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April 2006 - Roche Rock

Dowsing on an Incoming Tide

It has often been said that there are more dowsers to the square mile in Cornwall than anywhere else on earth.

I have no way of verifying this, but the anecdotal evidence is strong enough for it to have become an uncontested urban (or in this case, rural) myth. It is surprising therefore that until 2002, this was one of the few counties not to have its own dowsing group.

People put it down to the individualism of those of us in the far south west. Cornwall has been a paradise and a haven for alternative culture, from the Newlyn painting school to the Leach pottery and the Hepworth tradition of sculpture; from druids to surfers and from the late dowsing legend, Donovan Wilkins to the living variety, Hamish Miller. There has never been a shortage of local talent, but finding a willing administrator to bring it together . . .

Four years ago the Tamar Dowsers coalesced around the figurehead of local tutor Alan Neal, but now we have become the old lions - there are new kids on the block. This was the first outing for the embryonic West Cornwall Dowsers and the first time the TDs had attempted a joint outing with another group.

Clearly, the forces that have no name thought it was a good idea and we were rewarded with good weather, two super sites and - bearing in mind these sites were either side of the dreaded A30 at Goss Moor on a sunny Sunday – next to no traffic!

We met at the ancient ‘hill fort’ of Castle an Dinas – not that it seemed to have much to do with being a castle. There was lots of evidence to dowse about pastoral habitation, by people who lived 2000 - 4000 years ago in round-houses, keeping their stock in rectangular pens. There were wells and formerly sacred places – and even the site of a bloody murder, with subsequent suicide, dating from the 1920s, for those of the Agatha Christie persuasion.

In true Arthur Watkins style, six leys skirt the ‘camp’, but only one runs north- south across it and dowses as being of a different date to the rest - more evidence and confusion for those seeking the function and use of ley lines. We communed with the local goats, ate lunch and moved on.

Our other site was the strangely ignored Roche Rock. Indeed, so many local

people mentioned that they had never been there, despite it dominating the surrounding scenery, and being (no disrespect) the only ancient built site of note for miles around, that I began to wonder if it had been protected in some way. It is certainly not protected in any physical sense and has all the hallmarks of what archaeological sites must have looked like in about 1956 - surrounded by bracken and brambles, accessed by seriously old (but solid) vertical metal ladders and more the haunt of BMX riders than dowsers.

But this neglect only adds to its fascination. Here, a chapel has been constructed amongst a natural rock outcrop, lived in by hermits, monks and lepers, and then abandoned to the elements. The earth energies are very strong - even the newcomers had no problems sensing them. The chapel is just wide enough - about three paces - to encompass the Mary Line as it surges through, but it also has other energy, water and ley lines crammed into its tiny space. To add to the mystery, the Mary Line expands to a more usual 28 paces only a few metres below the rock. We searched for the reputed holy well and came up with some possible sites - but a mixture of opinions. Alan Neal found a strange hot-spot on the ground a short distance away, which we had fun trying to fathom out.

To end the day, some of us went to have a nose around the local churchyard, where a crudely carved, but massive, stone stands beleaguered amongst the graves. It seems that this may have marked the original sacred site in Roche, was Christianised in a style that would do a minimalist new-age workshop proud, but was later carted out of the new church and into the cemetery to await the arrival of - well us, actually.

Industrial Roche has come up a lot since the arrival of the Eden Project, but it is still one of the least known parts of Kernow. I can recommend the area for dowsing, but unless you have a direct line to the traffic gods, I suggest you leave it for a month or two.

Many thanks to Annie Holland for providing the handout and to tutors Alan Neal & David Lockwood for taking time off from their BSD etc. duties to be with us – and very best wishes indeed to Bart O’Farrell and the West Cornwall Dowsers with their new venture.

If days out with our neighbours from Penwith, Kerrier and Restormel are as good as this, the tide of dowsing activity here in the western peninsula really is streaming up the Cornish beaches.

Nigel Twinn Tamar Dowsers, April 2006


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