Rising Ground

A Search for the Spirit of Place

Philip Marsden

Published: 4 June 2015
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 352 pages
ISBN: 9781847086303


When Philip Marsden moved to a remote, creekside farmhouse in Cornwall, the intensity of his response took him aback. It led him to wonder why we react so strongly to certain places and set him off on a journey on foot westwards to Land's End through one of the most myth-rich regions of Europe.

From the Neolithic ritual landscape of Bodmin Moor to the Arthurian traditions at Tintagel, from the mysterious china-clay region to the granite tors and tombs of the far south-west, Marsden assembles a chronology of Britain's attitude to place. In archives, he uncovers the life and work of other enthusiasts before him - medieval chroniclers and Tudor topographers, eighteenth-century antiquarians, post-industrial poets and abstract painters. Drawing also on his travels from further afield, Marsden reveals that the shape of the land lies not just at the heart of our own history but of man's perennial struggle to belong on this earth.

About the author

Image of Philip Marsden

PHILIP MARSDEN is the award-winning author of a number of works of travel, fiction and non-fiction, including The Bronski House, The Spirit-Wrestlers, and The Levelling Sea. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and his work has been translated into fifteen languages. He lives in Cornwall. More about the author


‘[A] fascinating study of place and its meaning in prehistoric Britain, and much, much more’ Justin Cartwright 'Books of the Year'



‘[A] superb "search for the spirit of place", which takes Cornwall as its focal terrain, and the idea of sacred landscape as its subject’ Robert MacFarlane ‘Books of the Year’

‘[Marsden has] an astonishingly keen eye for detail and a beguiling gift for the description of landscape... Extraordinary, complex and fascinating’ Justin Cartwright

‘[Y]ou will find Philip Marsden here at his best; combining his acute eye for observing places and people with his deep understanding of the past. This Wainwright Prize shortlisted book is not only testament to his great writing, but also the result of his love for Cornwall - a place you will immediately want to visit after reading this’ ‘Top 10 holiday reads: June 2015’

‘A deft and compelling blend of cultural history, travelogue and observation’ Alex Wade

‘A love letter to Cornwall’ John Walsh

‘Antiquarian Philip Marsden's elegant quest takes him from Bodmin Moor's Neolithic's to whit mud clay pits in search of the historical spirit of Cornwall’

‘Beautiful’ Laura Beatty

‘Equally entertaining and enlightening... A timely volume, describing in beautiful prose the opulence of our natural and human fabric. A superb and educative work which should be read everywhere’ Horatio Clare

‘Evocative’ Erica Wagner

‘Fascinating and hauntingly evocative... A truly wonderful and enjoyable book’ Jan Morris

‘Fascinating... If you have an interest in Cornwall, or sensing that spirit of place anywhere, then Rising Ground is the book for you and well worth a read’

‘For a travel writer, home is the hardest of all subjects, but it has inspired Marsden to write one of his best books yet’ James McConnachie

‘His writing is just so good. Short, pacey chapters and an intimate and aphoristic style complement his powerful evocation of different terrains’ Matthew Kelly

‘His writing weaves cultural and natural history in a book which is both memoir and travelogue. Every rock, hill and cliff holds a tale or a legend and Rising Ground shows that such landscapes are not just close to our hearts but are a crucial part of our culture too’

‘Intriguing’ Tom Robbins

‘It is Marsden's close attention to the immediacy of his experience that keeps him, and us, interested in this journey’ William Taylor

‘Lively and entertaining... Marsden paints rich, colourful and enticing pictures with his finely-crafted and meticulously honed words... Both personal and inspiring’

‘Marsden has a gift, not only for language and metaphor, but also for imagining places as they have felt to others... in the process, [he] finds a Cornwall of his own’

‘Marsden is a born writer. Elegance seems as natural to his prose as the breeze from the west to his adopted homeland. He wears his learning lightly, and his curiosity is boundless’ Tom Fort

‘Marsden paints rich, busy, colourful and enticing pictures with his finely-crafted words. Personal and inspiring’ Jackie Butler

‘Marsden writes with charm and passion... vivid epiphanies [are] scattered throughout the text. [Rising Ground] wears its philosophy lightly and informs as it entertains. It is beautifully written, and a labour of love’ Marion Gibson

‘Marsden's beautiful 'search for the spirit of a place', [makes this] a book that is genuinely essential for all of us, from whom place is being stolen on a daily basis’ John Burnside

‘Marsden's often solo walk is described in such evocative detail readers can envisage the rough Cornish landscape without previous knowledge of it. His probing yet conversational style [is] both informative and entertaining’ Natalie Bowen

‘One of those literary wonders that achieves many things. It is, in one sense, a personal, profound book about the nature of belonging and man's desire to lay down roots and explore his surroundings. It is also a book that beautifully and succinctly evokes those surroundings... (and often with a refreshing sense of fun)’ John Owen

‘Pitch-perfect prose’ Tom Adair

‘Superb... He writes with a historian's eye and singular sensitivity... While the book's aim is to discover the spirit of place, what it reveals and celebrates best is the spirit of people. [A] fine book’ Kate Kellaway

‘Takes the reader on a powerfully evocative walk through Cornwall's ritual sites and explores the profound relationship between man and landscape’

‘The most incredible book’ Clare Balding

‘The nature writing is just gorgeous... But it offers much more than evocative writing... this is a passionate argument for a particularly local kind of history, one defined by a deep connection with landscape... For a travel writer, home is the hardest of all subjects, but it has inspired Marsden to write one of his best books yet... Wonderful’ James McConnachie

‘This beautifully written book about Cornwall weaves together history, mystery, myth and memory.’ Author Kate Morton

‘Thoughtful... Rising Ground is a wonderful topographical history of the West Country but also a great essay on why some places exert such a psychological pull on us’

‘Vivid... filled with beautiful description and vibrantly painted encounters with a variety of personalities... [it] offers a fresh, well researched and stimulating perspective of some of Cornwall's most historically rich locations’

‘Wonderful and evocative... His research is not only wide-ranging, but integrated impeccably with a narrative stuffed full of poetry and myth... In Marsden's hands, these gossamer-like threads of myth, mist and mystery become solid, the cornerstones of a substantial and beautiful narrative of place’ Ian Vince

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