It’s a place I used to take my children to play when they were little. They jumped on the ancient stones in a game of stepping stones.
It’s also the place I watched the Grand Budapest Hotel under a picnic blanket as part of the Moonlight Flicks series of outdoor films screenings.
It may now be eerily quiet under lockdown but I can still learn something new about familiar places on my daily walks around my home city.
The blossom-showered mosaic [pictured above] marks the entrance to the Roman Gardens, which are not, strictly speaking, gardens, nor Roman.
But, according to Chester Tour, we learn the design of the gardens is deliberate to create a winding path towards the river in the shape of a serpent coiled around a staff.
The design is a tribute to Asclepius, the Roman god of medicine.
The narrow strip of land available to create the Roman Gardens led to a design inspired by the medical symbol of the staff of Asclepius with a serpent wrapped round it- hence the straight footpath at the top end (staff), & the winding snake-like path to the river at the lower end pic.twitter.com/cecTW5qLY6
The gardens were laid out in 1949 to display fragments of the ancient Roman buildings found around the city — the stoneworks there today were originally eslwhere.
Many of the fragments come from the original site of the Roman bathhouse on the east side of Bridge Street.
Others were uncovered during renovations of the city walls in 1887. They had been taken from various buildings across the Roman citadel, established from 74AD, to repair the walls in the late Roman period.
The site never served as a garden. It was originally part of a Roman quarry, later partly home to a 18th-century clay tobacco pipe factory in the and, finally, a cockpit for cock fighting — until it was banned in 1849.
One day we’ll be back at the Roman Gardens, watching a film as part of Moonlight Flicks, or eating ice creams bought nearby at the riverside kiosks.
But, for now, I’m soaking up the silence and seeing familiar places in a new light.