A lot of the Friday Walks Sarah and I regularly take are rural, and some are determinedly urban. But some are not quite either. Sometimes we walk in the Edgelands.
And these are the places this nicely contrarian book, by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts, is about. These two poets, one from Manchester, one from Liverpool, have deliberately sought out these in-between places. These ‘not quite tamed by urban planning’ and ‘neither tamed by agribusiness’ places – and some of what they find might come as a surprise.
How ‘green’ edgelands can be. No crops are being sprayed here, so wild flower and other species that wouldn’t stand a chance in a harvested agri-field can thrive here.
How edgelands can be places where we can escape the grip and obsessive monitoring of the global capital system that would have us all ‘behave ourselves’ all the time. Edgelands, a place for the wildness in all of us, that we allow to be tamed at our peril.
I’ve found myself, in some of the work we’ve done with social enterprises over the years, how left over, broken and dis-used places out on the edgelands, can provide premises and opportunities for enterprise to thrive.
Much of ‘Edgelands’ is set around Liverpool and Manchester. And so has been fascinating to me, showing me places I’d previously walked or driven past. But the way it’s organised, 28 separate short chapters dealing with different aspects of edgelands, from allotments and airports, to venues and woodlands, may well send you into a reverie about your own place. And make you see the edges of it as if for the first time.
‘Edgelands’ is not a perfect or easy read. They’re poets and unashamedly romantic. But read in bits it may, as I’ve said, take you to places you would not otherwise have thought to go.
Here our two poets take us on a walk around the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre, or ‘Shakespeare’s Forest of Arden’ as they would have it otherwise be known!