Borderlands by Richard Collett
Award-winning travel journalist Richard Collett journeys across the United Kingdom’s borderlands and frontiers, exploring the history of ancient borders and boundaries through the stories of those who live there today. Searching for a sense of national and personal identity in an increasingly fragmented United Kingdom, Borderlands: A Journey Along the United Kingdom’s Borders and Boundaries merges British history with contemporary politics and culture. Collett’s journey takes him to the banks of the River Tamar - a natural boundary dividing Anglo-Saxon Devon from Celtic Cornwall for a thousand years, to the English-Welsh borders, where Offa’s Dyke has separated the two countries since the 8th century. He then travels north to the Anglo-Scottish borderlands, Orkney and Shetland, and across the Irish Sea to Northern Ireland.
Collett speaks to a cast of characters including Cornish nationalists, Welsh speakers teaching Welsh in England, and migrant charity workers helping refugees. For the first time in centuries, Brexit and the pandemic made hard borders an unprecedented reality. Calls for Scottish, Welsh, and even Cornish independence, are a constant backdrop to Collett’s journey. In Northern Ireland, there are fears of a hard border reigniting ‘The Troubles’, while in southern England, issues of immigration have turned the Kent coast into a maritime frontier and political battleground.
Collett explores the rise of regional identities in the midst of an ever-loosening sense of national unity, but ultimately, this isn’t a book about differences and divisions. Borderlands is a travel book that tries to find what unites Britain.