May 2008 - Kit Hill Railways

The Lost Railways of Kit Hill

The remnants of the railways that once served this part of East Cornwall are not so much lost - just being gradually reclaimed by nature.

As ever with a TDs field trip, we set off in search of one type of target and uncovered a whole raft of others. Such is the interconnectivity of time and space.

Eighteen of us started with an investigation of the incline serving the former quarries, which once peppered the northern slopes of Kit Hill, a couple of miles north east of Callington. Dave had provided us with extracts of old maps, with some of the salient features blanked out by Tippex. Our first tasks were to find the missing features.

We rediscovered several of the narrow and standard gauge alignments, together with points, buffers and a level crossing. We also found the remanence of a 5 ton crane, but not all of us dowsed it to be in the same place - implying that it had moved from time to time - or that we were temporarily losing our grip.

I can strongly recommend this type of field work to anyone who lacks confidence in their dowsing abilities. There are enough clues left in, and above, the ground to steer you in the right direction, but enough gaps in the demolished infrastructure to provide great scope to ask questions, to which there are usually clear-cut answers.

We moved on to the farm of a friend, where it was known that the route of the Kelly Bray to (ultimately) London line passed through a now tranquil paddock. It was at this point that the railway theme of the afternoon started to merge with the wider world of dowsing.

The line of the trackbed was clear enough, albeit that the line itself was 20-odd feet under the ground in a former cutting. The presence of a former bridge, now hidden amongst the brambles, was a solid clue to its alignment. Dave R and others found the site of former railway buildings, probably associated with the repair of the rolling stock. We found that a pile of railway-looking granite blocks did not relate to the current site, but we didn’t deduce that they came from the demolished bridge at far away (well, 3 miles away) Gunnislake.

Gordon also found that the paddock in which we had parked had once been the summer pastures of a Celtic group, which had used the area for rearing animals. John N and others found the traces of buildings and animal pens here. My contribution was to identify a ley line that ran almost along the axis of the lost railway at this point, but dated from around the 13th century. Could the Victorian builders have been influenced by this psychic alignment?

On what would have been part of the southern slope of the cutting is a very pleasant spot, now marked by a group of healthy-looking hawthorns in full bloom. Not only is this location on the ley line, but it also has both energy and water spirals in close proximity. Gordon felt this was the site of a former (holy?) well associated with the former inhabitants. Anywhere else, you would conclude that this was a sacred site, but having been resolutely excavated and then backfilled during the cosmically brief period of the railway age, it was a little difficult to know what to make of it. However, apparently the ponies liked to be there.

There could have been more dowsing closer to the house and indeed at the house of an interested neighbour, but we were on an impressively tight schedule and a visit to a real railway station beckoned.

Well I say real, the station building at Luckett is now a beautiful private house, but much of the surrounding environment has retained the flavour of the age of steam. The original northbound platform is still in place and the former platform building (sadly demolished by a previous owner) has now been rebuilt in the authentic style, complete with fire buckets and Station Sign – to house a swimming pool.

The owners allowed us free rein to roam across the extensive gardens, where we rediscovered the twin track beds, both narrow and standard gauge alignments, and various railway buildings – seemingly mainly storage sheds and staff huts. The footings of some of these had been used for the construction of modern outbuildings. Our findings seemed to broadly correspond with what was known about the site in times gone by.

The gap between the edge of the platforms and the line of the rails seemed rather large at this station – and we mused that either the carriages were wider than modern rolling stock or some form of ramp must have been used to get people off the train.

Two of the Johns found a location of particularly unpleasant energy on an energy crossing point and right on the route of the former track, but we did not ascertain the source of this.

Just before we left, I asked if there was anyone left here from the era of the railway. I was directed towards the station house, where with the assistance of the owners, I detected the presence of a former member of staff, now seemingly stationed in a large fridge in a modern extension - but quite comfortable with his chilly vigil.

There is clearly much more we could do here - and we were asked by all three neighbours to return to undertake a ‘Spiritual Dowsing with Railways’ theme visit, to compliment the activities of this outing.

We ended a delightful afternoon with a visit to the ever welcoming Louis Tea Rooms - courtesy of the efforts of John M - where we had a helpful debrief of the day’s findings, just before the place was saturated by a phalanx of Vintage Cornish Motorcyclists. (Bikers taking afternoon tea - not like this when I was a lad!)

Many thanks indeed to the McCoryns and the Naylors for organising this day - and particularly to Dave for sourcing the site plans and getting them printed. It was a rare treat to turn up and be part of the team, with the events all sorted out. Well done!

Many thanks, too, to our hosts. We hope to return at some point in the future to take another look at their area, with a different slant to our dowsing.

Nigel Twinn

Tamar Dowsers

May 2008