After lunch, Maxfield and I left the town of Bollington for the long wet walk back to our wagons. Maxfield led me back not along the tow-path, but along an abandoned railway line, now called the Middlewood Way. As with everywhere in Britain, the grass and weeds grew tall and green, nourished by the constant rain and spreading over the path.
By now Maxfield had learned of my interest in the ancient history of Britain. We talked of the various sites each of us had seen, and he suggested we visit Beeston Castle, one of the historic sites in the area. Being from 1227, the castle actually provided little protection from the rain, but we explored its sprawling grounds anyway.
We climbed from the gate up a tall hill. About halfway up we passed the outer defenses (or possibly the middle defenses) of the fort. There had once been a wall with several towers at regular intervals, and much of it remained. We passed through the main gate and climbed on, toward the castle.
We were faced with another obstacle before we could enter the ancient sanctuary. Though it is built on the top of a hill, the castle is surrounded by a deep and dangerous-looking ditch. Fortunately, the people restoring the site have built a very modern and very strong concrete bridge across the ditch to the castle gate. We had only to cross the bridge to enter the stronghold.
Inside, we explored the many rooms, some of which were probably once the luxurious homes of kings. No floors or ceilings remained, but most of the walls were still a few feet high. We had an excellent view of the countryside far below us.
On the way back down the hill, we went a little slower and examined the defensive walls more closely. From the gate, walls extend in both directions, and there are circular towers every hundred feet or so. Not much remains of the towers, but they would obviously have made it quite easy to defend the approach to the castle. With the wall at the base of the hill, the defensive wall part way up, and the deep ditch, I would not be surprised to learn that this castle had never been conquered in war.
Eventually, we tired of climbing all over Beeston castle and the outlying works and we headed back to the road. Maxfield pointed out Peckforton Castle, still in use, where, he told me, visitors are served expensive tea and cakes. We were now too late to visit, but Maxfield invited me to have supper with him back in Chester. He took me, to my delight, into one of the black-beamed, whitewashed, multi-window-paned buildings. It was called Jones' Wine Shop, and I can no longer remember what food we ate there, but I am sure it was good.
I said a regretful goodbye to Maxfield that night, for Wales beckoned and I planned to drive out of England in the morning.
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