Read Outskirts: Living Life on the edge of the Green Belt by John Grindrod Online


Blending original social history, stunning nature writing and poignant family memoir, Outskirts is the first book to tell the story of Britain's green belts. It charts their genesis, which grew from romantic Victorian notions of the countryside and our past, but evolved into something more complex and divisive, and would become a key part of the landscape and psyche of posBlending original social history, stunning nature writing and poignant family memoir, Outskirts is the first book to tell the story of Britain's green belts. It charts their genesis, which grew from romantic Victorian notions of the countryside and our past, but evolved into something more complex and divisive, and would become a key part of the landscape and psyche of post-war Britain. Outskirts is at once a witty and deeply affecting memoir and a fascinating exploration of a defining, but poorly understood, facet of our national story....

Title : Outskirts: Living Life on the edge of the Green Belt
Author :
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ISBN : 9781473625044
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 368 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Outskirts: Living Life on the edge of the Green Belt Reviews

  • Paul
    2018-12-15 23:20

    Over 1.5 million hectares of green belt land exist in the UK. It was conceived way back in Victorian times as a way of ensuring that the people living in towns still had some contact with the countryside. The Green Belt around London was first proposed in 1935 and by 1947 local authorities were including green belt proposals in their development plans. There are lots of benefits of having these green areas surrounding towns, it prevents towns from merging together, discourages urban sprawl and encourages people to reuse land more efficiently. When I think of the green belt, you have this impression of a wide band of fields and woods surrounding a town or city. However, the reality is much messier than that and it is a resource that is under threat from housing pressures and developers so much so that we have lost over 30,000 hectares since the millennium. Grindrod grew up in New Addington, at the point where urban Croydon fizzles out and the fields and coppices begin. The youngest of three boys, his parents John and Marj had moved out from a flat in Battersea to this new development in Surrey at the very end of the Sixties. For reasons that become apparent later on, John was a little bit of a loner and suffered from endless teasing; the woodlands opposite his house became a bolthole where he could indulge his imagination when the real world became too much for him. But it became more that, it was a place that came to define him as a person and set the path for his life and career as he became a modern-day Janus man who looked towards the urban and rural landscapes for inspiration.As well as Grindrod’s insightful personal stories of his own life growing up in 1970’s suburbia and a fitting eulogy to his mother and father, this is a warts and all history of the green belt and its place in the social history of the UK. It bought back my own memories of growing up; we lived in an estate right next to a woodland that was planted by Thomas Waterer and where I spent many happy hours as a child. He champions the good points behind the green belt and the benefits it can provide to society and he hits the nail on the head when it comes to the disjointed housing policy we have had in the UK since the 1980’s. Grindrod is not afraid to challenge the current thinking too arguing that we need a big rethink on national policy with the current housing crisis, especially when you consider the area of land designated green belt (and golf courses are included) in the UK, especially when compared to actual land that is built on. It won’t be an easy debate, but it is one we need to have. Really enjoyable book, and as I haven’t read Concretopia yet, but it is being moved up the list.

  • Mike Newman
    2018-12-13 00:17

    The second half of the twentieth century was a rather remarkable time in Britain. All of the assumptions about town and country, the way of life which went on in each, and the kind of people who inhabited them were somewhat up-for-grabs for the first time since the Industrial Revolution. It was also a surprisingly exciting time for planners and architects, professions who rarely enter the general public discourse except when they do something very wrong indeed. The massive destruction of city centres in the second world war, coupled with a municipal spirit which genuinely sought to improve conditions for the vast populations still effectively living in Victorian slums meant new responses to how people were housed and how their needs were met. In fact, for perhaps the first time since the pioneering efforts of industrialists like Titus Salt or Lord Leverhulme, the concept of placemaking - creating spaces deliberately to be inhabited - became a preoccupation for local and national government alike. In his second book broadly focusing on this period, John Grindrod has used one of the 'big ideas' of the era as a lens through which to view this period. Was this a golden age realised, or good intentions squandered? Through the course of Grindrod's own connection with the green belt around London he tries to determine the outcome.John Grindrod did most of his growing up on the very edge of New Addington, where urban Croydon finally stops trying, and Surrey begins. He describes this edgeland world in fond but honest detail throughout Outskirts as he traces the thread of the idea of a green belt - initially around the ominously expanding fringe of post-war London. On his journey, Grindrod examines the origins of the idea in the Garden City movement who proposed the rigorous management of space and density within their tightly zoned new communities, and attempts to untangle the politics of planning for the swathes of unused and unusable land around our cities. One of his early discoveries, and a persistent theme throughout the book, is the lack of greenery in the green belt - while his own upbringing on the edge of the downs was relatively bucolic, the green belt elsewhere contains the kind of edgeland industries, waste management facilities and abandoned land which is probably depressingly familiar to drivers everywhere. It soon appears that in fact, virtually anything can be built in the green belt once the requisite hoops have been jumped through - except housing. But of all the pervasive, permitted development which Grindrod finds, it is the golf course which is most prevalent. These cartoonishly green swathes of primped grass and fluttering flags litter the edges of our cities, destroying the very ancient countryside which the zones would seem to be designed to protect. Of all the promises of Class War which the late 1970s seemed pregnant with, it seems it's the war of the golfing versus non-golfing middle classes which is playing out even now on the edgelands!And this leads to another revelation for Grindrod - that the green belt has very little to do with protecting the countryside, and everything to do with protecting life in the city. The designated swathes of space, by the 1960s enveloping many English towns and cities, aimed to check the growth of the towns and to preserve the distinct identities of places which otherwise threatened to merge. The green belt was also where the overspill towns would be placed - those new towns which would house the displaced from the rezoned and yet-to-be revitalised city centres. These towns were rarely entirely new - often co-opting existing communities like Old Harlow or the villages around what is now Milton Keynes - but their position squarely within the belt allowed total control over their growth, their zoning and their density. I grew up amidst one of the later phases of the New Towns programme - in Redditch, Worcestershire - which suffered greatly when the programme was finally cancelled in the 1970s before much of the work was complete. Among the gravel-covered empty lots redesignated as pay-and-display carparks, one redeeming feature of the plan was the swathe of greenery which one needed to cross to get to Birmingham. From my earliest interest in maps and roads, I understood that the town and the city were never to meet.This could all be another dry examination of the successes and mishits of planning policy but for two things: firstly, John Grindrod writes with a wit and clarity which turns a wander through the wooded edges of Croydon into a minor epic, and a trek through the history of planning into a historical romance. His tackling of the social and political themes from which the green belt arises are sensitive and give appropriate credence to the tenor of the times. We'd never accept such paternalistic interference nowadays of course, in this post-expert era of history - but Grindrod manages to put us back in the shoes of those principled and ambitious post-war planners who really wanted to create a new Britain from the ashes. Secondly, the story is riven by an autobiographical strand which describes a family life that many of us who grew up at that time will recognise - the social engagements, the attitudes and expectations, and the pressures of being young and different were certainly not lost on me. The relationship of family, place and policy somehow came to a head in those years during the 60s and 70s when anything seemed possible despite only having four TV channels and living miles from anywhere.Outskirts manages to be a funny, affectingly personal history of life in a particular setting at a particular time, whilst successfully unravelling the decisions and policies which created that way of living. Once again, John Grindrod has chosen a topic which for many would seem unsympathetic and without interest, and turned it into a rather joyous book.

  • Rob Adey
    2018-11-26 02:05

    The memoir bits are really good; no real problem with the bits about the green belt, but it's a tricky topic to make interesting, unless you're Jonathan Meades.

  • Maria
    2018-12-02 01:04

    Review to come.

  • Colin Bisset
    2018-12-13 00:08

    I really enjoyed this and was sort of surprised that reading about the green belt could be so interesting. Just when you feel yourself about to start skimming over some of the denser pieces of history then the other Grindrod swoops in with stories from his own life, most of which are beautifully written as well as insightful. In fact, it's all excellently written, with lots of lovely phrases, and never veers into being over-written, which it could have. You feel in very good company.

  • Sue
    2018-12-03 22:10

    I was given this book by Goodreads Giveaways and wasn't overly certain what kind of book it was going to be. I was intrigued by the environmental aspect in the blurb and thought it might be an interesting read.Now that I have finished it, I can safely say that is was totally engaging and very satisfying to read. A creative mix of memoir, recent history and political comment, the author blends the different aspects of his topic with subtle humour and not a little irony. His writing style is relaxed, drawing you along with him as he reflects upon the development of greenbelt strategy, the political landscapes that surrounded that and the personal impact of all of this on himself and his family.Totally recommend this book.

  • Peter Turner
    2018-12-14 00:06

    The author’s memoirs are the highlights of the book. The personal impact of the greenbelt strategy is told with heartfelt irony and the present debate on housing makes it a very relevant read. I was expecting to find this topic either hard work or a bit boring but in the event I found I enjoyed the book.

  • Heather Mathie
    2018-12-13 00:09

    I enjoyed this. Part memoir, part history and part nature. Made me realize how much of an impact the smallest green spaces can have on life, and the pressures that can be placed on the natural environment. Well worth a read.

  • Victoria
    2018-11-19 04:22

    Loved this review to follow

  • Katherine
    2018-11-16 22:23

    Got this as a Goodreads Giveaway. Some of the print came off the cover whilst it was in my bag. Liked the size of the text. Could not get into it. Sorry.

  • Shirley Revill
    2018-12-12 01:13

    Review to follow.

  • Sandra
    2018-11-29 04:21

    'Outskirts: Living Life on the edge of the Green Belt' gives a fascinating insight into the history of green belts. The narrative mixes minutiae research with personal experience and family history. Particularly interesting is the author's personal experience of 'living on the last road of London'. These personal memoirs are captivating because they highlight the value of 'the outskirts of the outskirts' and as such provoke a debate about the future of green belts.