The North/South Divide

12 Jun

One thing I have never really understood is the idea that, somewhere in the middle of England, there lies a magical line that’s really really important, despite the fact that no-one can explain why it’s really really important, or where it is.

A quick Google search for “The North South Divide” returns a whopping two and a half million results. The second-from-top result is a Wikipedia entry, which sums it up as a socio-economic divide between “South Britain” and “North Britain”, which amongst other things, “divides hilly Viking land from fertile Saxon soil”, and makes reference to a mysterious “house price cliff”.

As you may be able to guess, I’m not a great believer in such a divide, because I’ve travelled the length and breadth of Britain over the years, and have come to the following two conclusions:

a) There are some lovely places “Up North”, and
b) There are some god-awful places “Down South”.

However, if you are one of these people who feel the need to define everything by a compass point, and then make inferences of life expectancy and literacy rates based upon those very same values, I have some very good news. The line has been found. It lies at 51.87° north of the equator, and runs directly through such northern English towns as Gloucester, and Bishop’s Stortford on the Hertfordshire/Essex border.

In short, the north/south divide is a flat, latitudinal line that runs approximately 30 miles north of central London at its closest point.

This, incidentally, is not the viewpoint of a parochial south Londoner with a chip on his shoulder. Oh no. If you were wanting my personal opinion, I would have told you that the border is the River Thames, and that it should be a fortified border, with machine gun nests at the southern entrances to all bridges and the Blackwall Tunnel. No, this is rather the opinion of the Football Conference, based upon who will be competing in next season’s “Blue Square North” competition. You see, as well as traditionally northern English places such as Harrogate, Blyth and Stalybridge, the division for northern Clubs will also be joined by representatives for the 2012 season from such far-flung northern outposts as Gloucester (Glocs), Histon (Cambs), Corby (N’Hants), and Bishop’s Stortford (Herts, and only two junctions on the M11 away from the M25).

Maybe all the old jokes about the north starting at Watford were right all along!


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