The Spirit of Place

We end the literary year on a high, and not just physically on the tors and the moors of Cornwall where I found myself again, just a few weeks after William Atkins took me to Bodmin.  For my guide this time was Philip Marsden, an author who rarely fails to bring magic through his words.

In Rising Ground Marsden explored his native Cornwall; A Search for the Spirit of Place.  It was a time when his family were settling into a new, but ancient home, and when the family home his parents had occupied since Marsden was a babe, was changing hands.  So there are some deep and personal moments to be shared.

But in the main he is taking us through Cornish history; walking us among the standing stones, the circles and the barrows, and the millennia past.  This is not the Cornwall I remember from thirty plus years ago when I sought little but sun and fun, but it is a Cornwall I’d like to explore now.


There are pagans at the Admiral Benbow; villages under the seas; stones lined up with stars and with rising suns.  And there are legends.

The narrative is peppered with the lore of the land, the language of the place as it once was.  And the text occasionally takes me back to some of Marsden’s earlier works, from his younger travelling days, to far-flung spirits.

We meet the old worthies of today, and learn of their ancestors.  We visit places no longer lived in, and learn of the times they were.  And we avoid the surf schools and the artists.

Is Land’s End a-calling?  I recall it is another windy cliff, the tat of the tourist trade, and seriously underwhelming.  I might just look around with fresh eyes.  And I might just take that long road to the south west again one day.  It’s been a long time.  I’ll take Rising Ground with me if it ever happens.


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