If you go down to the woods today you’re in for a big surpise. Thankfully no live bears, but the remanence of the Black Prince isn’t something you come across every day.
We were guests of Anne Hughes, owner - since 2003 - of three contiguous woods that she renamed Stara, after the nearby, and extremely ancient, Starabridge. This old packhorse bridge across the Lynher in East Cornwall is evidently of great importance. Not only does it appear in squiggly writing on the OS Map, but it sits astride the ley that accompanies the Michael and Mary lines. Dowsing revealed that there had been a crossing on the site at least 2,000 years ago, with a bridge of sorts in place for over half of that time. The current parapet had been demolished several times by HGVs, including the ammunition lorry (sic) supplying the nearby Lower Lake (clay pigeon) Shooting Grounds. We hadn’t even started at this point!
The calm strength of the ley set the tone for the visit and overwrote the portent of the triangular roadside warning sign - an exclamation mark with Gunfire written underneath.
Anne gave us a short introduction into what she knew of the history of the site, and of her connection with it. Armed with some useful sketch maps, seventeen of us - and a dog - went off in search of . . . well nothing in particular. As ever, we found quite a lot. We started by showing the newer members of the group the various types of energy lines - and having the Michael/Mary ley to play with was something of a bonus. The woods are full of energies and spirals and form the ideal location for a training session, with a bit of just about everything within a few dozen paces.
At a number of places along the track many of us found pleasantly uplifting places, which, in addition to hosting positive energy spirals of varying magnitudes, were also sites where ceremonies are sometimes held. Now, which came first . . .?
It was suggested that we take a look at a potential Holy Well. This turned out to be an understated gem. The casual passer by might have mistaken it for a Victorian drainage feature, but the TDs found no fewer than three water lines and five earth energy lines dancing around the hillside spring. While it seemed a bit neglected and in need of some TLC, it was easily as energetic as some of the similar sites I had seen in Brittany in the summer, of which you can buy tourist postcards. It dowsed as having been used up until about 300 years ago - although the water is currently not drinkable, possibly due to farm run off. This uncharted historical monument was worth the trip on its own.
Back down on the river path we discovered some invisible pieces of infrastructure, once used by the inhabitants of the area ñ a storage shed or outhouse associated with quarrying, the site of a mini-mill and the traces of a small wooden aqueduct, which took a leat across the Lynher - with just the faintest outline of the alignment either side of the river for corroboration.
Crossing the river by means of a fallen tree (not as risky as it sounds), some people started to look for any remanence tracks left by a previous owner, The Black Prince 1330-1376 - the first Prince of Wales. He seemed to have made at least one journey across the site and, with the flood plain heavily wooded, may have travelled up the river itself, or along the bank, presumably on horseback, stopping from place to place.
Nearby were the dowsable traces of a substantial low structure that took a bit of working out. It transpired that this may have been the location of fish pens made of wattle ñ with a mesh tight enough to catch the larger fish and coarse enough to let next yearís stock escape. Further up the hill was dowsable evidence of more recent woodland occupation ñ the platforms of charcoal burners, used until at least the 19th century.
Our only original target - the hunting lodge of the aforementioned Black Prince - proved more elusive. The rods indicated that there had indeed been a hunting lodge at some stage on land to the north of Stara, now part of an adjacent farm. We certainly found the path taken by the former royal, who died before he could become King, but it was doubtful if the prince and the lodge were ever there at the same time.
The visit ended with tea brewed by Anne in her site caravan, nestled inside a newly constructed log cabin - all mod cons in this part of East Cornwall - with the group making donations to the upkeep of this beautiful and tranquil valley in exchange for some seriously addictive chocolate cake.
In a short period of time, Anne and her mainly volunteer team of helpers have made substantial progress in regenerating this area of ancient woodland, and making it accessible to people like ourselves.
We didn’t even reach the Cascades higher up the river, which are reputed to be the most impressive feature of the woods - and Anne mentioned to us that she had been told of elementals deep in the heart of the wood, but we didn’t get around to them Either. So, as it seems so often lately, we vowed to come back another lay to investigate more of this extensive site.
Many thanks to Anne Hughes and her colleagues for a most agreeable autumn afternoon at Stara. Given that this visit was rained off in May, we were more than pleased to have made it in such welcoming weather.
We even managed to interest some potential new members.
Anyone inturested in visiting the woods, or volunteesing their services to help restore and maintain$them, can contact Anne on 07710 348789 or by email.