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November 2004 - St Clether

The Ancient Stone Structures of St Clether


Where better for a group of 19 dowsers, friends (and Jack the dog) to practise their skills than at the clutch of Celtic sites that nestle in the Inny Valley near St Clether.

St Clether Holy Well

St Clether Chapel


Unseasonal, but very welcome, pale November sunshine added to the feel of somewhere that was rather special in time and space.


The main purpose of the TDs field trip was to visit the Holy Well and Chapel, studied and documented by TD founder Alan Neal, whose book ‘Dowsing in Devon & Cornwall’ was the starting point for our investigation.


As so often with a TD visit, this beautiful and apparently timeless structure was not quite what it seemed. Effectively rebuilt in 1450 and extensively renovated in 1900, it stands on the site of a previous building that Alan had dowsed to AD630. The Chapel was sited across a previous building on another alignment - and Larry & Jen found the shadows of yet earlier structures there – round houses from the bronze age.


The current (post 630!) building is precisely framed by two extremely wide earth energy lines, which naturally cause a huge spiral in the centre of the Chapel. Graham noted other energy lines, which used the diagonal alignment of the architecture, caused a secondary spiral and seemed to have more relevance to the pre 630 building. Either way, this little stone haven had a wonderful feel, full of healing energy.


The unique feature of the Chapel is the layout of the holy well – seeming to flow out of the hillside, through the sympathetically-restored well head itself, then via a culvert into the Chapel. It is routed behind and almost under the granite altar and into a second basin, above which there is a shelf which may once have been used for the placing of offerings.


The water dowsed to being both drinkable and to contain healing properties. Many of us had a draft and some respectfully filled up their bottles. Interestingly, at the time of Alan Neal’s visit the lower basin was dry - and there was evidence of an underground split in the little stream – so it was pleasing to find original water courses back in action and in use.


The alignment of positive earth energy and both surface and deep water sources make this water ‘sacred’ in both the technical and spiritual sense.


The absence of ley lines across both the existing and pre-existing buildings indicates that it may have been an ancient place of habitation, and an important place for spiritual activities, long before Clederus arrived to bring the Christian interpretation in the 6th century.


We spent a long time examining this small stone structure, with Gordon and the Johns tracing the outline of the earlier building, and Jen finding the original path up from the river, now rendered impassable by hawthorn and wire fence. Some were happy just to soak up the atmosphere of the internal spiral.


It was noted that the river Inny had once been far wider, and therefore its banks rather less boggy, This would put the location of the Chapel into a rather different context.


As the sun started to set, we made our way back via the new (Norman!) church of St Clether – a solid squat, structure - but rather empty place, after the quietly energetic ambience of the Chapel. I walked round the outside of the church, but could find just one, rather weak, earth energy line crossing one end of the building. Assuming I was just dowsed-out, I ventured inside to find that others were also looking a bit perplexed. There were water lines in abundance - and the structure was clearly very old - but where had the usual energies gone? I asked for the age of the church – and got the unexpected answer of about 150 years old. In the rational scientific sense, this was not the answer to the intended question. We were standing in a mediaeval Cornish structure. However, according to the guide book, a major fire around 1870 had resulted in the need for a significant restoration. Had this event so damaged the earth energy as to render it virtually undetectable? Had something happened at the time of the re-dedication or re-opening to exclude the pre-existing earth energies, that could still be felt at a distance outside. As so often happens with a TD outing, it’s the things that are not in the script, that turn out to be the most fascinating.


But we weren’t finished yet. To avoid any disappointment, a few of us decided to complete the visit as per the published programme and search out one of the stone crosses near the village. As we meandered through the hamlet in the gathering gloom, a friendly local gentleman, noting we were strangers, engaged us in conversation – and took us to one of the most remarkable stone crosses in Cornwall. We were led into a copse and up the slippery side of a disused leat to view a 3m tall, lollipop-headed Christian (or Christianised) stone cross, now beleaguered in a marsh.


The Johns bravely, and carefully, scaled the barbed wire and trudged through the mire to examine the structure. Others had to satisfy themselves taking photos – the automatic flashes seeming strangely incongruous in the deepening woodland murk.


The Johns found that there was no earth energy present at the cross, but that it did mark the crossing of two or three ley lines. Our guide told us that he felt the cross was actually at the crossing of two long lost tracks, one leading from the old (ie new!) church to the main (C standard!) road, the other leading from that road, straight through what is now the marsh to a ford on the river Inny. It seemed very probable, but would have to wait for a very dry summer or a map dowsing opportunity for TD confirmation.


As the Johns finished their aqueous investigation, I felt inclined to mumble the Robert Johnson blues classic ‘Standing at the crossroads, believe I’m sinking down’, but this seemed a little inappropriate as I was safely on the reasonably dry leat bank.


Our guide also indicated that there was a Manor House, demolished by Oliver Cromwell, another chapel, only removed in the last century, another cross, the remains of water driven mills – more than enough to merit a further visit by the TDs.


We, well Annie, did manage to locate a second cross, smaller but similar in design, in the hedge bank– but even the Time Team calls it a day in the pitch black. Dowsing in the Dark – there’s a song in there somewhere!


Another truly remarkable afternoon with the TDs.

Many thanks to Annie for the handouts, to Alan Neal for writing the book on which they were based, to various members of the group for their dowsing interventions - and to the local man, who not only took the time to talk to a group of unexpected strangers, but was also prepared to show them hidden things he sensed they would find interesting.


Nigel Twinn

Tamar Dowsers

November 2004

© TAMAR DOWSERS