Rest your mouse arrow on photos to see captionsKen walks with rods parallel until over water source, when rods cross involuntarily Ken completes survey of lawn - mugs mark line of force, which matches known location of drain (but not known previously to Ken) Ken dowses down path through churchyard Ken dowses in churchyard - and finds some powerful reactions Ken's motoring now... If you find someone holding two lengths of old coathanger parallel and walking in straight'll probably be a dowser! If you find no lines of force you can do worse than read the inscriptions on the gravestones


In his history of Talland Church, a recent Vicar of Talland, Father William Braviner, mentions that Celtic altars were often built on ley lines. Often such sites are at what are claimed to be the junctions of ley lines - lines of force - which are said to link up many ancient sites.
    Whatever the nature of these lines of force - possibly magnetism - ancient peoples regarded their junction points as particularly powerful places and thus good places to build altars. Early Christians followed the modern-day estate agent's adage - that location is the important thing and built their churches at places widely accepted as propitious.

What is dowsing?

Dowsing is the same thing as water divining. From ancient times, some people (diviners or dowsers) have, usually with the aid of a forked hazel twig , been able to find underground water - a useful skill in any society to find a source of life-sustaining water.
    In the modern world more trust has tended to be put into sophisticated scientific instruments, but dowsers or water diviners have continued to be employed by water authorities and have found water which modern instruments could not. The water supply at our own property in Talland was found by such a water diviner - an expert in finding water on a no water - no fee basis. His skill was such that not only could he find a source of water but he would also estimate its depth from the surface and estimate how many gallons per hour could be derived from the source. His fame was such that he travelled to many difficult locations, such as islands, where no source of water was known to exist, yet he managed to locate it and thus allowed developments, such as hotels, to go ahead.

You can learn to dowse

Most people can learn to dowse - probably 70% have the ability. But perhaps 30% do not and no amount of teaching makes any difference. Possibly an open mind about dowsing helps, but may not be sufficient. I have known some people who were deeply sceptical about dowsing to discover that they could do it, whilst others, who were perfectly willing to believe in it, couldn't do it themselves.
    The key thing is that it is the dowser's body which is sensitive. The metal rods or dowsing twig, or whatever are only an indicator - like the needle on a meter - indicating what the dowser's body is detecting.
    These days the best and easiest instrument is two metal "L" shaped rods made from two metal coat-hangers. Size is not critical - the longer piece of each "L" needs to be as long a straight wire as you can get out of the coat-hanger (300 to 500 mm), the other part of the "L" needs to be much shorter (100 to 170 mm) and at right-angles to the long length.
    The two rods are held one in each hand, by wrapping all your fingers around the short lengths without gripping them tightly. The long lengths are allowed to point forwards and kept roughly parallel to each other and the ground, whilst one walks slowly forward (see photos). When you pass over an underground water source, such as a water or drain pipe, the rods will cross over one another. The feeling is unmistakable and irresistible.
    To test out the technique it helps to use the garden of a friend or neighbour in whose garden there is known to be a pipe or drain or underwater stream or culvert - but whose location is not known to you. Survey the garden by walking its length or width and each time a clear indication is received from the rods crossing one another mark the spot on the ground with something suitable - a ball or cup or something similar. Repeat the walk about 1 metre to one side and keep on doing this until the whole garden has been covered. You may, by then, find that your markers line up and indicate the course of an underground pipe or whatever. Your friends or neighbours may be able to confirm or deny whether there is a pipe running beneath the ground at that point. If they can't - and the indication is very strong - they might be willing for a trial excavation to be made to determine whether there is or is not a pipe or water-course there.
    More detailed guidance on learning dowsing can be found at

Talland Church

Dowsing for water is something that most people can do, but the more exotic aspects of dowsing are a more specialist skill, whilst some - such as remote dowsing by pendulums over maps - are even more difficult to understand. However, if the folk-lore is right, you might expect to be able to dowse the lines of force which occur at the junction of two or more ley lines. So the surroundings of Talland Church should be a useful place to put the theory to the test. Ideally you need a very large supply of table-tennis balls or something similar, to mark the location of the lines of force as they are found. Only by marking them in this way is it possible to see, after dowsing in ever wider circles around the church, as to whether they do form up into lines and to see where those lines come together. Ancient beliefs would suggest that the lines - if such exist - all meet together at what is now the altar of the Christian church.
    So why not try it? It is most easily done soon after the churchyard has been strimmed (otherwise you will not be able to see your table tennis balls in the long grass) and take care that you cause no damage or leave no mark. By all means visit and enjoy the beautiful interior of the church but confine your dowsing trials to outside. Fr. Braviner, The Vicarat the time this feature was written, was happy for visitors to dowse around the church if they acted sensibly and follow these rules to avoid damage - I'm sure the present Vicar (The Rev. Linda Smith) would be equally tolerant. If your dowsing does find "lines of force" take time out in this beautiful spot to enjoy the views and contemplate the remaining mysteries of this world despite all our scientific understanding.


My thanks to our friend Ken for agreeing to appear in the photos on this webpage. Ken learnt how to dowse on a recent visit to Talland and can testify to there being at least a line or two of mysterious forces in the churchyard.

Robert J. Tarr © 2001 (updated 9/04)