Verulamium – Roman times in St Albans

A day trip out with my best friend and her 10-year-old son was perfect for visiting St Albans in Hertfordshire, a beautiful small city with lots of Roman history.

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It took us about 40 minutes from Romford  by car, easily reached just off the M25. We found somewhere to park then walked into the city centre. A beautiful little place with lots of unique shops mingled in with the high street favourites. We hadn’t had breakfast so we stopped off in a local bakery for a croissant before continuing on round the shops. Our plan was to finish looking round the shops then visit the cathedral, that should then bring us up to lunch time. After lunch we would explore Verulamium Park which was jammed pack with Roman history.

The main attraction in the city centre is the clock tower which you can go inside and climb the 93 steps to top but we didn’t do this. It was built in the early 1400’s and was used by the town to sound the hours of day. It was also used to sound alarm of fire or fray, sounded the beginning of the battle of St Albans in 1455.

We then took the short walk to the cathedral which stood peacefully in very green surroundings. We walked through the gardens and in through a side door as the front of the cathedral was drenched in scaffolding. It was quite busy inside and the choir were setting up for a performance. As it was the summer holidays, there were activities for children to get involved in around the cathedral. The walls were covered with ancient artworks and the ceilings were spectacular. A nice touch to this cathedral was that it had a museum within, which gave the history of the building, the city and of St Alban himself. The remains of a 14th century shrine to St Alban also lies within the Cathedral.

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It was now lunch time so we decided to make our way down to the park which signs told us would be a 15 minute walk from the cathedral. Turns out we took the longest route to the park but by doing that we found The Waffle House!!!!!

Tucked away behind the leafy surroundings was a fantastic place serving sweet and savoury waffles. Upon looking it up on social media, this place was difficult to get  table in as it is always busy, however it was a weekday so we were hoping we wouldn’t have to wait long. We queued for around 15 minutes but seeing the plates of waffles come out, we felt it would be worth it. The special that day was Jerk chicken which my friend went with and I had the humus and avocado. We had never had savoury waffles before …….and they didn’t disappoint. We even treated ourselves to the sweet waffles for dessert lol.

The final part of our day was to explore the Verulamium Park (Verulamium being the Roman name for the town where St Albans now stands) The park was absolutely huge and we weren’t able to cover all of it however we did see the Roman Mosaic and the remains of the North gate. It reminded me very much of Castle park in Colchester with its Roman wall and River Ver running alongside the park. St Albans is a truly beautiful part of England, well worth a visit.

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Chester Unlocked

Before visiting, the only things I associated with Chester were the Romans and Hollyoaks, shameful I know, but Wow what a city….

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I was lucky enough to be staying with family who live about half an hour outside of Chester and they were more than happy to show me around. We found out about a quest that you can follow called the Deva Codex Boar Quest which takes you on a hunt around the city by following clues and riddles to uncover the history of Chester (or Deva as the Romans called it). We stopped by a charity shop where we collected our quest pack which included a map to follow, a booklet full of clues and riddles and a pair of 3D glasses.

*****SPOILER ALERT******

If you are planning to do the codex quest for yourself, I would advise you DO NOT read on any further as I will be giving away answers (unless you want to cheat, in which case, read on) lol

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We didn’t have to do the quest clues in any order so we picked one at random which took us towards the Cathedral as a place to start. It was such a beautiful day, the sun was shining and the grounds of the cathedral were stunning. Unfortunately we had got in a bit of a muddle with the clues and were searching for something that wasn’t even at the cathedral for about 20 minutes but we got a real good look around the grounds lol

The next set of clues took us through the city centre and up through the rows. The rows are shops and walkways that are above the shops on ground level. You can access them by going up narrow sets of steps that fall between the ground level shops.

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The city centre was busy as to be expected on a Saturday but I really got a sense that the people of Chester really love this city, as do it’s visitors. Although you can find all your local high street shops here, it still has a magic, unspoilt feel to it. As we walked over to the other side of the city, we could see signs for the Amphitheatre and St Johns church which was where the next clues on the quest were.

The Amphitheatre in Chester is the largest that has been uncovered in Britain and is a grade 1 listed building. There were lots of people having picnics on the green and in the actual Amphitheatre itself were arts and crafts for children to get involved with, however we didn’t get involved…..we had riddles to solve. It was quite a spectacular sight to see though.

The backdrop for the Amphitheatre is the Parish Church of St John and this happens to be the oldest church in Chester dating as far back as 689 AD. It is also a grade 1 listed building and includes the some of the ruins from the dissolution which saw most of the east side of the church be demolished. Upon closer inspection of the ruins we found what seemed to be a coffin set into the walls which solved one of our clues. It was rather haunting to see it but very interesting all the same..

The next clue had us looking in completely the wrong place but it gave us the chance to have a snoop around the town hall. We saw grand old meeting rooms with huge portraits on the walls, fancy swirly patterned carpets and the best part by far……the toilets!!!

After finally finding the answer to the clue in a building near to the town hall, we moved back towards to cathedral where more riddles needed to be solved.

It was getting later in the day by this point and we were all starting to tire. We went inside the cathedral but didn’t stay long as it was pretty busy. There were some beautiful works of art on the walls and out in the courtyard area was a sculpture/water feature that was absolutely stunning. It was called Water of life by Stephen Broadbent and represents the life changing encounter between Jesus and the woman of Samaria.  The bottom of the dish reads “Jesus said, ‘the water that i shall give will be an inner spring always welling up for eternal life’ John 4:14

And so the last clue to solve…..What lies just past the Northern gate? A final walk to seal one’s fate. But just before you meet your doom, You’d spend some time in what man’s room?

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#Darktimes

“But what were the 3D glasses for?”, I hear you ask. Well these helped us to solve a few clues along the way. The first clue that needed the glasses was This quest goes next to Watergate. The street that brought the sailors home. And sent off merchants to their fate. From Dee to sea, the worlds to roam. To solve this quest, to play your part. Find the canvas that’s not quite right. Seek out the place that shows the art. And view it in a different light. The answer lies in red concealed. Which animal will be revealed?

The pictures aren’t great as we could only see it in the shop window so there is a bit of a shadow. The canvas at first was a blurred print but once you put the 3D glasses on an Owl was revealed 🙂

The other clue was as follows To the forum you must tread. And seek the sign of the wild boar’s head. A stone ellipse once stood here, Whose purpose still remains unclear! A Roman riddle from the start! But what was flowing at its heart?

So once the glasses were on you could read the text clearly and the answer was revealed.

I really enjoyed Chester and the quest was a fantastic way to explore the Roman city. I will definitely be revisiting

look out for my next post on St Albans coming soon…..