After we ladies who lunched in McDonalds, we headed over to Chester Cathedral. This was not a revisit from me and my Nana’s day out in Chester, I’ve just always wanted to go to Chester Cathedral, mostly to compare it to our Anglican one here in Liverpool (We don’t talk about the Catholic one). There wasn’t a set ticket price to enter, however there is a certain pressure to “donate” a “suggested amount” at the entrance before you enter, in the form of an intimidating donation box with a sign as you pre-queue to go in, passed a staffed desk by the doors. I paid the donation, but due to free carer tickets being the standard, I only paid for myself and my Carer came in free with me. I think it was quite fair!
It is nicely done! It is not 100% wheelchair accessible, but it was accessible enough for me to finally feel welcomed somewhere. I would say it’s got a different feel to it indoors than the Liverpool Anglican cathedral, and because I’m biased I might be inclined to say it’s not as beautiful as the Liverpool Anglican cathedral, but that would be unfair. It has it’s own beauty to it and it was nice to look around. We arrived just at the start of a short afternoon service, so me and my carer stayed at the back, admired the architecture and when the priest finished his short service, we went looking around the grounds
I’m not religious now though I used to be, and although there’s a lot that doesn’t sit right with me when it comes to religion – and never did, as a matter of fact – but you have to give credit where it’s due. This building, like the Cathedrals here in Liverpool, have become half way houses to meet the needs of the religious and the tourists, and it is a very peaceful place to wander around.
And, like all tourist places, it even had a gift shop! It was a bit cramped, but you’re reading the words of someone who got through Liverpool Anglican Cathedral’s gift shop without knocking a single item over, so rest assured, no items were smashed in the procurement of labelled pens! There was also a lovely stain glass window effect magnet that I now regret not buying.
Finally, after what felt like a terrible morning, my mood was shifting and I started feeling a bit better about this outing and my lack of mobility. Ironically it took an almost 2000 year old building to do that, against a backdrop of modern businesses. Modern businesses in a similar-ye-olde-aged-building, admittedly, but modern nonetheless, with modern customers who are no longer institutionalised in institutions…
Where was I? The only downside was the battery on my wheelchair. Thanks to our stop and start tour around the Cathedral, and the weather warming up temporarily, I found my battery was still hovering on full orange when we first came out of the Cathedral, however 10 minutes later after trying to get my maps on my phone to work to see where the roman gardens were, I turned my wheelchair back on to see I’d gone down a full orange.
I still decided to continue on and risk it. After all, what’s a day out without risking battery failure in the middle of the main road, right? I did let my carer know what was going on, at this point… but not to the degree that I could have. I told her, at that point, I was losing power a bit more quickly than normal, but we should have enough power to get to the park and back. With her faith in me, we continued.
So we eventually got to the park, but not without a few false starts. IE, I can’t read maps and even when I’m following the directions I always tend to go to wrong until the arrow sends me off in the right direction. Unfortunately, it was winter, so the beautiful gardens with the beautiful roman mosaics on the floor didn’t shine up on me like it had all those years ago. Don’t worry, I plan to go back and admire it in full bloom!
So I took a few photos but, the temperature had dropped again, we could see our breaths despite the bright watery sun in the sky, and worried my battery – at this point flickering between one orange and two oranges – would leave us stranded at the bottom of the ramp, we didn’t go much further than half way, and turned around.
“Can we get a hot coffee?” my carer asked.
“Yes,” I said, “And I’ll get a cup of tea.”
The plan at that point was to head back to the train station, get something to drink there and wait around for our train back. However we saw a nice little quaint tea and cake shop on our route which had a ramped entrance and, frozen to the core and my carer’s caffiene levels dropping as fast as my battery power, we ducked inside for a mid-afternoon, pre-train snack.
I found the tea was lovely. My carer ordered coffee and a traditional cream scone which she also thoroughly enjoyed. It was only after drinking my tea and finding myself in need to use the toilet that I realised I’d failed to do the first basic check when in a food establishment – ask where the toilets are first! This place did not have a wheelchair accessible bathroom and their non-disabled toilet were down a set of internal steps.
Bugger. I do hate giving money to places who only want my money, not actually cater to my needs.
On those grounds I can not recommend this place, and that’s also why I won’t be naming them here. You know who had an accessible toilet? McDonalds and the Cathedral!
Oh well! We continued our journey for the trian back. It was at that point I told my carer how bad the battery situation was – I was critically losing battery power, flickering between the last orange and the first of only two reds, and that I thought the taxi driver had done something when he tied his straps around the wrong place on my wheelchair. This wasn’t the usual cold weather battery loss. So the walk back to the train station had to switch to the bus – which was easy to catch once we knew which bus stop we had to go to, and unlike the shuttle bus, it stopped at a normal stop opposite the train station and we got out no problem.
On arrival at the station I nipped to the toilet – red cord was tied up and there was a bin in the transfer space – and then with the help of staff and my Carer, got on board the train. At that point I was down to the reds and wondered if I was going to make the switch between platforms when back to Liverpool, but that turned out to be the least of my worries when I was on board.
I won’t go into details, but basically I got harassed on the train, the staff did nothing to help and next time I go to chester, I will go by bus. On the plus side, thanks to the warmth of the train and being stationary for a while, by the time we got back to Liverpool, I’d gained full oranges again. With the change over to the Northern line and then the pavement journey home, I managed to get back on red, going at a snail pace.
I do plan on going to Chester again, especially because shortly after I got back I was made aware of a guardian article that said Chester was one of the most accessible places! But I would do things a lot differently. Whilst the rows is accessible – as in you can get to them from the ground floor of the shopping centre – it’s not completely accessible, and most of the shops on the rows have steps to get in to them. I have a policy for life – If I have to ask to get in, I won’t go in and i’ll go somewhere else. It could be that the shops have ramps inside, there might be alternative entrances, but that to me is shifting the responsibility of access on me, not them. If there are alternative entrances, why are they not good enough for everyone to go through?
And the shuttle bus situation needs to be fixed. I sent a complaint letter shortly after I visited chester, and I never heard anything back. I should probably chase that up!
But that cathedral is very much worth a visit. I think on a warm, sunny day, just sitting in the gardens would be lovely, and next time I go I’d like to try the cafe instead of depending on McDonalds.
On the matter of this being an affordable day out, let’s tot it up:-
Train Faire:- £5.20, day saver
Begdrudging Taxi Faire:- £10.00
McDonalds Lunch consisting of a McChicken Sandwich, Medium Fries and a cup of tea:- £5.37
Cathedral “suggested donation” entry fee:- £4
Afternoon tea:- £5.50
Emergency Bus Faire:- £2.40
A bit high for a day that was only half enjoyable, I must admit, especially when you think that taxi faire was completely unneccessary, but for the distance travelled and in comparison to a day out in, for example, London, I think it’s not as bad as it could have been. Especially when you compare it to London even one step further and think how long it takes to get between places when in a wheelchair. At least in Chester, the furthest part ouf was the park.
And for anyone interested, I went out a few days later and despite only being out a couple of hours I came back on orange. I called up the wheelchair repair people and the guy who came out confirmed what I suspected – the battery case had been cracked, and also a wire connection had been broken. There is only one way that could have happened.