Real (semi) wild one

When I moved back to Chester in early 2019 I wanted not only to familiarise myself with the city once again, but also to discover new places, with emphasis on ‘green’ places. I was delighted to find out about the Countess of Chester Country Park, a converted landfill site opened in 2014. It is lovely, but it’s not exactly Hyde Park, it takes me half an hour to walk around it. On the other side of the canal however waited a much, much more interesting surprise…

It was, as I later found out (and kind of guessed, looking at the man made hills and overgrown ponds), Old Oaks Golf Course, closed in 2016 and abandoned since, all 68.3 ha of it. The place is huge, and one can wander for hours from one corner to another. A 10 mile walk is easily done. Mother Nature has been very good at reclaiming what was hers in the first place; at the same time the paths are still well visible and the overall impression is that of semi wild, rather than utterly neglected and depressing.

Because of it’s size, this former golf course never gets seriously crowded, it is also reasonably clean, not to count a few beer cans here and there and occasional rubbish. I don’t think Gov restrictions on max number of people allowed to meet outside are enforced here and I can see clear signs that gatherings took place.

A developer built a few houses on this site but I am not sure what its ultimate fate will be. It is a tempting piece of land but I would hate to see it transformed into a massive housing estate. Best if it remains exactly what it is, beautifully rewilded grounds for the community to benefit from. In a Guardian article, a disgruntled golfer comments that the community should pay a £1000 a year to upkeep the site, just like the golfers do. But there is little to do, Nature takes care of everything and we just get to enjoy it. There is, of course a matter of path maintenance and picking litter left by disrespectful idiots.

Fingers crossed we won’t lose access to Old Oaks any time soon. If you live in or near Chester, by all means check it out.

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