In the summer of 2003, Dave Hadfield, perhaps Britain?s best-known writer on rugby league, set out on a 200-mile walk from Hull to Widnes, taking him through the heartlands of the game he loves. In the course of his meander, places he thought he knew already were revealed in a new light: from the Humber to the Mersey, he made fresh discoveries about the sport in which he has immersed himself and the landscape in which it has struggled and thrived. Along the way, Hadfield met people involved at all levels in the game and its culture: Hull?s distinguished Jonny Whiteley, Leeds hard man Barrie McDermott, Bradford?s 83-year-old Trevor Foster and a couple of miserable old gits thrown in for good measure. He also learned of personal tragedy as he gained the confidence of former coaches and players en route. In this intimate account, Hadfield observes the way rugby league fits into the history and sociology of towns like Wigan and Castleford, with which it is synonymous. His record of the journey is in the great tradition of writers from Wordsworth to Laurie Lee, who found in words the perfect medium to explore and reflect upon their surroundings.
Up and Over is the definitive book about a game and the local passions it engenders, as Hadfield seeks out the poignant and the humorous on a personal journey of discovery. For those who follow the game of rugby league, it will give a unique perspective on the parts of the world they know intimately; for others it will be an introduction to a different world, seen via one of the elements that gives it its identity.
Dave Hadfield has been the rugby league correspondent for The Independent since 1990 and is an inveterate walker. He currently lives in Bolton.