By Paul Scraton:
On the promenade we squeezed past our fellow strollers as we made our way down between the row of parked cars and the sea wall towards the famous ice cream shop. Outside the chippy lads poked at polystyrene trays with wooden forks and through the window of the tea room it was possible to imagine the sound of a tiny spoon landing on china. It was a typical scene at a genteel seaside village, with a view out across the water to the Welsh coast and a hint of the mountains in the clouds beyond. But Parkgate is a little bit different, as seaside villages go, because – despite the fish and chips and the ice cream, and the call of the gulls circling in search of scraps – when you look out from the promenade it is not across an expanse of golden sands, but of waving grass and glassy ponds.
From the 18th century until the 1920s, Parkgate was a popular port – for travellers aiming for Ireland – and seaside resort. Photographs in the ice cream shop showed bathers stepping down from the promenade and onto the sands. But change was coming. As the River Dee silted up, Parkgate became unusable as a port and then, with the spread of colonising grass, the beach became overgrown, gradually transforming into the expanse of marshland between the river and dry land that is what visitors look out across today. Still, the seaside strollers in search of ice cream and chips still make their way to Parkgate, joined by the birdwatchers who come to catch a glimpse of the species that live or pass through the Dee Estuary Nature Reserve.
We stood in a queue for our cones of vanilla or mint choc chip, and then crossed back over the street to the place where passengers were once ferried out to deeper water for the boat to Ireland. Whatever future changes will come to Parkgate, you somehow get the feeling that the ice cream will remain.
Elsewhere No.03, featuring great writing on place, illustration, photography and reviews, is out now and available via our online shop.