Where tourists seldom tread, part 5: more UK towns with hidden histories

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From the home of the original Super-Tramp to the UK’s only polycentric city, we find reasons to visit places where few visitors alight

part one | part two | part three | part four

Frontier towns are bypassed, forgotten, often forlorn, occasionally vicious in the old sense of the word: full of vice. Seediness inhabits their edges, and edges are what they mainly are. Meant to be bulwarks or limits, they are usually porous and uncertain. Travellers pause before making their next move. Frontiers have caused a lot of trouble in the UK. The Channel, Offa’s Dyke, Hadrian’s Wall and Northern Ireland’s border with the Republic have been sites of tension, trouble and illicit trade, but there are edges to all cities and regions, and every seaside resort is a border. This quintet of places rarely chosen as holiday destinations are the kinds of towns Graham Greene might have used as backdrops for his novels and short stories if he’d been a working-class writer instead of a public schoolboy with a colonial complex. They’re probably familiar to most non-natives mainly as road signs, “via” places, stepping stones, but all are worth a linger and a look around.

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