August 2011 - Helman Tor

Hidden History at Helman Tor

Helman Tor is a surprisingly undiscovered gem of mid-Cornwall. Not that the tor itself is hidden, as it stands out boldly on a diagonal spur that runs across the south of Bodmin Moor - and it acts as a commanding viewing platform for the earth energies in the countryside all around it. It is no wonder people have lived here and visited it over the millennia - and have left their marks, both physical and etheric. In the 21st Century, only a paint-scraping drive through the cosy approach lanes protects it from being overwhelmed.

Alan Neal led a mixed group of TDs, West Cornwall Dowsers, and our mutual friends through the history, geology and dowsable features of the site.

One of the most surpising archaeological aspects of the Tor is the presence of two embossed carvings on the granite rocks at the summit, which seem to represent the male and female elements of the location. They dowse as being very old indeed and - like so many subtle features - they appear and disappear with the shadows of the passing day. An incised cross nearby suggests that it was not only our prehistoric forebears that recognised the spiritual importance of the place. On another rock of the apex outcrop there appears to be the raised outline of a flower, which dowsed as being of a more recent date - but it, too, vanished enigmatically, in the embrace of the afternoon sunshine.

One of Alan’s questions for us to consider was the presence of leys around the summit. It is an ongoing debate - some might term it a battle - between dowsers, as to what exactly comprises a ley. My own dowsing found about 12 straight lines crossing or emanating from the area around the top of Helman Tor. Two of these dead straight lines certainly contained earth energy, and pointed directly at the next closest peaks. However, all of them, including the two energy lines, dowsed as lines of thought or vision - dowsable features that I am currently calling, somewhat clumsily, ‘lines of consciousness’. To clarify the situation, or maybe to add further to the confusion, I asked how many of these lines would be ‘ley lines’ under the definition of the founder of the subject, Alfred Watkins. A little to my surpirise, it seemed to be three - one of the energy/visual lines and two of the others devoid of earth energy. Make of that what you will!

A little to the north of the highest point is a cluster of three huge rounded boulders that harboured powerfully radiating energy lines. Some of the group felt this to be a place of healing, and the energy there would certainly add support to this assertion. Immediately in front of these rocks was a small flat space on which an angular building had once stood. It contained a powerful energy spiral, which expanded in size by about 50% in response to one of our number dancing on it purposefully for a short while.

Further north again, there is an area that once hosted a group of round huts, later replaced by rectilinear buildings. Beside it was a platform that dowsed as being the place where animals had been killed. There was some debate as to whether this was an area for ritual sacrifice or just an al fresco abattoir, but either way the cooking area was nearby, so doubtless the beasts ended up there.

At a couple of places around the top of the tor, there were stones that seemed to be viewpoints or directional indicators, pointing either at Roche Rock, on the western horizon, or towards the pinhead of a barrow on the distant north coast of Cornwall. While it would clearly be possible to come up with all sorts of spurious alignments from the grand assembly of rocks available, these two pointers appeared to include rocks that were deliberately placed or shaped, indicating perhaps a ritual and/or an astronomical purpose.

Dowsing the original Saints Way indicated that this cross-peninsula trackway - allegedly used by early monks on their way from Ireland and Wales to Brittany and beyond - once passed across the western flank of Helman Tor. The modern long-distance walking trail of the same name also passes close by and links many of the ancient stone crosses of mid-Cornwall. Alan Neal had dowsed that the route once reached the south coast at Par, which was a more significant harbour than its better-known sister port of Fowey, before significant silting-up took place. The track dowsed as first being used at least as far back as Neolithic times, when a much smaller population would have lived in this area.

Another interesting feature was the presence of a small natural cave, which appeared to have been used by a group, mainly women, back in the Bronze Age to revere their ancestors.

Archaeologists have already found the cleared remains of hut platforms at several points around the summit plateau. We dowsed a number of small round shelters (or dwellings), together with larger rectilinear structures, some of which may have been stock pens. The significant number of these huts, which spanned a considerable period, indicated that Helman Tor was used, or even occupied, over a long stretch of human history. For this to happen, a source of potable water would have been needed close to hand. We found one former well site, now almost dry and with standing water at great depth.

The inhabited area around the summit is surrounded by the remains of a boundary wall. The foundations of this structure dowsed to being at least 5,000 years old. A second wall, enclosing a wider area - and presumably built to shelter and protect animals as well as humans - was built in the 15th century.

While the site has always been strategically significant, with views out to sea to the south and right up to the north coast, we found no dowsable evidence of battles or sieges on the tor itself. There did appear to be the locations of at least a couple of cremated dignitaries, but no mass burials.

People found places to sit and absorb the energy of the massive rocks - and of the strong energy currents of the land. Today, the tor may seem something of a backwater, a half-forgotten place - but our dowsing indicates that it has been the venue for a lot of Cornish history, much of which has never made it into print.

Many thanks to Alan Neal for organising yet another fascinating field trip.

Nigel Twinn, Tamar Dowsers, August 2011