black country

Constantin-Meunier-In-the-Black-Country-for-Anthony-CartwrightAnthony Cartwright at Granta:

Geology is destiny.

The Black Country is porous, like its limestone, and hard as Rowley rag, the dolerite in its quarries. For a time this was the most heavily industrialised few square miles on the planet, and yet, as its name suggests, it has never been fully urban. Its hills mark the watershed between the rivers Severn and Trent, thewrosne of Old English, a word that translates as ‘the link’. The Black Country’s borders are ill-defined, corresponding roughly to the old South Staffordshire coalfield (which incorporates enclaves of Worcestershire and Shropshire). It is in the English midlands, to the west of Birmingham, but not of it. On that, at least, we can all agree.

When I ring my dad on the day of the referendum he tells me that he has seen people queuing off the Rowley Road to vote. The hills fall away south below the line of voters, past the blackened brick of the air shaft that comes from the tunnel bored through the land below, past the shell of Cobb’s Engine House which used to pump water from the nearby mines into the canal, past Clent and Walton and the woods that once belonged to King Offa and Saint Kenelm, webbed with lanes where they say Harry Ca Nab, the leader of the devil’s hunt, still sometimes rides on his wild bull. He will surely be out tonight; Lord of Misrule.

more here.