It has been many, many years since I have been on the city walls of Chester but I recently read an article about disabled access in the city that mentioned a number of wheelchair accessible points on to the walls. I was previously only aware of three access points but the map to the left shows that there are now 11 accessible points to the walls so I am here today to see how far around you can get in a wheelchair. A larger version of the map can be found by clicking here. You may find it useful to print out a copy of that to take with you, I did.
I started my circuit of the walls at the cathedral bell tower because it is near to where I got off the bus that brought me to Chester, and I know exactly where to find it. This is a gentle slope that takes you up to the walls level. From here you can turn to your left and begin your tour.
Much of the walls facing outside the city are too tall for someone of my height sitting in a wheelchair, but facing in to the city there is only a fence so you can easily see. The first thing you come to is the cathedral and its grounds. They are much more peaceful than the city on the other side of the cathedral.
Continuing on you come to the Frodsham Street car park access point, another gentle slope as can be seen in the photo to the right. There is a fence and the access slope is to the left of it and you continue around the walls to the right of it
Continuing onwards you pass a row of Georgian houses to your left. This is usually a good view but today they were covered in scaffolding whilst repairs are being undertaken. A little further onwards and on your left is the Chester Falconry Centre, it you are around at the right time you may get a view of a group of people watching birds of prey being flown. There was an owl flying as I passed by.
Continuing onward you arrive at the northeast corner of the Walls which is marked by the King Charles Tower. This is sometimes called the Phoenix Tower or the Newton Tower but I have known it as King Charles for as long as I can remember.
The story goes that on 24 September 1645 King Charles I stood here and watched his soldiers being defeated in the Battle of Rowton Heath during the English Civil War. Some people have expressed doubts about this suggesting he was actually stood on a tower at the cathedral.
Continuing along the northern side of the city you can still see the falconry centre and if the birds are being flown they will be coming close to where you are on the walls. Not too far along here we come across our first major problem, the bridge across Northgate Street. As can be seen in the photo to the right there are four steps up and then a short distance a further four steps. Presumably there is also the same on the other side. Our only option is to turn around and retrace our route back to the cathedral bell tower.
When we turn around to begin retracing out route it becomes more obvious how much we have travelled uphill as it is easier to get back. After we pass the King Charles Tower and are opposite the falconry centre now is a good opportunity to look over the walls to see barges moored up on the Chester Canal.
When you arrive back at the cathedral bell tower there is a short distance that you can travel in the opposite direction before having to turn around again. This time we come to a mountain of stairs to gain access over the bridge crossing Eastgate Street but you may want to travel the short distance to get a different view of the clock over the bridge. This is the second most photographed clock in England after Big Ben clock tower.
We now have to take a detour across the city to regain access to the walls. At the cathedral bell tower continue past the cathedral on St Werburgh Street until you get to Northgate Street and turn left on to it. When you arrive at the cross roads turn to your right and go down Watergate street. Halfway down you have the cross the very busy St Martins Way, a three lane road, but there are traffic lights to assist you. The last stretch does get a bit steep so be careful.
On arrival back at the walls you are at Watergate, here you turn right on to City Walls Road and after a short while the road rises to the level of the walls so that the pavement is the walkway on the walls for a while. Along here we pass by the Queen’s School on the right with the extensive sports fields down below the walls to the left. Next to this is the old Infirmary which is now converted in to flats for the wealthy (judging by the cars in the car park.)
From here the walls leave the road for a while and begin climbing uphill again. Soon we cross the north Wales railway mainline which is four tracks at this point. This was constructed through the walls in the nineteenth century, something that wouldn’t happen today with the protection they now have.
We then arrive at the northwest corner of the walls which is marked by Bonewaldesthorne’s Tower which is linked to the Water Tower on a spur of the wall. These two towers have been used over many years and at different times during the 19th century and early 20th century as a museum. They currently have housed a museum of the history of medicine, ‘Sick to Death‘, since August 2016. Continuing along from here you pass the Goblin Tower also known as Pemberton’s Parlour, a semi circular tower with seating in side it.
From here it continues up hill until you get to the bridge that crosses St Martin’s Way and we again have to turn around and go back to where we accessed the walls at City Walls Road. There is no wheelchair access at all to the northern section of the wall between the bridge over St Martin’s Way and the bridge over Northgate street.
Arriving back at City Walls Road it seems that we can from here go around the walls in the opposite direction over Watergate Bridge which you can see not too far away as the route is obviously going uphill. Don’t be fooled, when you actually get to the bridge there are four steps to get on to it and another four steps down the other side! You can miss out this section and re-join just the other side of the bridge.
This is easier said than done! The road that passes under the Watergate Bridge is very busy with traffic from the retail park and north Wales beyond. I found the best plan was to go under the bridge and along New Crane Street to approximately the entrance to Chester Racecourse before you can safely cross the road before returning along the other side and under the bridge again. The short stretch of road from the bridge here until you re-join the walls on Nuns Road is quite steep as can be seen in the photo above, you come along the road alongside the van and cars. At various points on my travels around the walls people would offer assistance and I would say no because I wanted to check out the access, but when asked here I almost accepted.
Here along Nuns Road the road is at the level of the walls. On the right hand side is Chester Racecourse also known as the Roodee. Many horse race meetings are held here throughout the year. This is the oldest continuously used racecourse in England, and at 1 mile and 1 furlong (1.8km) it is the shortest. After passing the racecourse we have to cross another busy road, Grosvenor Road, but fortunately there are traffic lights and a pedestrian crossing here.
From here onwards the route takes us through a quieter part of the city. First we loop round the southwest corner of the walls in which is Chester Castle and the Crown Courts, then past Chester University where the wall again runs along the pavement. After passing the university there is a slope to get up on to the walls again. This can be missed out because as soon as you get to the top of the slope you are faced with either steps up to cross the bridge over Lower Bridge Street or steps back down to road level.
At the bridge pass under it through the third arch and immediately on your right (past the letter box) there is a ramp up to the walls level. When you get to the top of the walls if you turn back on yourself towards the bridge you had to bypass there is a viewing place to see the old Dee crossing bridge.
A short distance along here the walls go higher up many steps and you are left at the bottom of the wall for a short distance until you come to a ramp at Park Street. This is the steepest ramp on the whole route, as can been seen in the photo to the right, it is at an angle of about 45 degrees!
If you managed to negotiate the ramp you are now on the last significant stretch of the walls as you continue to Pepper Street bridge back in the city centre. There are again steps up to the bridge so you can not get further. Here is located the third access point I was previously aware of, however it does not appear on the accessible map. It is a walkway across to the adjoining Pepper Street multi-storey car park but has a gate on it that I believe to be permanently locked. This means that you have to return to the 45 degree ramp you just managed to get up and safely negotiate your way down it again…
When safely back down the ramp you can follow the walls back to Pepper Street bridge and you are back in the city. Just before reaching the bridge you can pass through a hole in the wall to the other side where the is a Roman Garden that has exhibits of Roman decorative architecture found during excavations in the city during the second half of the 20th century. There is one short piece of the walls remaining between Pepper Street bridge and Eastgate bridge but they are only accessible from within the Grosvenor Shopping Centre which by the time I got to this point had closed for the day, and as it is between modern buildings I don’t know if it is really worth doing other than to say you have done the complete accessible circuit.
To sum up I would recommend doing at least part of the Walls if not the whole accessible circuit. If only doing a part I would recommend the first section I did from the cathedral bell tower to Northgate bridge and back or the section from City Walls Road to St Martin’s Way bridge and back to be the most interesting. Whilst if you are fairly fit in a manual wheelchair this can be done alone, as I did it, I would really suggest having someone with you to help out on the more difficult bits. Timewise it took me about four and a half hours including a stop for coffee and I was ready for a drink and something to eat at the end.
If you have any questions about doing the walls around Chester or there is anything I didn’t explain properly then post a comment below and I will try to answer your questions.