Bodmin Moor can be a bleak and unforgiving place, even on some of its better summer Sundays. When Pete Bousefield and I had surveyed the route a few weeks beforehand, we had been rewarded with a beautiful view to both the north and south coasts - and we had discussed the wisdom of bringing extra drinking water, just in case. We needn’t have worried, as we climbed up the lower slopes of Sharp Tor the northerly wind cut through us with an arctic edge. It was all some of us could do to get to the sites, let alone do any dowsing there.
Just below Sharp Tor is the location of a settlement that had been in use from stone age times and for many centuries thereafter. The outer edge of the compound can still be seen amongst the bracken and the footprints of the many circular huts can be dowsed with ease, even on a windy day.
Length of occupation seemed to be the theme for the afternoon. We trudged on to the site of what were once three huge cairns on the summit of Langstone Downs. Before they were destroyed by treasure hunters and stone robbers, these three stone mounds would have been impressive structures indeed. It was from here that Pete and I had seen Plymouth Sound and Dodman Point to the south and Lundy Island (if your eyesight is good enough) to the north.
The panoramic viewpoint had clearly been well-known to ancient peoples. Some of us found the earliest date of use of the site to be exceptionally old - dating back to a time when humans, as we know them today, were not supposed to have been here.
Ancient leys cross the cairns, with a quite remarkable one pointing through the three cairns to Sharp Tor and directly on to the apex of Kit Hill.
The Mary Line weaves its way through the middle cairn en route from the Hurlers to our winter base at North Hill. However, something a bit strange happens to it as it passes through. The line seems to shrink from its regular 5, or 7, bands of 9 paces each to just a few paces across in total. Whether this is a ‘natural feature’ or some interaction with other energy lines was difficult to tell. The cairn builders seemed aware of it, however, and designed their structures accordingly. We found a couple of energy lines that seemed to disappear into the ground a short distance from the stone heaps - and there were spirals galore amongst the cairns themselves. It is not easy dowsing amongst a hillock of loose rocks - even less so in a brisk northerly blast, but we found enough to appreciate that this is an interesting site that demands more of our attention another day.
We plodded on across the rough moorland, which was sodden with many days of continuous rain. Our next site was the quarry and peak at Bearah Tor. Although technically still an operational stone quarry, not much goes on there now. In its heyday, this site was served by its own railway, with sidings and stone sleepers, some of which are still in place. The size and scale of the workings indicate that this was once a very active industrial operation.
Less regard would have been paid to invisible energy lines in the white heat of the Cornish mining granite-rush even than under today’s philistine capitalism. Consequently, the beneficial Mary Line is not only cut about, but has the ignominy of hosting a pit, now filled with stagnant water - and the benefit of a few, rather attractive, dragonflies. Here, the Mary Line throws up another enigma - and one that inspired Pete to produce a series of multi-media sculptures. It was a phenomenon that he wanted others to verify and to consider.
As the Mary Line leaves the edge of the quarry pool and shoots off into space across the water, the part that would have once been underground (but has now been quarried away) seems to have no dowsable trace of it. In the air, it exists, as you would expect, to the extent that you can reach it without tumbling into the pond, but below what would have been ground level, it seems to have gone.
It seems a bit unlikely it had never had an underground energy component. I have never dowsed the Mary Line down a mine, but I would expect to find it there, much as you can detect similar features in a boat on the water, or a plane overhead.
It is just possible, if a bit problematic, that a chunk of the line has been cut out, has been taken away with the stone by train and shipped out to London or Paris, where much of the stone from this quarry ended up. Perhaps some sort of re-locational dowsing could pin-point the site of the slab in question. Would it still have the energetic memory of its former existence on Bodmin Moor? It is thought that the crystalline structure of the stone of ancient churches may carry just such a record - in a similar manner to a computer’s silicon chip. Hmm.
It still doesn’t answer why the Mary Line has not replaced itself in the missing section. It seems to carry on at the other side of the quarry and makes its way eventually to Glastonbury, Avebury and the east coast of Norfolk.
On the other side of the quarry escarpment, the line takes a sharp detour, seemingly to avoid the remaining pinnacle of the natural outcrop of Bearah Tor, and by then has shrunk to a few paces wide. Eventually it re-establishes itself as it strides away across the moor, seemingly none the worse for wear. We were unable to dowse the impact that the quarry pool itself had on the line as your hon. co-ordinator had failed to turn up with either a wet-suit or a life-raft.
A dozen rather weary TDs made it back down the quarry track to what passes for a main road in these parts.
We may not have had the best of circumstances for dowsing, but we were shown some interesting sites, worthy of another visit on another day. Anyone with any thoughts regarding the missing section, please let me know and we can try to verify them another day.
Many thanks indeed to Pete Bousefield for organising a very different sort of outing. Pete was very apologetic for the weather, but as I don’t think he is an incarnation of the sky god, I think we should let him off - this time, anyway.