It’s been 4-and-a half years, and I finally got to do it again!

“What?”, you may ask!

“Cycle up Prince Rupert’s Trench”, is my reply.

It’s been a ridiculous situation that a valuable footpath and cyclepath used by staff and students of the University of Chester, as well as residents, running between Parkgate Road and Liverpool Road in Chester, has been closed for 5 years because of a collapsed retaining wall. Perhaps caused by weather (heavy rain), the 19th-century northern retaining wall for gardens abutting Rocky Lane (or Prince Rupert’s Trench) collapsed in November 2012. The path was cordoned off, and then sealed for years while the council tried to determine who was responsible for paying for the repair work.

Then the council gave in, having not ascertained ownership and responsibility, and did the work. Well done council!

It was supposed to be open for the end of 2014, then summer 2015 when the work on the damaged northern wall was actually completed. But then it became clear work was required on the southern wall, presumably to prevent a similar collapse.

So the work has dragged on and on. Finally, in the summer of this year, news came that it was planned for re-opening. Just in time for the new university term, it is now open and ready to use!

Why is this of archaeodeath interest?

  1. The lane was far older than the 19th-century houses on either side: it was a pre-existing rock-cut trench thought to have been linked to the English Civil War siege of Chester from 1643 to 1644 and use dto move canon along the line of the defences unseen. In short, this is more than a lane, it is a feature of historical and archaeological significance. Whether the civil war use is fact or fiction, I’m not confident. Also, it might have been a pre-existing feature adapted during the civil war. Perhaps this marked the line of an ancient hollow way, leading down to the Dee outside of the Roman and medieval city?;
  2. For 4 years, this was an eerie empty and abandoned space which could be glimpsed past the hoardings as weeds grew from the top (Liverpool Road) end and the lower (Parkgate Road) end. A path that cannot be trod. This was interesting for me in terms of abandoned and inaccessible yet public spaces.
  3. The re-opened lane possesses two brand-new road name signs stating ‘Rocky Lane, also known as Prince Rupert’s Trench’ at the top and bottom. These can be regarded in themselves as a way of coining an historical allusion;
  4. There is a brand-new heritage board at the Parkgate Road end, explaining the English Civil War significance of the trench as part of the Royalist outer defences of the city against the Parliamentarians. As well as informative text, a portrait of Prince Rupert and a map of the civil war defences, there is also a lovely artist’s reconstruction of how the trench might ahve been used as part of the defences of the city;
  5. Finally, I get a new cycle path to weave my way from the Uni to the railway station! Yay me!