Following the footsteps of the Romans: The A548 Coast Road from Chester to Prestatyn

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The ritual of following in the path of the romans along the old coast road from Chester to Prestatyn has become a habit for me over time. This ritual was borne out of the addiction to coffee and to the sea. One could argue that Talacre was the shortest point the beach from where I live in Chester. However, it soon came apparent that Talacre lacked good coffee options. So, it was necessary to go a little further; parking at Barkby Beach yielded a wonderful vista of spinning turbines, the bracing sea and those all-important coffee outlets.

The old seacoast road (A458) hugs the North Wales coastline unlike its bigger brother, the more modern A55, which seems in a hurry to rush you all the way to Ynys Mon. The A548 by comparison is slower, kept in check by various speed restrictions. All of which settles one down into an amble and you adopt mindful motoring to take in the surroundings and hopefully enjoy the ride. Maybe that’s when one’s senses gets attuned to the names of the local hostelries: The Boot & Ship, The Yacht, the Packet House, The Ship Hotel, all paying homage to the history of the road. Testament to a heritage of seafaring and trading in this strategically important part of the country.

Early on in the journey out of Chester, I get to the Flintshire bridge, with a 200m span, opened by the Queen in 1998 and having the nickname ‘the bridge to nowhere’. It is the largest asymmetric cable-stayed bridge in Britain, but I do have to take them up on that nickname!

The road continues through Oakenholt and Flint and then Llanerch-Y-Mor where there is the improbable sight of the Duke of Lancaster. This is a former railway steamer passenger ship that operated from 1955 to 1979. It has had a chequered past – once a fun ship then a plan to use it an open-air art gallery,  over time the ship has been spray-painted with various designs.

After Mostyn there is the sight of the head gear and winding wheel memorial at Ffynnongroyw – this is a relic from the No.2 shaft at Point of Ayr colliery. Another example of the industrial heritage of the region. In the 1950s the colliery had a workforce of over 700 and produced more than 200,000 tonnes of coal per year.

Rounding the corners from here to Gronant and Prestatyn with many parking spots and access to the sea, the journey is done by car and continues on foot for the steps count, sea-air and that all-important coffee….

Why does any of this matter? It matters because this regular journey and destination for me (usually every weekend), combines the blend of a familiar and comforting routine, with the ever-changing natural world,  and the inspiration of the scenery. This, for me, is one of the most effective recipes for coming up with creative ideas, having time for reflection and taking the space I need to get my head in the right place for the week and tasks ahead.

I think this particular experience works so well  because it starts as soon as I get into the car, not only when I get to my destination. The 30-ish mile journey from home to the beach is as important as what I do when I get there. It all feeds into getting my mind and body into gear and clears my head to focus on what’s important. 

It might be about finding a solution to a work-related challenge. It might be finding some inspiration for an existing or new project or opportunity. Or it might simply be of benefit to my mental health to be in the present for a while. Whatever the outcome of this weekly jaunt, I can honestly say that it’s become one of my favourite things in the world.

Do have your own version of ‘Chester to Prestatyn’? Where do you go and what benefits have you noticed?

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