“It’s grim up north.”
When talking about the north of the UK, you will always hear a southerner use this idiom, no matter what the subject of discussion.
Growing up in the south, I always heard this infamous phrase but I never thought much about it. At least I thought I didn’t. The phrase comes from way back when the north of England was dominated by heavy industry, including mining. Combined with the rugged landscapes and colder, greyer weather than the south, we southerners can’t help but think it must be grim.
So I never went up there.
Years later, however, many of my friends moved north for university, specific jobs and affordable housing. My boyfriend was even born in the North; one side of his family still live there. And so, finding ourselves back in the UK, we decided to take our backpacks north to visit them and see if it really is as grim as people say.
It turns out that a backpacking trip across the north had much more on offer than I originally thought. Before heading off, I had some pretty bad preconceived notions of the north of England, most of which turned out to be wrong. The cities and towns of the north have changed a lot since that phrase was coined. Recent regeneration programmes, conservation of historic buildings and the countryside, and an appreciation for arts, means that the north is an unexpected cultural gem for travellers. It’s not all that grim up north after all.
Have you travelled to the north of England? What did you think?