One the very eastern edge of Bodmin Moor, with a panoramic view across the valley of the Lynher and that of the Tamar beyond, stands the rarely visited outcrop of Notter Tor. It is a lesser-known peak, primarily because it is on private land. We were only there care of the permission of the owner, David Taylor - and the organisation of TD member, Gordon Ratcliffe.
There is very little in the historical or archaeological records about the tor, which is a little surprising, given its proximity to the huge Iron Age encampment on the plateau of nearby Stowe’s Pound, which itself overlooks the Hurlers complex. Ideal territory for the TDs to investigate.
One of the main features that we were asked to investigate was the presence of what looked like a rather straight trackway leading up the western slopes of the tor. Why anyone would want to construct such a path up such steep and unforgiving topography was difficult to fathom - so, out came the rods.
There are so many possibilities for a straight alignment, with or without a trackway, that this took us a little time to resolve. However, to cut a long story short, it would appear that the basic line was an ‘energy ley’, where the mass of one hill and the mass of the next (in this case Notter Tor and the larger Sharp Tor to the west) generate a line of attraction between them - a natural result of geography and physics. People who were more sensitive than we are today would have become aware of this energy in the earth and, standing on top of one tor, would have gazed across to the next, setting down a ‘visual ley’ - a line of consciousness - between the two. With a straight line in place in two different dimensions, it would have been an obvious step to use the sensible energy frontier as a border between groups or tribes - and the use of the alignment as a boundary came up strongly in our dowsing. The addition of the remaining boundary stones could have been a later manifestation of this process.
However, with the physical and energetic boundary in place, the route between the tors, or at least up to Notter Tor from the inhabited valley below, could then have been used for other purposes. We had a wide variety of responses to questions about religious, ritual, ceremonial and processional use - as it all depends how you can visualise these concepts in your own dowsing mind. But the upshot seems to have been that once the route was established, it was attributed with some sort of sacred significance.
Our attention was then transferred to the top of the tor itself. If there was a ceremonial path, was there some kind of ritual destination at the other end? The summit, with its magnificent view, had a most engaging feel. Even given the benevolent weather and the good company, this was clearly a pleasant place to be at any time. And what gives a place such a nice feel? - as often as not, the earth energies beneath it. Alan Neal was able to detect a number of crossing points of earth energy around the summit platform, and also several water crossings. It was not quite the simple energy and water overlay you might find in a church or a stone circle, but more of magic matrix of the two, interconnected and overlapping in a confined area. Put these together with the aforementioned leys, and you have a near-classical sacred site. In fact, there were two ‘energy leys’ and at least another three or four ‘visual leys’ dowsable from the apex - one of which appeared to link North Hill church tower with the Caradon Hill TV mast, taking in a small pool of rainwater in the topmost rock of Notter Tor on its way. No wonder ancient peoples were keen to ascend it.
Some dowsed for the significance of the ceremonial use and received good responses for the crowning of a number of local kings there during the Iron Age (bearing in mind that a local king might have had a population only counted in hundreds in those days). Boundary sites were significant places for forging alliances and preventing conflict - and therefore also important and very public locations to announce who was in charge, and who should be consulted.
But aside from the macho politicking, the tor’s beneficial energies would have been potentially significant for healing purposes too. Some dowsed that this was indeed the case, and that the healing was primarily carried out there by the women of the community.
Looking again at the energies in the ground, I was able to detect a number of energy manifestations - symmetrical patterns at the crossing point of the various energy lines. These were quite simple circles, but with gently serrated edges, like the notches on a well-worn cog.
There were also a couple of the pictograms, first found by Colin Bloy and Hamish Miller. However, these were either half buried in the gorse or over the edge wall of the disused quarry. None of these spots seemed particularly congenial - so, clearly it wasn’t an afternoon for that line of research.
Such is the nature of dowsing that we hardly seemed to have arrived when it was time to make our descent. A couple of hours had passed in an instant - perhaps aided by the arrival of a solitary and slightly bemused rambler. Having been shown the rudiments of the art and having been provided with Alan’s contact details, he was allowed to disappear into the undergrowth as mysteriously and as namelessly as he had arrived.
On the way down, Alan stopped to investigate the remains of an old leat - still damp at the bottom, but steadily being reclaimed by the moor. One edge of the water line flowing beneath it had raised enough detrimental energy to attract a large anthill in the all-pervasive bracken.
Many thanks to David Taylor for allowing us access to his land, and to Gordon Ratcliffe for the hard work he put into organizing this event.