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.
John Grindrod grew up on 'the last road in London' on Croydon's New Addington housing estate, surrounded by the Green Belt. He is the author of Concretopia: A Journey Around the Rebuilding of Postwar Britain, described by the Independent on Sunday as 'a new way of looking at modern Britain'. He has written for the Guardian, Financial Times, Big Issue and The Modernist and has worked as a bookseller and publisher for over twenty-five years.
"A terrific, and very moving read. Fascinating study in the emotional landscapes of cities. A hymn to the peripheral that is totally on target."
– Leo Hollis, author of Cities Are Good For You
"What better lens to view the current friction between nature and our engorged cities than the Green Belt? A brilliant idea, brilliantly executed."
– Tristan Gooley, bestselling author of The Walker's Guide