Almost as far North as you can possibly journey within the bounds of England lies Berwick upon Tweed, nestled just a couple of miles from the Scottish border.
On Saturday, I made the 65 mile rail journey north with a friend to see Paul Kenny’s latest show open at The Berwick Watchtower.
As we wandered the streets of this garrison town, the sensations we experienced were odd and uneasy, enough for us to discuss it regularly throughout the day…
On the face of it, Berwick is pretty. However, it doesn’t take too long to sense a melancholy and fatigue hanging over the town.
There are small pockets where this isn’t the case but, overall, Berwick certainly appears to be a very northern outpost burdened with a tangible raw edge, perhaps the bleeding edge of the ongoing economic crisis.
Buildings look tired with many high street shops closing or, indeed, closed down. Local estate agents, too, seem awash with property for sale.
There is, however, plenty to admire as some of the architecture is stunning, not least the beautifully named Royal Border Bridge — a vital artery carrying the East Coast Mainline, connecting this remote town at high speed with the rest of the country.
To my mind, Berwick’s outpost feel is largely due to its geography, eclectic history and confused identity where, in the modern era, one can still be left wondering, “Is Berwick Scottish or English?”
Embroiled in bitter, bloody border wars for so many years, it’s hard to know.
Technically, Berwick is English after the most recent capture in 1482 but that’s not always been the case.
In fact, it was even recently pondered whether or not Berwick was technically at war with Russia after it was ‘left out’ of the conclusion to the Crimean War in the 1856 Treaty of Paris!
Perhaps you can now begin to see why I describe an eclectic history?
Not helping matters, Berwick Rangers FC remains the only English football club in the land to compete in the Scottish Football League.
All-in-all, an unconventional day out and one to get the cogs turning.
Paul’s show, of course, look resplendent — his Seaworks so appropriately on display at the coast.
Ultimately, though, it was time to journey home and leave this very northern outpost behind, carrying plenty of feelings to digest and thoughts to ponder about this quirky nation of ours…