This trilogy of novels is set in the Fowey Valley in Cornwall.
Below is a free chapter from the second story, ‘The Valley 2: Lostgwdeyel’ in which Andrew, a local teacher takes a day off from work and respite from a passionate love affair. He takes a walk from Lostwithiel to the edge of Boconnoc Estate to find Druids Hill
Chapter 11: Druids Hill
I avoided thinking about the lovely Freya a lot. When I wasn’t working I spent the little spare time I had ‘plugging in’ to Fintan and his story and dictating it into the computer. I also decided to learn more about energy lines or leylines, a great excuse for going out walking in the valley.
I read that the Michael and Mary lines are a pair of energy currents that apparently cross the UK from west to east, writhing in and out of each other like twinned serpents. This energy ley is also known as ‘The Dragon Line’. My starting point to finding out more was an authoritative book by Hamish Miller and Paul Broadhurst, called ‘The Sun and the Serpent: An Investigation into Earth Energies’.
Hamish Miller used his dowsing skill to follow the line from the Western tip of Cornwall right across the country to St. Margaret’s Church in Hopton-on-Sea, Norfolk on the East Coast of England. The book describes their journey along the way, and what they find.
Along this Dragon Line, allowing a tolerance of 500 metres either side, they find 63 churches. Ten of these are dedicated to St Michael or St George, and twenty-three of them are dedicated to St. Mary, whom Hamish calls a ‘Christianised Earth Goddess of Pagan Times’.
It runs in a straight line between Land’s End, England’s south-western extremity, and Hopton-on-Sea, on the Norfolk coast. Its name derives from the many sites devoted to St. Michael that it touches or skirts on its 350-mile course and from its orientation: the direction of the sunrise on May 8th, when the Latin liturgy celebrates the Apparition of St. Michael.
Other places of ancient ceremony, apart from Lostwithiel Church, also fall on the line in Cornwall, such as: Carn Lês Boel at the tip of West Cornwall, St Michael’s Mount, Resugga Castle and Druid’s Hill near Lostwithiel, The Hurlers stone circle and the Cheesewring which is an ancient rock formation, before it leaves into Devon and up through Glastonbury and Avebury and across the country and North Sea. The two lines, one with male energies; the Michael Line and one with female energies; the Mary Line, weave in and out of each other across the countryside.
Google tells me that other geomancers extend the Michael and Mary line to cross the oceans. The line, leaving England via Norfolk, then goes in a north-easterly direction and passes through Sweden, goes south of Finland and across Russia to the meeting point of Russia, Mongolia and China. It then roughly follows the Mongolian border, and goes across China to pass through Hong Kong. Then it goes through the Philippines and across Australia, passing through Sydney, before crossing to Stewart Island, New Zealand. From here it reaches its most southerly point in the Antarctic Ocean and swings north again, running along the border of Argentina and Chile, across Bolivia and Brazil, crossing the Amazon estuary. It then crosses the Atlantic back to England, Cornwall to enter the UK at Carn Lês Boel at Landsend.
There are, apparently several of these lines, wrapping our planet in a matrix of energy. Some of the ‘researchers’ online relate the planetary energy matrix to the human body. In the same way that we have energy centres like chakras and a meridian system interfacing the physical and energetic aspects of our human bodies, our planet has a matrix of energy. There are key points on the earth where these energy lines cross. Places like Avebury in Wiltshire and Glastonbury Tor in Somerset in the UK are famous for such things.
Further afield places like The Great Pyramid at Giza, Ayers Rock in Australia, Machu Pichu in Peru, Mount Shasta in California, Lake Titicaca in South America, Mount Kailas in Tibet or Kuh-e Malek Slah in Iran all seem to have the same recognition as places where earth energy focuses, each with a special ‘flavour’.
After my visit to the doctors and his recommendation to spend more time out in the countryside I decided to do just that and go out in search of earth energies. Setting and marking essays could go hang for a while! I thought a good place to start was by walking the Michael and Mary ley line locally. Fintan had told me in his first contact:
“He is to mend the Serpent. The line known as Michael and Mary was cut and the energy corrupted long ago. It is the cutting of this line that has caused the imbalance of male and female power. The mending of this line that circles the Northern Hemisphere will correct the balance and allow the heavy ones to release their stranglehold. And so you will all enter into the light.”
This quest set for me by Fintan tells me that one of these lines is broken somewhere locally. So on Saturday morning I decided to walk up to Druid’s Hill to see what I could find there. It was still April and the lanes were alive with wild garlic with its distinctive scent, campion in white and pink, multitudes of bluebells. The hill of the druids is on a private estate called ‘Boconnoc’.
Just on the edge of the estate I found the feathery fronds of pignuts in the hedgerow and decided to treat myself. Digging down into the black soil with a twig, I carefully followed the stem down to the root. The roots of pignuts can be several inches long and they need careful excavating so that the root does not detach from the nut. In a couple of minutes my fingers were covered in dirt and I had something that looked like a grubby hazelnut in my hand. A quick rinse in a puddle, both my fingers and the nut, and then I scraped of the papery covering with a fingernail and bit into the nut. A taste of earthy chestnut filled my mouth. It’s funny how this taste of the earth seems to draw me into the nature around me.
As I pushed my way into dense undergrowth to find Druid’s Hill I felt like a kind of naughty pixie, trespassing into somebody’s private land.
I found a tunnel through the twisted shrubs and after a while broke out into a clearing. Although there were recent tractor tracks passing through this ancient glade, it felt like a place where time was stopped, a kind of bubble. Dominating the circular space was a clearly Christian monument on the natural peak of the hill.
The Celtic rather than Christian cross was about twenty-foot high, with a stepped granite plinth. The glade was surrounded by old scrub woodland. It had entry and exit points at the North, South, East and West, and in between some of them, showing evidence of ceremonial use related to the compass. The site felt very old. The monument there had a telling inscription:
“On this hill, once the site of Druid idolatry and in later times the scene of civil bloodshed, this ancient symbol of the holy religion of the redeemer is erected in greater acknowledgement of the blessings of a pure faith and of a peaceful country.”
The ‘civil bloodshed’ I thought, must be a reference to a battle fought at Boconnoc during the Civil War in 1644. The inscription on the cross dates it’s installation to 1846, quite some time after the event and local knowledge says the cross ‘comes from Lanlivery’.
A clear suppression of Druid activity is in evidence in the inscription – the installation killing two birds with one stone, as it were. Dissing the druids and promoting righteous Christianity.
I sat on the stone plinth for a while and listened. I shut my eyes to hear the sound of insects quietly buzzing about their business, enjoying a bit of spring sunshine. I was half expecting something to happen like a spirit rising from the earth and telling me all. This place had that sort of feeling – an air of silent expectation underlying the tranquillity of an ancient glade in Cornish woodland. My eyes closed and I opened my ears to the sound of this sacred grove. There was a sort of munching noise, getting closer.
“This is private land you know”. I jumped at the gruff voice and opened my eyes to see a farmer dressed in green tweed, shotgun cocked across his elbow. “You ain’t allowed to be here without permission from the owners”.
“I was just out walking from Lostwithiel”, I protested. “I had seen the monument on a local map and wanted to visit it”.
“Nevertheless” he said. “You’m better be on your way now because you are trespassing on private property”.
Reluctantly I stood to leave, my reverie with nature temporarily destroyed by claims of ownership.
The cross is carved from crystalline Cornish granite from the moors, some of the oldest rocks on the Earth at around 500 million years old. Compared to this the span of a human life is nothing. If you take the average human life at 80 years, it is 1/6250000th of the time this rock has already existed, which is nothing.
It amuses me sometimes how us shortlived people can claim that they ‘own’ properties made of such things as granite. But there is little to be gained from pointing it out to them. It is a game ruled by money and many people base their whole identity and status on such materialism.
I walked home the long way, crossing the River Fowey over a bridge near Trinity, marking the original tidal reach of the river. On the hill above Trinity, commanding the valley stands The Castle of the Black Prince. There are some great stories about him.
There are also many such places to walk around Lostwithiel, where you can get away from cars and noise. It is steeped in history and mystery. The castle, the river, the woods, the moors, Milltown, St. Winnow, Redmoor and Helman Tor just to name a few.
As I walked home towards Lostwithiel along Restormel Road, I thought about how walking through the land or journeying were central to life in times gone by.
Before fences, before ‘agriculture’, before ‘ownership’ people’s relationship with land was different. Journeys were important because in ancient times, and in many other cultures still, the true purpose of a journey is to awaken one’s own consciousness. The outer journey is symbolic of the journey within.
Walking in quiet places away from cars or other modern pollutants creates a special relationship with the land. One that is becoming harder to find even in Cornwall as cars invade every inch with their noise and stink.
There are still places here where you can suddenly find yourself in a land that could be ‘any time’ in history and you are able to shift, to become independent of time. Simply a walker alone in the landscape, you become one with the land around you.
It is ironic that Cornwall gets more and more popular for this very reason. Half a million people flock down here in the summer, destroying the very thing they come here to find in the process. New infrastructure is making the Duchy of Cornwall even more accessible in the name of economics. For example, last summer, I was told about fights breaking out between local and visiting surfers, usually the most laid-back of people, over possession of the waves.
Because of Cornwall’s geographic isolation to the ‘foot’ of Britain, it only started to integrate into England with the West Saxon King Athelstan in the 10th Century.
Even in the 17th Century a land trip from Cornwall to London on ‘Russell’s Wagon’ would take two weeks and it was compulsory to write a will before leaving. A colloquial expression ‘As big as Russell’s Wagon’ still exists in recorded history as it was the biggest moving thing ever seen by locals. Travel by sea was the preferred way out of Cornwall before roads got this far.
Cornwall still ‘suffers’ from this geographic isolation in economic terms. Wages are lower than ‘up-country’. The increased cost of getting raw materials here and products out, make it harder to attract industry. The traditional industries of fishing and mining have all but died. Farming is a struggle although some manage ‘diversification’ well, farming the weather for power or making value-added cheeses for the tourists. Tourism has taken over as a prime industry, making Cornwall a place that is very different in the winter and the summer seasons.
The advantage of this traditional isolation though, is that Cornwall still has secret places. I feel grateful that megalithic projects like the famous Eden Project nearby actually keep tourists out of the woods and away from them. Secret places like Druid’s Hill or Restormel Castle, ancient pathways like the path to Helman Tor or even the lane I was walking along, parallel to the River Fowey.
I wondered if some of these places were way-markers in a story that long ago guided the walking visitor through the landscape. The Aborigines call these ‘song lines’ and still have a living tradition that follows them. Feng Shui, Geomancy, Wouivres or Lung-mei are other descriptors for these energy lines in other cultures.
The oldest culture on Earth, is the Australian Aborigines. In order to find their way through the landscape, they need to know ‘the right song’ to call the land into being before them.
Because Celtic tradition was oral rather than written, much of the Celtic past we have now is lost and often presumed. It is easy to imagine songs of journeys existing before maps, following landmarks or churches. With an oral rather than written tradition in Ancient Celtic Cornwall, these journeys through land might be made into stories or songs, a kind of ancient A-Z, if you learned the songs.
Lostwithiel was now in view now and I could hear the bell-ringers practising in the church. The nursery rhyme ‘Oranges and Lemons’ sprang to my mind:
- Oranges and lemons,
- Say the bells of St. Clement’s.
- You owe me five farthings,
- Say the bells of St. Martin’s.
- When will you pay me?
- Say the bells of Old Bailey.
- When I grow rich,
- Say the bells of Shoreditch.
- When will that be?
- Say the bells of Stepney.
- I do not know,
- Says the great bell of Bow.
The tunes in the words of the rhyme are like the sound of change ringing, and the intonation of each line corresponds with the distinct sounds of each church’s bells. This rhyme presents a kind of aural map to the sound of church bells in East London.
The ringing bells of Lostwithiel suggested to me at any rate that; ‘All I want now – Is a nice cup of tea’.
So I was glad to get home and put my feet up with one.
There was an email from Freya that felt to my heart like the sun coming out after heavy rain:
“I have to admit that I’m pining for my Shiva! It will lessen with time, I’m sure……… Thinking of you, more than most other things.
I’m being very grown-up and not ringing you.
Had a good time at Eden, though there were more people than plants, more toddlers than trees, more numbskulls than nature. Oh well, I expected it. It’s certainly BIG! (not as mind-blowing as the walk with you. That wood, the river, the rock, ahhhh!)
I’m remembering your beautiful skin, the glorious smell of you, your kiss, your eyes. Sorry to wax lyrical. I seem to have the same scriptwriter back!! Fire the bastard.
You, like me, are the most delicious, paradoxical mixture of world-weary cynic and utterly hopeless romantic. It’s most unusual to find someone else with the same quality that I seem to have.
Had a good visit with my Dad and brother. Watched Shrek. Have you seen it? Fantastic film.
Lots of love.
Freya, “Tantric Queen of the South Coast” xxxxxxxxx
In return I sent:
“Hi my love
It was a wonderful time out of time for me too. A huge grin breaks out over my face every time I think of the love we made.
I’m being grown up too, but as I don’t like telephones very much it’s probably easier for me to email. In my mind you are still 18 and your perfection has lasted 22 years without blemish. I didn’t realise though that we had such unfinished business.
Your lovely scent has gone from my house now, it lingered for about 28 hours and 14 minutes, mainly on the towel, so fresh and clean, honey covered with a sweetness between snow and coconut marshmallow.
I hope to meet you there again,
PS I can’t say thank you enough for the visit, for ‘having me’ big-time. It was totally unexpected, and I loved every second of it. Andy xxxx”
And so it went on.
Please purchase a black and white print version of ‘The Valley 2: Lostgwdeyel’ direct from this link at lulu.com