In September 2008, we had bright sunshine and calm waters, but the wrong sort of wind and we were left disconsolate on the quayside. In August 2009, we had rain and mist and a distinctly choppy sea, but especially good fortune - and the right sort of wind to make our much-anticipated voyage to Looe Island.
Quite when the island was given the protection of St George - indeed exactly when the rising sea level made it into an island at all - is lost in the tide of history. What we do know is that for many centuries it has been a highly visible, yet strangely secluded, site on an outstandingly beautiful stretch of coastline.
Having been bequeathed to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, St George’s Island is now being run, as sustainably as is possible in the modern world, by the current wardens, Jon & Claire. The house of the previous owners remains as an opened time capsule of rural, coastal life in the latter part of the last century, and our friends in the Time Team dug up and broadcast some interesting archaeological information in 2008 - but the island has much more unseen history yet to be discovered.
On the lawn of Island House stands a well-reburied standing stone - slap on the main ley, but otherwise seemingly devoid of earth energies. A line snaking across the lawn now seems to pass it by. It is however quite close to the site of a previous well, with the associated water spiral very much in evidence a few feet to the south of the stone itself. Jon intends to re-landscape this part of the garden in due course, so it will be interesting to see if he unearths any evidence of the well head.
At the highest point of the island is the site of a former Benedictine chapel. Not much remains of it. On a sea-locked site like this, every last suitable stone has doubtless not only been re-used in subsequent incarnations of the religious building, but latterly in houses, walls and outbuildings nearby. We traced the hidden outlines of at least three stone chapels and investigated two enigmatic arch-topped stones, now strangely positioned in what might once have been the west wall.
For all their apparently selected location and dressed form, these stones dowsed as having nothing to do with the ancient buildings, but to have been recovered from a wreck and subsequently subsumed into local use. At least one other similar stone seems to be embedded in the rear garden wall of Island Cottage.
A small standing stone close to the chapel dowsed as having been part of the pre-Christian use of this location. However, the first structure on the site appeared to date from only around 50-100 CE, which was a bit surprising, given that the island would have been virtually connected to the Cornish coast in early historical times and the use of sacred sites typically dates back several thousand years at other similar locations. More work is needed, I feel, on this aspect of the island’s past.
Several water lines nearby, including the tell-tale signature around a former altar site, indicated that a usable well could have been located here at some point, albeit with water now at a depth of over 200 feet.
The main ley connects this hilltop chapel directly with the one we studied, in lieu of last year’s attempted but abortive visit, on the hilltop above Hannafore on the mainland. As if by way of confirmation, a quartz-studded standing stone, secreted away amongst the brambles and sycamore on the north facing slope of the island, also stands squarely on this alignment. In addition to its ley location, this standing stone also has strong crossing ‘male’ earth energy lines. As we struggled to study it amongst the verdant, if prickly, undergrowth, the aura around the stone expanded substantially to enclose us, as if in greeting.
It was suggested that the two chapels and the standing stones could once have been part of a more definitive alignment of menhirs - for which we could dowse, or map dowse, on another occasion. It would be no surprise if any intervening stones had been recycled into gate posts or quoins over the years - the remains of which we could also try to locate.
Some group members sensed the spirits of past inhabitants, including some from the smuggling era. One soul clearly liked it so much, he was happy to stay, even though he was apparently aware of his inter-cycle limbo.
Beneficial energy lines run across the area cultivated for food by Jon & Claire, which doubtless subtly helps the productivity of their garden. This part of the island felt warm and calm, even on a day that had us struggling to dowse properly in the blustery south westerly wind at the chapel remains. A strategically-placed hedge protects the growing produce from the worst impact of any easterly gales.
To cap a super visit, we were given privileged access, off-season, to the bird sanctuary of Little Island, where a couple of friendly seals surfaced to make themselves known. Another energy line skirts this small peninsula, but it was difficult to study it fully without risking an unscheduled swim amongst the sharp rocks of the wild shoreline.
Many thanks indeed to Jon and Claire for their hospitality - and to Tim the obliging boatman for his help and generosity.
It was such an interesting and unique opportunity that several of us started talking about what we would look for on a subsequent visit - weather permitting.
Trips (full boats of 12 people) to Looe Island can be booked via the Looe Island boatman, Tim Corkhill, on 07814-139223 or you can sign up on the quayside on the day.Further information about visits to the island can be obtained from Jon Ross of the Cornwall Wildlife Trust via 01872-273939.