We tend to think of the UK as one complete country, but there are separate countries here that have their own distinct identity and outlook. This loosely defined border between us and the Scottish has existed since Roman times. Their farthest outpost, it suffered from marauding Picts and Celts who took every opportunity to give the Romans a bloody nose, hence why they built Hadrian’s Wall. It was this 200 year old monument that Stewart chose to walk as his first journey in this book. Some of the time he walked with his elderly father, though not the whole route, choosing to walk a short way before meeting elsewhere. Sometime he walk with soldiers, not long returned from Afghanistan, a country that he knew from a walk described in The Places in Between.
The second part of the book is a walk that he takes from his home in Cumbria to his father’s house in Broich. This 380 mile route takes him through the border country, or has he calls it, the Middleland. Mixing sleeping out on mountains staying in other accommodation, he takes 21 days to complete it, but it is as much a discovery of the landscape, region and the people that inhabit it and learning about its fluid and torrid past. His third journey is a metaphorical one; it is a celebration and tribute to his father, someone who was very dear to him.
It is a difficult book to classify, it is a travel book in parts and a history book in others and a homage to his father at the end. Parts of the book are really well written, my favourite being the Middleland walk where he crosses the political, cultural and geological boundaries of this borderland. It didn’t seem quite as focused as it could have been though. It was enjoyable though, and will be reading The Places in Between as I picked up a copy recently.