30 March 2023
A funny, warm and timely meditation on identity and belonging, following the scenic route along the England-Wales border: Britain's deepest faultline. There is a line on the map: to one side Wales, small, rugged and stubborn; the other England, crucible of the most expansionist culture the world has ever seen. It is a line that has been dug, debated, defined and defended for twenty centuries.
All the Wide Border is a personal journey through the places, amongst the people, and across the divides of the border between England and Wales. Taking in some of our loveliest landscapes, and our darkest secrets, this is a region of immeasurable wonder and interest. It is there that the deepest roots and thorniest paradoxes of Britishness lie.
The border between the countries, even as a concept, is ragged, jagged and many-layered. Garlanded author Mike Parker has adored and explored these places his entire life. Born in England but settled in Wales, he finds himself typical of many in being pulled in both directions.
His journey is divided into three legs, corresponding with the watersheds of the three great border rivers: the Dee in the north, the Severn in the centre, the Wye in the south. Neither quite England nor Wales, the furzy borderland he uncovers - the March - is another country. A hefty schlep from everywhere, these are A.
E. Housman's 'blue remembered hills' - his 'land of lost content' - and ours too. Picking apart the many notions and cliches of Englishness, Welshness and indeed Britishness, Mike Parker plays with the very idea of borders, our fascination with them, our need for them, and our response to their power.
In his hands, England-Wales border is revealed to be a border within us all, and it is fraying, fast.