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March 2006 - Roof of the Tamar

Rod waving in the wind on Kit Hill



Kit Hill dominates the lower Tamar Valley. The chimney stack, with its 'ornate decoration', that crowns the summit gives the appearance of a giant hedgehog that has rolled in sawdust - so resplendent is it with its accretion of antennae. The views from here on a clear day are stunning - from Bodmin Moor to Dartmoor and North Cornwall to the English Channel. An ideal place to keep watch, to commemorate the ancestors, to light a beacon - or to put up an aerial. So it has been since the dawn of human activity here in South Eastern Kernow.



A gaggle of 15 TDs emerged from their winter hibernation in North Hill Village Hall to brave a potential frostbiting on these unforgiving slopes - and were rewarded with bright March sunshine and (in more sheltered spots) the enervating warmth of Spring.


Dowsing started at the chimney stack, built on the site of a massive windmill. The outline of the windmill was a matter of some debate, but on a site where so much building material has been recycled, dowsing can be a confusing activity.


The base of the stack is no longer the highest point of Kit Hill, as it is now surpassed by an artificial folly mound, on which stands an Ordinance Survey triangulation point. Despite being the apex of the hill, no leys pass through the trig. marker, but the stack is a focus of a fair few of them. The helpful viewing points even enable the ley hunter to read off the directions of the lines - to prominent Tors, ancient churches, even the Eddystone Lighthouse (but that may have been wind assisted). We had often wondered if the making of the OS maps had contributed to the proliferation of leys to be found at our prominent sighting points, but here the answer was a definitive no. If map-making lays leys, they are a different animal to the ancient ley lines of Alfred Watkins fame. But, as ever, things are always more complicated than they seem - and a question to find out if the leys had been set in place during the same period resulted in a response to the effect that some of them were more than a 1,000 years separated in time. Curiouser and curiouser - it makes Alice in Wonderland seem like kid's stuff.


Near to the stack is the site of a Civil War encampment. We traced out some of the gun emplacements of the followers of the King - maybe a dozen or so in all. I have to admit that my knowledge of Civil War history is a bit sparse, save that I spent a hot Sunday in 1968 as roundhead cannon fodder on the site of the second battle of Newbury. It occurred to me on Kit Hill that, on that distant fifth-form afternoon, I was probably falling (several times on cue) on the very spot that some wretched Cromwellian teenager had fallen for the last and only time back in 16whatever. Kit Hill has no such battlefield discomfort. No guns were fired in anger and no-one killed in combat - at least not since the Danes had a spat with the Saxons on nearby Hingston Down.


However, rather too casually, I asked for any spiritual remnants of the Civil War occupation and was led to a sad circle of remanence energy - not the spirit of man who had died in battle here, but the faintest remains of his fear.


The fort itself dowses to have been overlaid on an Iron Age rampart and a lookout bastion on one corner was built on the foundation of a round barrow - so it was not just Oliver's Army that was trashing the religious relics of their predecessors, here the Royalists were being cavalier with the sacred sites of their ancestors too.


The fort encompasses the traces of a large number of round houses, while the nearby folly mound is built over the sites of more rectangular structures, possibly medieval farm buildings.


Near the lookout bastion, are the remains of a long barrow, now so disassembled that it is barely distinguishable from the miners spoil amongst the gorse and heather. Its energy is still strong however, and it marks the crossing points of several energy lines. The stump of a standing stone, which I was pleased to discover amongst the moorland vegetation, was shown by Gordon to be a shaft marker - itself robbed out to provide building material for nearby walling.


Gordon also found the energy of a young man, killed in an all-too-frequent mining accident - still in situ, but apparently unconcerned.


With the sun dropping, and with it the temperature, we retired (as you do) to the welcoming Louis Tea Rooms nearby, for hot beverages and miscellaneous cakes - a chance to swap stories and exchange findings.

This was just a taster of an afternoon for a site steeped in the history of several millennia. Kit Hill has a long, and still active, mining history, part of which is described in some detail at the remains of the adjacent South Kit Hill mine. This is a flat area, with the visible footings of several buildings - an ideal spot for a very different type of dowsing another day.


If Eastern England has its big skies, the Western Outcrops have copious quantities of fresh air. Even amongst the playing children, yapping dogs, radio controlled cars and flapping kites of a Cornish Sunday afternoon, there was plenty of space for reflective dowsing.

Kit Hill may have changed from military stronghold to mining complex to country park, but it still has a lot to offer the local community and the visiting tourist alike.



Many thanks to John and Ruth for organising the outing - and to the Louis Tea Rooms for their hospitality and excellent victuals.


Nigel Twinn

Tamar Dowsers


March 2006

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