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The history of Dartmoor, home of myth and legend, druids, prisoners and ponies.

Granite, a tough composite of quartz, feldspar and mica, is the stuff of Dartmoor, the most formidable of the five granite bosses punctuating Britain’s southwest peninsula. A miserable place of rain and bog or a sunny upland of exquisite natural beauty, here the elements are raw, the sky huge and nature seems ascendant.

But it is no less a place made by human beings. Stone circles, crosses, dwellings and boundaries speak of the ancient, medieval and modern people that extracted a living from the moorscape and created what it is today. Where convicts are incarcerated, backpackers roam freely; where commoners graze livestock, the army is trained; where the National Park Authority exercises control, the Duchy of Cornwall claims ownership. And Dartmoor remains a place that provides. Reservoirs hold the water drunk by local people. China clay is extracted from its mineral reserves. Not long ago granite was quarried from its hillsides.

What is modern Dartmoor and what should it be? Did druids officiate here? Can the bog be drained and crops grown? Is it the place for a prison? And what of its people’s future, and the fate of its ponies, cows and sheep? For three hundred years such questions have been asked of the moor. Quartz and Feldspar does not so much provide answers as unearth those who did and the arguments they provoked.

Reviews

Kelly’s fine book, with its rigorous deconstructionist approach, acts as a better guide to the moor than any hikers’ map.

Philip Marsden, Spectator

Will give you plenty to think about...covers subjects including biodiversity and social history, [and] conveys this mysterious moorscape's story from ancient rights to rewilding.

Max Liu, Independent

Impressively researched, and passionate… A valuable, heartfelt, well-written work.

Joanna Briscoe, Guardian

Elegantly written, shrewdly observed, and a perfect read for those “staycationing” [at Devon and Cornwall] in particular.

Neil Gregor, Times Higher Education

An imaginative cultural history, exploring with élan geological, literary and historical associations.

Roy Foster, Times Literary Supplement

A must for muddy-boot lovers.

Laura Keynes, The Tablet

Brilliant ... [Kelly] leaves no stone unturned in his bid to discover who thought what about Dartmoor and understand why the place has at times been regarded so differently.

Western Morning News

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9780099552550

    June 15, 2016

    Vintage

    512 pages

    RRP $24.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
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    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook

    9781409029793

    June 4, 2015

    Vintage Digital

    512 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
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    • eBooks
    • Google Play
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    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

Also by Matthew Kelly

Finding Poland

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