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A book about the blank spaces on the A-Z, the hinterlands of Britain that are not urban and not yet country: the lost, the liminal and the unloved.

Edgelands explores a wilderness that is much closer than you think: a debatable zone, neither the city nor the countryside, but a place in-between – so familiar it is never seen for looking. Passed through, negotiated, unnamed, ignored, the edgelands have become the great wild places on our doorsteps, places so difficult to acknowledge they barely exist. Edgelands forms a critique of what we value as ‘wild’, and allows our allotments, railways, motorways, wasteland and water a presence in the world, and a strange beauty all of their own.

Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts – both well-known poets – have lived and worked and known these places all their lives, and in Edgelands their journeying prose fuses, in the anonymous tradition, to allow this in-between world to speak up for itself. They write about mobile masts and gravel pits, business parks and landfill sites in the same way the Romantic writers forged a way of looking at an overlooked – but now familiar – landscape of hills and lakes and rivers. England, the first country to industrialise, now offers the world’s most mature post-industrial terrain, and is still in a state of flux: Edgelands takes the reader on a journey through its forgotten spaces so that we can marvel at this richly mysterious, cheek-by-jowl region in our midst.


This book is a delight: witty and wryly contrarian

Robert MacFarlane, Guardian

A masterpiece of its kind... Even more uplifting is the chapter on weather - truly one of the most extraordinary passages of prose I have read in some time... This is, quite simply, beautiful, but it is also typical of a beautifully conceived work of exploration, by two emissaries to the wilderness who do the wasteland proud

John Burnside, The Times

Marvellously quirky, fascinatingly detailed and beautifully written

Daily Telegraph

The edgelands, where the veneer of civilisation peels away, are the most despised and ignored of landscapes. Ambition turns to dust in the sewage farm and landfill site. But Farley and Roberts's mischievous and elegant forays into these marginal wastes, show that dust turns back to life in them - into riotous ecologies, agitprop architecture and the wonderful business of playing. A provocative, left-field read

Richard Mabey

Haunting, often inspiring book...Edgelands covers an impressive range of politics, reminiscence, investigation and rumination

Scotland on Sunday

Edgelands delights with its sly, impish wit and observation


Eye-opening and hugely enjoyable book ... overall this is an original, surprising and rather wonderful addition to our literature of place

Sunday Telegraph

A book that begs us to use our imaginations; to appreciate what we pass by every day but never really see


This is a delightful and important book. By focusing on the fringes, on the shabby reality of suburban life, these poets remind us that there are always new myths for old, that the 'edgelands' may even be our true centre

John Greening, Country Life

With chapters on paths, dens, wastelands, business parks and many other topics, this book has opened my eyes to all kinds of things I might not have noticed before

Wendy Cope, Daily Telegraph

A 2011 favourite

Wendy Cope, Observer, Books of the Year

The year's most unusual travel book

Tom Chesshyre, The Times

[An] eye-opening and hugely enjoyable book

Daily Telegraph

Written in a delectable prose that scatters flashes of poetry over a sardonic undertow of social comment, Edgelands is a lyrical triumph. On Britain’s grotty margins, the duo trace “desire paths” to find beauty and mystery in the rough darkness on the edge of town

Boyd Tonkin, Independent

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    February 15, 2012


    272 pages

    RRP $29.99

    Online retailers

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    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.co.nz

  • EBook


    March 15, 2011

    Vintage Digital

    272 pages

    Online retailers

    • Amazon Kindle NZ
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Also by Michael Symmons Roberts