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August 2019 - Secret Siblyback

Updated: Jan 5, 2020

Completed in 1968, Siblyback dam, reservoir and activity centre are some of the more recent human interventions in this ancient landscape. Strangely, despite having lived in the general vicinity for over 30 years, this was our first visit to the lake itself - and we were not alone in that respect.

Rather surprisingly for such an idyllic setting, the tourist facilities there are quite low key and the recreational infrastructure is currently largely dormant. However, that made it an ideal time - and an ideal day, weather wise - for a third of the TDs membership to turn up en bloc to see just what this secluded back-water of Bodmin Moor has to offer the dowser.

The most obvious feature - as shown on Hamish Miller’s, Sun and the Serpent, map of the area - was the place where the St. Michael Ley hits the eastern bank, a few yards north of the home of TD member Helen Fox - our host for the day. The alignment was about twelve paces wide at the outset, but expanded as we worked with it. Pete Bousfield also picked up a strong energy line here, coursing off towards the cairns atop Browngelly Downs on the north western horizon.

Others sensed various water and energy currents, together with associated geological faults - assisted by guidance provided by Alan Neal and his colleagues.

Strangely, the nearest piece of archaeology was to prove something of an enigma. Although clearly and accurately indicated by Helen, and pinpointed correctly by the side of the only road into the site on the OS map, the remains of a Celtic Cross to the south of the lake remained elusive. Several dowsers, including some of us quite experienced in the craft, looked for it, but without success. Ros dowsed that it (or its guardian) did not want it to be located that day for some reason - so unfound it remained. Being virtually the last to leave at the end of the session, Ros and I drove slowly up the access road in the late afternoon sunshine - and there it was, plain as a pikestaff. The shaft of a granite cross, poking up, well clear of the surrounding bracken and brambles. We paused briefly to say hello, but let it keep its mysteries for another time.

Many of us took up Helen’s suggestion of circumnavigating the lake on foot, all three miles of it. It is dead flat, and clearly well used by amblers and dog-walkers alike. On the far side of the reservoir, we were able to find three leys - including the one by the activity centre that we had found in the morning. A second alignment pointed straight at Tregarrick Tor and a third, much wider, line shot off in the general direction of Long Tom and Caradon Hill.

It is not surprising that a number of such alignments exist here. To give us a head’s start, Helen had helpfully put up a diagram showing some of the ancient sites within a few minutes drive of Siblyback - The Hurlers, The Pipers and the Cheesewring; the Holy wells at St Cleer and Tremarcombe; Trethevy Quoit and King Doniert’s Stone, not to mention the great smattering of clay quarry damaged archaeology between St Neot and Bolventor.

St Neot church is about the closest major site that the Michael alignment hits en route to The Hurlers, although it does cross the access road to Siblyback, albeit not in a particularly easy place to dowse. Mary flows east a few miles further to the south again, catching up with Michael in the central circle of the Hurlers complex.

Amongst all this historicity, some dowsers tried to assess the nature of the water in the lake itself. It seemed drinkable (just as well really), between 6.5 and 8 on the typical scale. The surface seemed contaminated with air-born pollutants and the bottom dowsed as sludgy, but the central bulk was pretty clear, and certainly tap-quality when filtered. Ray Kelly noted the mineral content of the lake water.

There were two main watercourses and one minor stream feeding the reservoir - later verified on the OS map. The water table dowsed as being concurrent with the lake, and it is therefore assumed that the lakebed is not lined to prevent leakage into the substrata.

After our perambulation, many participants succumbed to the allure of the particularly pleasant tea and cakes, for which the local Café is renowned (on Trip Advisor). And finally, we had what passes in the TDs for a wash-up session to compare notes and experiences, and to have a summer outing group photo taken (image courtesy of our Facebook maestro, Paul Gerry).

Many thanks to Helen Fox for organising this event, and for arranging for us to borrow a room on site, complete with toilets and refreshment facilities. Thanks, too, to all those who turned up to make it such an enjoyable afternoon together.

Nigel Twinn

Tamar Dowsers

August 2019


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