In its day, the Marches acted as a frontier between the Roman Empire and the unconquered lands of North Britain, two rival kingdoms.
To enforce this separation, the Romans started the construction of Hadrian’s Wall in 117AD which spanned 73 miles from the mouth of the River Tyne to the Firth of Solway.
Rory Stewart, together with his 90-year-old father the late Brian Stewart CMG, make the journey along Hadrian’s Wall in the first part of the book. It focuses on Rory’s close relationship with his father before moving on to accounts of his own hikes and walks along the marches.
He explores the abandonment of a once buzzing village that no one visits anymore to find out how it has changed over the years.
The final section is dedicated to Rory’s father and his involvement in World War II as a member of the Black Watch regiment. Rory’s admiration for his father shines through this account, making the news of his death, which he writes about so eloquently, even more poignant.
Although The Marches is more a touching account of a remarkable father/son relationship seen through the lens of the Border landscape than a straightforward historical account, Stewart provides much food for thought about how we value our past history.
The Marches, by Rory Stewart, published by Jonathan Cape, £18.99.