Dowsing in the driving drizzle was a real let-off. Even as summer approaches, the climate of north Cornwall is, at best, ‘unsettled’. The forecast of torrential rain for most of the day was enough to keep the crowds away – which was a pity, because the dowsing itself was of the highest order.
We were under the expert tutelage of our friend, and Holy Well specialist, Terry Faull. Terry’s book on sacred springs, Secrets of the Hidden Source (Halsgrove Books 2004), has been an inspiration to dowsers and historians alike - and his knowledge of the subject is second to none.
We therefore started at a particularly interesting Holy Well – in the churchyard of St Michael’s church in Michaelstow. The well exhibited all the usual features – crossing earth energy lines and crossing water lines – all the features, that is, except water. The well had run dry at some point, and there was a debate as to whether this was due to a collapse of the watercourse or to a change in the water table, perhaps due to the excavation of a nearby farmyard. Either way, the feeder stream came up elsewhere, but the exquisite well head, meditation seat and offering niche remained to mark the spot. The well is, somewhat unusually for a site nestling in a bank with no obvious line of sight, also on an ancient ley line, which just clips the north east edge of the church – and clips it so tightly that the tracing rod of the dowser is deflected out of true by an inch or two by the granite bulk of the building. This was a new phenomenon to me.
To test the dowsers, a faux ami, in the form of another spring - which is apparently also served by sanctified water - emerges from the base of the churchyard boundary, a few yards below the dry well. On a wet day, it is reached by picking one’s way across stones laid in a mire. This, however, seems to be the outflow of a second stream, which flows under the church itself and crosses the purifying energy spirals beneath it. The churchyard is clearly a pre-Christian Llan – an ancient sacred place – enclosed by a stone and turf embankment, almost circular in shape. The straight sections of wall dowse to being of a later date, and the original line of the curved reeve can be tracked respectfully across the more recent graves.
In the churchyard are a couple of seemingly insignificant marker stones that pre-date the church by a very long time - and are aligned on earth energy lines. Perhaps they indicate that the site was once a stone circle or henge. We found evidence of former building phases, both in the energy signatures of former walls and in the tell-tale architectural detail of the structure. At the southern end of the church are twin gates separated by a coffin stone. These are not just decorative additions, as they mark the routes of two strong energy lines flowing up and down the approach, under the tower and through the nave. Michaelstow is a very complex site.
With time-honoured TDs good timing, just when we were about to call a truce with the weather, a kind, if somewhat bemused, lady with a little dog arrived to open up the locked church. After the usual joke about not having difficulty in finding water today, she let us in and bid us well. The drenched dozen found themselves in the nave of a dry and centrally-heated church and got a second wind. The church is well-cared for and contains some interesting features – not least several seriously old pews, eaten by wood-boring insects down to their oaken heartwood, but still embossed with carved patterns and pictures from a time long past. Alan Neal dated them as having been made around 1470 – and they looked it. The font, made of three separate, and mismatched, sections of stone appeared to have been moved, perhaps more than once. We each found a different spot for the original location of the font. However, despite the welcoming nature and scale of the church, the energy in and around it was strangely disturbed. Unbalanced stress lines in an old church are unusual and we mused on the potential effect of the nearby Delabole quarry and the impact of the progression of different traditions of worship on the site. A fascinating place indeed.
A green 1.5 Riley in the car park dowsed as having been built in 1962.
As the sun broke through, we headed up to nearby Michaelstow beacon, home to Helsbury Castle and the remains of the 12th century chapel of St. Syth. It overlooks Michaelstow itself, hiding in the trees below. Terry had agreed with the local farmer for us to have access to this superb dowsing site – and, with the mist lifting, we were rewarded with stunning views. The site dowsed of ancient habitation, sequentially occupied across the centuries and marked by concentric banks and ditches. The remains of round houses were evident from their energy imprints and the formerly pagan place had been christened with a chapel, of which just a few stones remain, now scattered and beleaguered amongst the gorse. We traced the pattern of the little building and noted the plethora of water lines crossing the site. On the adjacent plateau, there seemed to be the remains of a stone structure, possibly a circle, formerly used as a meeting place.
The few residual marker stones, lying partly split by the stonecutters, indicated the presence of the past. There were ley lines in abundance, some of which seemed to start from this important site. Helsbury is another intriguing location needing more concentrated attention on a quieter day.
As an encore, Terry also took us to a site from a very different and much older tradition - the stone circle at Stannon Moor. This is an unreconstructed site on the edge of china clay territory. The circle was full of energy. We investigated the relationship of the central stones to the visible outliers. Again there were several ancient ley lines striking out across the open moorland. There were pictograms present, similar to those we had found on a previous visit to the Hurlers; perhaps a star and a quatrefoil shape - and something else that was blown away in the wind. The multi-layered and multi-coloured energy braiding around the circumference of the circle was also very much in evidence.
With the afternoon wind finishing off what the morning rain had started, we decided that three super sites were enough to contemplate for one day - and we were grateful to have had the opportunity to dowse at all.
Many thanks indeed to Terry Faull for organising an excellent and most enjoyable day in the field – despite the difficult conditions.
Nigel Twinn Tamar Dowsers - May 2006
PS Terry indicated that he would be willing to organise another outing, another year. Let’s hope next time we have less rainfall and more Terry Faull.