'Outskirts - Living Life on the Edge of the Green Belt' by John Grindrod
A captivating nature memoir telling the story of Britain's Green Belt, our national obsession with the countryside, and the author's childhood.
Coined by National Trust co-founder Octavia Hill at the end of the nineteenth century, the phrase 'Green Belt' originally formed part of an impassioned plea to protect the countryside. By the late 1950s, those idealistic Victorian notions had developed into something more complex and divisive. Green Belts became part of the landscape and psyche of post-war Britain, but would lead to conflicts at every level of society - between conservationists and developers, town and country, politicians and people, nimbys and the forces of progress.
Growing up on 'the last road in London' on an estate at the edge of the woods, John Grindrod had a childhood that mirrored these tensions. His family, too, seemed caught between two worlds: a wheelchair-bound mother who glowed in the dark; a father who was traumatised by chicken and was eventually done in by an episode of Only Fools and Horses; two brothers - one sporty, one agoraphobic - and an unremarkable boy on the edge of it all discovering something magical.
The first book to tell the story of Britain's Green Belts, Outskirts is at once a fascinating social history, a stirring evocation of the natural world, and a poignant tale of growing up in a place, and within a family, like no other.