The little church of St Michael de Rupe sits like a pimple atop the ancient volcanic plug we now call Brentor. It can be seen all the way from the English Channel right up into north Devon. As you might expect, at such a panoramic place there is rarely much respite from the winnowing westerly wind.
Visually, the church itself is as unassuming as it is prominent, but the broad sweep of the St Michael line takes in the nave, and most of the rest of the building, in its path. It forms a large energy spiral just in front of the altar, interacting with a north-south line. This feature was easily dowsed by some less experienced dowsers, who had joined us for the day. Another spiral lies beneath the recently refurbished bell-tower.
There was no indication of negativity left over from the vandalism of a few years ago. Indeed, it felt clean, bright and energetically active.
We found that the font was, unusually, still in its original position - and sited above crossing water lines that Alan Neal dowsed to be very deep indeed. Ley lines also stream across the hilltop, notably one that points directly to the equally exposed summit of Kit Hill. Another takes in the less elevated church at North Brentor surprisingly, a Victorian addition to the local landscape. But, for all its obvious interest and 360º vistas, the real excitement for the dowser is in a field at the foot of this mini-mountain.
Local legend has it that the church was built 3 times on the top of the hill, only to be thrown down again to the bottom by the Devil. I feel this is probably a folk memory that the pre-Christian inhabitants were more interested in the crossing point of the Michael and the Mary lines - a former sacred site, now lying beleaguered beneath a blanket of tinners’ spoil. A couple of important ley lines, including the Kit Hill one mentioned above, also come through this place. Usually surrounded by mud, brambles and a defensive phalanx of cattle, on our visit in late October it was clear of farm animals and surprisingly dry underfoot.
Hamish Miller famously found one of his early manifestations here and wrote up the event in The Sun and the Serpent. So we asked to find it, too. John had partly rediscovered the formation, when we realised that we did not need to demonstrate what had once been found, interesting though that was - we needed to know what was there now. An initial walk-through produced a five-pointed shape, which Alan marked out with flags.
By the time others had joined in, its size and complexity was growing rapidly - so much so that the original flags no longer represented the pattern, which now seemed to have a stellar form, but with perhaps two layers of folds or petals. The shape changed so much and so quickly that we had to abandon any hope of pegging it out on the ground, especially as part of it had disappeared into the hawthorn and blackberries. We had to be satisfied with the fact that it was there and that it was working with us vigorously. I suspect it would have taken many hours for this process to unfold completely, and many more to carry out a similar exercise further down the St Michael line to establish if it was being transmitted - or simultaneously created - there too.
Perhaps in some more enlightened future time, students from the Hamish Miller Dowsing Degree Course will do just that - and make a good living out of the after dinner stories that will result. But on a chilling autumn day, the TDs had other places to go in this lesser-known part of West Devon.
I had included Lydford in the itinerary, in case there was not enough action at Brentor. In the end, we were spoilt for choice. About four miles up the B road towards Okehampton sits the now quiet village of Lydford. This was once a thriving Saxon town of great renown, with its own mint - so much so that the incoming Normans built substantial castles to subdue the locals and fortified the settlement with great earthen banks. It was also on one of the main pre-Beeching railway lines from Plymouth to London.
The Castle keep was used as a particularly unpleasant jail in mediaeval times. Many people, including some who would have no truck with all this metaphysical stuff, have found the Castle an especially black sort of place - and I had reservations about taking more sensitive, or less well-prepared, dowsers to this site. But, as ever, you need to take things as you find them and proceed without prejudice. We started by examining the Viking Stone, allegedly carved by Eric the Red (I feel more slaughterman than socialist) in the late 10th century. Our dowsing did not contradict the little sign to this effect, erected by English Heritage.
However, nearby is a remarkable, but largely ignored standing stone, which may once have been taller. It lies a few yards outside the churchyard and has a very strong aura - so strong that Larry could see it. We found it was within both a water spiral and the meeting place of several earth energy lines. Alan drew out its aura from a few feet to several yards and it was only just starting to recede as we left to go home. The energy spiral, too, ballooned out as we dowsed around it. I had the feeling that we were the first group to pay it any real attention for some time - yet energetically this rock should be a protected place of great significance in its own right.
We finished off at the Norman Castle itself and, for all its grim reputation, we found little to frighten the horses. Even the super-sensitive Jen had walked through it with a shrug. So we set about trying to understand what negativity remained and found, to our surprise, that the main darkened line started several feet above the current ground level. This clue led Alan to discern that what was haunting the place today was a trace memory of the distress of a friend of a woman who had died in the Castle - in childbirth. I would still warn the unwary that this can be a spooky old site at times, but as dusk approached, we headed back to the car park feeling anything but gloomy. I dowsed that people have been healing this site in recent times, which may be part of the story.
Perhaps also, the deep cleansing flow of the St Michael line that takes under its aegis the old castle, the church, the unnamed stone, Eric’s enigmatic engraving and the Norman keep, has done much over the years to dampen down the remanence of the miserable events of the middle ages. Alternatively, it might just have been that we had had such a good afternoon that we were oblivious to the darker side of life. Sense it for yourself - but be careful and stay protected.
Many thanks to Alan Neal for finding time out from his busy schedule to guide us.