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T
he unmistakable scent of lavender
wafts gently past, accompanied by a
hint of rosemary, and sitting, eyes
closed, in a sheltered spot in the warm sun, it all feels
distinctly Mediterranean.
On opening our eyes, we see tall stone columns – and a Roman
centurion walking past. But we haven’t travelled back in time to
ancient Italy – this is Chester’s new Gardens and Open Spaces
Tour, showing off some of the best kept secrets of a city better
known as a shopper’s paradise.
Three guides - Stephen Shakeshaft, Yvonne Kirk and Gerard
Tighe – accompany us today, all members of the Guild of Chester
Tour Guides.
“The idea for a Gardens and Open Spaces Tour originally came
about from Cheshire’s Year of the Garden in 2008,” explains
Yvonne, as we leave the Chester Visitor Centre where it all begins.
“Cheshire lies on very fertile soil, acid through to neutral, which
means it’s mainly sandy or clay, so we can grow a variety of plants
here. We thought we’d create a tour of the green spaces in the city
to show visitors what does actually grow here.”
Walking behind the church of St John the Baptist, we stop next to
a small yew tree. “This church has been a place of worship for more
than 1,000 years and inside there is a medieval painting of John the
Baptist on one of the Norman pillars,” she adds.
“The small yew tree here is our Millennium Yew: in 1999, the
Millennium Commission and the Foundation for Conservation
sourced cuttings from 8,000 yews which were 2,000 years old or
older. The idea was that these trees were around at the time of
Christ and the cuttings would be replanted in 2000 and be here for
the next millennium.” a174
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