late in the dark in a strange living room with a sleeping bag…it was quite nice, actually.

I was awoken this morning by Chris who had bacon, eggs, and croissants ready to go. Always nice to wake up to bacon, oh, so nice. I woke a bit late, having gone to bed about 3 I woke up a bit after noon. A bit chilly as it has been up here, with overcast skies. Hopefully the weather tomorrow is better.

Chris and I still made good use of the day by going into Chester, the county town of Cheshire.

It is a rather old town that was originally settled by Romans. They erected a wall around that takes about a 1.3 mile walk to get around and built one of the only bridges from Whales until about the 1700s. It’s best known now for a lot of high-brow shopping and it has a couple of pedestrian streets that have shopping malls and pieces connected around all the corridors. It’s really fun people watching and there are nice shops to pop in and out of.

Chris and I stopped at Brasserie Gerard to get a cup of coffee and some cake. I had the carrot cake which was good. This would end up being the coffee that would send Chris’ into a pissing frenzy for the rest of the afternoon as we walked the town’s wall system which is still intact and restored around Chester.

We walked around Chester taking in the sites and talking about history for quite a few hours until the sun went down and started our way back to Chris’. Tonight, “Big Steve” is coming over to hang out, listen to some techno and provide some good conversation. Chris and I also stopped by the market to get some sausages for bangors and mash.
Oh, and I’ve almost forgotten. I’ve picked up a sampler of beers to try tonight. Picture to follow.

Josh, this is a message just for you. They have “Foreign Extra” Guinnes here, as well as the draught. I’m a little nervous to put these things in my luggage, so let me know which one you’d rather have. I’ll have to let you know how the “Foreign Extra” tastes tonight and if it is noticeably different in particular concern to alcohol…results to follow. But anyway, I’ll pick that up for you later this week, so you can take some time and toss me a comment when you can.

Right, so on to the alcohol research. We will see you all soon, send my love to your mums and such.



One response to “The English Countryside”

  1. Wow, you are truly having the time you deserve. I find myself hoping you go again next year. To hell with my “fear of flying”. 😉

    The Foreign Extra sounds interesting plus it is a version I don’t think I’ve ever had. Thank you for thinking of me sir. Still loving your blog. Looking very forward to the next post.

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