Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sceptical? moi?

Got a txt. Txt said:

'RKologists at chrch l'king 4 prince trelystan. RU interested?'

When I'd deciphered the message, the answer was a definite 'yes'. My loyal readers should know by now that I'm always on the q.v. for lumps and bumps in the landscape and that my boots kick every mole hill I come across in the hope of finding something turned up from below ground. Anything. Gold preferably - but I'd settle for iron, bronze,  flint tools, nails, ring pulls, potsherds, I've done to date are remnants of clay pipes. Sigh. Could be worse I suppose - could be the scrumpled foil from fag packets.

Anyway, off I scarpered to our little church which stands alone on the edge of Badnage Wood. St Mary's occupies an ancient site - thus much is known and documented; the recorded history of the church goes back to the 11th century but the first use of the site is thought to be even earlier.  Some medieval timber remains but the whole has been largely 'restored' by well meaning Victorian folk. This link to CPAT gives a good over view of what is has been established to date. Somewhere in this place is thought to be the burial place of Elystan Glodrydd, traditionally a founder of one the 5 royal tribes of Wales who died in one of the skirmishes which took place at this end of the Long Mountain about a thousand years ago. The name Tref Elistan - Trelystan reminds us of the connection.

Perhaps if I'd drawn breath before hopping in the car a few alarm bells might have started ringing. 'Prince Trelystan'? Archaeology, in a church on a Sunday? Hmm.

At the church our archaeologists turn out to be 3 men, sniffing and stamping their feet in the cold interior. They have dousing rods and the satisfied expression of men whose work here is done.  The resting place of Prince Trelystan has been found and the extent of his injuries which may have caused his death established. 'Have you dug him up?' I asked in innocence - because the description of the body's injuries were so graphic. But no - the invisible world which biolocation reveals tells all - death by the sword, a broken leg bone......all without the lifting of a single stone.


My eyes are fairly poppin'. The floor is of ancient slate slabs (we had similar in our hovel) but those slabs differ in age - these dowsers can tell that some have been cut with iron tools and some with bronze - all to do with magnetic fields apparently detected by the minute - nay, invisible -  traces of the metals left along the dressed edges. 5 other interments have been found around the perimeter of the church - all dating from before the medieval building was erected. An earlier building was then on the site - it would have been timber, wattle and daub and thatched. Dust from the straw thatch falls to the ground on either side of the supporting beams leaving a negative image - a ghostly presence on the now long-hidden medieval floor. The dowser - sorry, biolocator - holds a wisp of straw and strides forth, holding an unsophisticated metal rod in either hand, along the aisle of the present-day church. At regular intervals his rods cross indicating the position of a long gone beam given away by traces of dust beneath the modern floor.

'Can I have a go? Please, please???'  I squeaked. I must try this.

Ooo-eeeer. It did it for me too as I walked tentatively, wisp of straw and bent coat hangers in hand, up the aisle. The rods crossed as I crossed the points where the experts had determined the beams to be. I didn't make them, they just swung into place. The Glam. Ass, who had come along for the ride, said my face was a picture.

We talk about things in the fields outside - and here, while I get a demonstration of the dowser's ability to detect bronze its explanation is not entirely convincing.

There is much talk of druids and henges, tunnels, processional ways and ceremony - all on the Church Field which rolls eastward down towards the place we now call which point the Glam Ass says he will walk back over the fields and collect a few mushrooms. I think it all got a bit New-Age for him. For me too as well I think.

It is an ancient place, an old landscape which has been witness to occupation and turmoil for over two millennia at least and we can only speculate about what happened here before recorded time. What was it really like? I spend much time with wild imaginings and yet when presented with some tantalizing evidence still want tangible proof.  Good old fashioned digging would suit me well.

In the meantime I'm off to rummage in the back of the wardrobe for a couple of those old fashioned metal clothes hangers which will may ideal impromptu dowsing rods. I've got 7.5 acres to criss-cross in search of something. I may be some time.


Pondside said...

I think you could spend a lifetime looking.
I'm a bit of a skeptic too. 'Show me' could be my motto. I do envy you all the potential, though!

Frances said...

Mountaineer, I love reading your posts that really do evoke the very, very old places and memories that exist in your kingdom.

I hope that you do find some traditional coathangers (I could send you some from the "new" world) and do some more investigations that you'll tell us about in a future post.

(Also hoping that the mushroom hunt was successful!)


rachel said...

What fun - you may find a hitherto-undiscovered subterranean river/lake/sword....

Dowsing is rather strange and wonderful though, isn't it? But discovering ancient dust? No need for biolocators in my little hovel!

bayou said...

Lots of potential there :-). I think the best of all is that one can imagine everything. Nothing stops you from searching. A kind of truffle pig would be helpful though.

Fennie said...

This is really fascinating. I know so many people are sceptical but I do believe there is at least a grain of truth in all this and he fact that the dowsing worked for you helps to confirm that. Mind you no-one is going to challenge their post-mortem of the Prince. He might have died of a nose-bleed but they'd look silly if they said so. No-one will quarrel with someone slicing off his leg, even if that seems an unlikely injury unless his opponent was hiding in a foxhole. But there we are. All quite fascinating. Do hope you do a follow up post.

GeraniumCat said...

I'm going to spend the rest of the day imagining you crossing back and forth with coathangers, and grinning - me grinning that is, not you, though I hope you have lots of fun and maybe success, who knows? You might at least find some more mushrooms...

Twiglet said...

Fascinating post - I think I am a doubting Thomas too.I would need to see the real thing. I could certainly show you plenty of ancient dust if you want to pop over!!

Diary Farmer said...

We have used two oxyacetylene welding rods bent at one end to hold in the hand to locate drains. Was reasonably successful and saved so much digging even with a machine!!

Preseli Mags said...

Fascinating. You've reawakened my interest in dowsing now. I have always wanted to have a go. I can't wait to hear how you get on.

elizabethm said...

I am a sceptic too but also fascinated by the age of places. What I would love to see is a real dig, done by real archaeologists. When they dig at Blackden what is revealed - the outline of a long ruined building, evidence of burning - is almost prosaically practical but I love to see it emerging slowly into the trench.

IanMcL said...

A superb post and a very enjoyable read! The skeptic in me says this can't possibly work yet I know it seems to . . . bizarre!

Here in the Wigwam we have a shop that sells 'professional' Divining Rods which I'm sure work perfectly - despite their resemblance to Dairy Farmer's welding rods!

snailbeachshepherdess said...

apparently it was a 'craft' practised by a lot of the old miners on this side of the valley - have seen it done but I obviously haven't got what it takes

Zoƫ said...

Missed this one!Thought it might interest you to know that when I was at Sparsholt College (home to R4's Gardeners' Question Time amongst other things) doing a degree in Garden Design etc - we were taught various surveying practices, from theodolites and laser levels, to you got it, dowsing!

Dowsing amazingly enough, proved extremely reliable at locating drains, under ground power cables, and various other subterranean obstructions, you just don't want to accidentally put a JCB shovel through.

Interesting that it is still taught as part of a mainstream subject.