Edgelands: Journeys into England’s True Wilderness by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts (Vintage, £9.99)

GO to the edge of your town and what do you find? Landfill, canals, dumps, spoil tips, abandoned cars, all of them being colonised by flora and fauna. These are the edgelands, a term coined by the writer and campaigner Marion Shoard for the overlooked, the forgotten, the ignored parts of our urban landscape that, as a result, can provide an environment for nature.

There has been a real boom in writing about these marginal landscapes in the last 10 years. But poets Farley and Symmons Roberts wrote the definitive book on the subject in 2011. In its pages they explore woodlands, ruins, bridges, pallets and piers in an attempt, they say, “to break out of the duality of rural and urban writing, to explore these unobserved parts of our shared landscape as places of possibility, mystery, beauty.”

Read More: Reading List: Swimming

The Unofficial Countryside by Richard Mabey (Little Toller Books, £12)

The nature writer Richard Mabey was the pioneer of edgeland exploration with his 1973 book The Unofficial Countryside. Roaming the margins of London, he explored overgrown bombsites, canal towpaths, sewage parks and car parks to reveal how nature at its hardiest finds a foothold in the urban landscape.

The result is a hymn to weeds and wildflowers, to pigeons and blackbirds and even urban foxes. As he writes: “There ought surely to be a place in a city for a few colourful villains.”

Stig of the Dump by Clive King (Puffin, £7.99)


When asked on Twitter for some suggestions for Edgeland reading, Robert Macfarlane, that contemporary doyen of nature writing, suggested Clive King’s 1963 children’s novel. It tells the story of Barney who spends his school holidays with his gran near a big chalk pit where he meets a boy, Stig, wearing a rabbit skin and living wild.

As the critic Christopher Page noted in The Oxford Review of Books: “Stig provides access to something magical, something truly extraordinary: an understanding of the natural world that gives a deep poetry to the familiar, domesticated landscape of the Home Counties.” Which makes Stig the perfect Edgelander.