Ielfstan’s Place

Ielfstans Place book cover

Ielfstan’s Place

Published: 05/05/2011
Edition: 4th
ISBN: 978-0-9561705-1-4
Available in paperback
8.99 (plus £2.00 pp)
In stock

With a new Introduction by the Author

Crowned by open moorland and the twin peaks of Hay Tor, enfolded by dense woods and rich fields, Ilsington is a large, rambling parish on the eastern edge of Dartmoor between Ashburton and Bovey Tracey.

Its ancient heart of grey medieval church, thatched cottages and cosy pub, appears classically idyllic, but, for most of human history, life here has been hard and uncertain.

In Ielfstan’s Place Richard Girling recreates the thousands of years of life in and around the village from the time of the earliest human inhabitants of the area to the early twentieth century, through a connected sequence of short stories or vignettes. In a vivid, concentrated style he beautifully evokes the sights, smells, sensations and mentalities of past ages.

Richard Girling is a senior feature writer for the Sunday Times Magazine of which he was formerly managing editor. In 2002 he was named Specialist Writer of the Year in the UK Press Awards, and in 2008 and 2009 was Journalist of the Year at the Press Gazette Environmental Press Awards. He has written six books.

From the reviews

I know of no other book about an English village quite like this one. These stories are a vivid and altogether exceptional achievement. Richard Girling is an explorer who uses a beautiful language and a sharp intelligence to get at truths about rural life which would remain inaccessible by any other method.’

The men, women, farm animals and wild creatures are wonderfully integrated with the Dartmoor landscape, and through their lives we are made to see the shaping and growth of a tough little parish. The writing is lyrical yet at the same time harsh and unsentimental. The reader is plunged into a succession of “rural ages,” each uniquely strange, haunting and disturbing. It is quite an experience.

Ronald Blythe, author of Akenfield

Every piece of the mosaic is alive with invention and beautifully visual … like lichen on granite, the character of the hamlet takes hold.


A haunting fusion of time and locality.


‘An extraordinarily evocative “reconstruction.” Nerve, literary skill, and scrupulous research pay off. It is a riveting book.

Financial Times

This reviewer had not read the book before, and was immediately struck by the richly descriptive prose, often vital, warm-blooded and urgent in style, but with a consistency which draws the reader on. The flow of history from pre-history to the early 20th century is well conveyed, with few sweeteners about the imperfections of the human condition, relationships and the struggles often endured. The detail of circumstance and context is very well presented.

Dr Tom Greeves, in Dartmoor Online

Countryside of Ielfstan’s Place