It did not bode well. The threatened rain arrived right on cue, and doubtless the forecast hail and thunder would follow shortly. The field with the theoretical barrow was already occupied by a quantity of mean-looking brown animals and the parking was on a deceptively fast stretch of minor road. Some of the party were inexplicably missing and the omens were looking ominous.
But, as usual, things dowsing were not quite as they seemed. Alan led the damp party off down the lane, while I waited for the stragglers - and by the time I had rejoined the group, they had already ‘discovered’ a monolith, standing somewhat unfeasibly in the corner of a farmyard. Alan felt it might have been a displaced capstone, and the weak water and energy lines running under it implied that it had been moved from elsewhere. (We later discovered that it had been brought all the way from St Clether and wasn’t a standing stone at all!)
Yet this chance acquaintance was of real interest - for if it was indeed a relocated stone, why was there any energy running through it at all? The debate in dowsing circles, about whether earth and water energy is marked by standing stones, or attracted by them, has raged (if anything rages in dowsing) for some time. These lines gave every indication of having been attracted by the bulk of the modern Menhir - over a comparatively short period. A ‘false friend’, as the French might say - but a very educational one.
The rain rained with more urgency, as if to put an end to that line of investigation, and we took refuge in the only open structure in the vicinity - a small, old barn. Inside, we occupied ourselves with a bit of rod twiddling, only to find that we had been led onto a huge earth energy line - one of Annie’s red, white & black specials - the sort you tend to find around genuine ancient sites. So if this line wasn’t anything to do with the random boulder, was there something else around that might be of relevance?
A bit of impromptu map dowsing by David indicated a possible barrow in the field to the east, which was on the way back to the cars anyway - and we were pretty wet already so . . .
The eastern field had large black and white animals in situ. But, just as I was about to thank everyone for making the effort to come, a Landrover drew up and out stepped friendly local landowner Kevin Hicks. Sure we could go into the field, certainly we could dowse there - and by the way, why not try the western field with the brown calves it. It transpires that Mr Hicks, senior, had been an experienced water diviner and Kevin himself had also tried dowsing, albeit ‘with mixed success’. The rain eased off - and dowsers were go!
We found the ghost of a barrow - and a number of other energy spirals for good measure. The young Friesians ran round the edge of the field, but we gave each other a wide berth - and as the weather brightened up, we went off to try out luck to the west.
The herd of calves in the suggested field took one look at the dishevelled gaggle of rod wavers and retreated to the far margins of their temporary home. Once established, we soon found the tell-tale signature of crossing energy and water lines, present at many ancient - and most ‘religious’ - sites. There seemed to have been two structures, probably bounding the edges of the still strong and definitive energy spirals - but they had long since been ploughed into invisibility. Although there was nothing to see on the ground, the location was surprisingly elevated and dowsed to having been first occupied around 4,500 years ago. In the adjacent hedge bank there was an unexpectedly large number of chunks of quartz - a crystal hoard often associated with such sites.
At one point, the serious surveyors seemed about to be over-run by the brown bullocks, who had gathered their collective courage to investigate their strange visitors at close quarters. However, Annie put on a creditable display of calf whispering, which left the cattle mooing contentedly and the rest of us dowsing undisturbed.
So, Three Barrows near the farmstead of Treburrow - just speculation, perhaps? A miserable prospect had turned into another surprisingly productive afternoon for the TDs, and by the time the weather drew a watery veil over the proceedings, we were feeling pretty pleased with the outcome of our blind date with archaeology.
Many thanks indeed to Mr Hicks for giving us access to his fields – and for turning out on a Sunday afternoon to set us straight, at just the right time. Perhaps he’s a more intuitive dowser that he realises! Thanks, too, to a large number of young cattle for being so patient with some pretty flaky people.