Exercise 2.6: 'Edgelands'

Brief: Read 'Wire' and 'Power' from Edgelands. Record responses. 

'The edgelands are a complex mix of fiercely guarded private and common land' (Farley and Symmons Roberts, 2011, p. 93. edgelands are discussed in great detail by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts (2011). I found their chapters about 'wire' and 'power' so easy and interesting to read that I bought their book, 'Edgelands'. They talk about the places I've passed through, but never really paid any attention to, until now. 


This chapter addresses how the edgelands are "an underground and aerial tracery of aluminium, copper, and glass-fibre threads" (Farley and Symmons Roberts,  2011,  p. 93). This network of wire and cable enables volts, digits and voices to pass across these voids between surrounding places. few people live in these outback areas, so it's would appear to be ok for wires to be carried overhead suspended on towering pylons. 

The authors associate these wires with a need for security, 'illicit playgrounds' for children. It would appear that Farley and Symmons Roberts have had an adventurous childhood, referring to the type of mischief children would be able to achieve, scaling the chain-link fences. Nowadays, with reports of children leading sedentary lifestyles,  I wonder if there is still the same attraction to these places.

A well as security,  wire provides a deterrent. Farley and Symmons Roberts (2011) discuss how Britain's landscape was adapted as a result of the Cold War during the seventies and eighties. This really interested me because it is my generation. I grew up hearing about things related to 'nuclear', but never fully understanding the enormity or tense nature of the situation. The edgelands were ideal places for the US Airforce to locate their nuclear deterrent,  as well as keeping a watchful eye on the Soviet Union. 

After relations have thawed with Russia, there was no longer a need for these facilities,  but possibly also a reluctance todismantle them, just incase they would be needed again. Therefore the edgelands contain remnants of the Cold War.  

Farley and Symmons Roberts (2011)  suggest photographers to research further. I would especially like to look at Hush House by Frank Watson.  

Also in this chapter is a section about roadside tributes. These are places where the bereaved 'want the act of remembrance to be rooted in the place where their sin, sister, mother, friend...took a final fateful step off the kerb' (Farley and Symmons Roberts,  2011,  p. 97). Whilst these are distinct places, I am unsure whether they should be included in the edgelands, because they can occur by any roadside.  


The edgelands aren't signposted or marked on a map. They are typified by the landmarks that can be found there. These landmarks include the dangerous things can be placed at arms length and the no-longer needed things that can be forgotten about. Out of sight, out of mind. 

...edgelands are the place for these essential, invisible functions. We want them close enough to serve us, but far enough to be ignored.
— Farley & Symmons Roberts (2011, p. 193)

However, for me the 250ft high Tinsley Towers, that towered over the southbound carriage way of the M1, were always a very welcome sight as I passed Sheffield on my way home. They were my halfway marker on my journey home from university. Despite the protestations of members of the public, these iconic cooling towers were demolished in 2008 (Irvine 2008).

During this century, a greater concern for reducing climate change has led to an increase in the number of "giant white daffodils blowing in the breeze" (Farley and Symmons Roberts (2011, p. 193). These wind farms are becoming more common as you drive out of the cities and into the countryside. 

Having read about these edgelands, I have started to search for them myself, and using it as a focus for my second assignment. I have also started a personal project based on wind farms in Ireland.   


Farley, P. & Symmons Roberts, M. (2011) Edgelands: Journeys into England's Ture Wilderness. London: Jonathan Cape

Irvine, C. (2008) Sheffields Iconic Cooling Towers Demolished. The Telegraph Online [Accessed 14/8/15]