Slimbridge Dowsing


Dowsing a Labyrinth at St Augustine’s Farm, Arlingham with Barry Goldring, Peter Gibson

“The kids will love that!” said farmer Rob Jewell when we told him there had almost certainly been an ancient labyrinth on his land at St Augustine’s Farm, Arlingham. “And the grown-ups too!”

Being open to the public, and particularly to school groups who like to visit the animals, the camera obscura, display of old farming equipment and especially the cafe, St Augustine’s has a wealth of interesting things to see during a day out. Walking a labyrinth would add to the experience.

So our mission was to find the site of this labyrinth, and Barry soon dowsed it’s whereabouts and the path to its centre. A labyrinth is not a maze, and vice versa. Anyone can have a maze, which has blind alleys, false starts, and is just for fun. Whereas an ancient labyrinth has only a single path in and a single path out; it helps meditation and many people find they have a gentle spiritual experience at the centre of their ‘journey’.

Dowsing the riverbank at Arlingham

There was nothing to see, of course, but that is the beauty of dowsing. Our rods and our power of intent can indicate things that can’t be seen. Based on our findings, farmer Rob plans to mark out the ancient labyrinth, which is probably around 750 years old, and was originally ‘built’ of turf or stones. Having a labyrinth on your land that first saw the light of day in AD 1200 is a bit special.

In fact, it’s true to say most of sleepy little Arlingham, miles from everywhere, is a bit special too. It’s hard to believe now, but when the Romans occupied Britain between AD 43–410, Arlingham must have been an important crossroads of civilisation.

Barry Goldring marks out the site of the ancient labyrinth on St Augustine’s farm.

While some of us dowsed the labyrinth, four other dowsers headed for the river bank and found indications of a Roman road that was also a pilgrim route leading to two jetties that would have projected out onto the river. The jetties dowsed as having buildings that could have been a 'control point' or warehouses that stored mainly wheat and timber, ready for transit.

Further down the road Ros found indications of some ancient burials that could mean a long-barrow. Colleen dowsed a path along the riverbank that linked the two jetties to the Roman roads we’d found previously.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Di located a couple of Iron-Age roundhouses and an associated circular building. This perplexed us as it initially dowsed as a pig sty with 13-foot-high walls, which seemed a little unlikely. After a barrage of questions and strong reactions from our rods, we realized there had been at least three to five buildings on this site over the centuries.

It probably started life as a humble wooden shelter for Iron-Age animals or feed. Andy dowsed and found it had had military connections, so we pursued our enquiries as to whether it was a Roman watch tower, built of stone. And later still it may have been used as a columbarium, or dovecote, possibly built by the Normans, who arrived with a vengeance in 1066. Doves and pigeons were valued for their eggs and meat, and possibly their guano too, which made good fertilizer, being rich in nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium.

It’s amazing what you can discover during a day out at St Augustine’s Farm.