Slimbridge Dowsing group


George Applegate, master dowser

They came from Cam and they came from Cornwall, Cheshire, Kent, and all points in between, to hear the 90-year-old master dowser, George Applegate. And he did not disappoint. With hardly a wrinkle to be seen, and a distinct sparkle in his eye, George delighted his audience of over 40 on June 25th.

During a lengthy career, which George claims to be 60 years but we suspect is far more, George has dowsed for 2,534 bore holes to be drilled throughout the world. The deepest so far was 2 miles, but he has just signed a contract for one even deeper at two-and-a-quarter miles. The widest was a metre across, a major undertaking.

George does not do the drilling himself, of course, but he masterminds each project, gets the permits and planning permissions, appoints the driller, decides where to drill, and all the other major considerations in between. A 100m high rig will carry rods that weigh 90 tons. “All my responsibility!” says George.

He has dowsed for Madonna. “I told her to stand close to me while I explained it.” He has dowsed for Elton John, “but I told him to stand over there.” He has even dowsed with Prince Charles, who needless to say had to have a go himself. “But he wasnít very good at it,” murmured George.

“You donít learn from your successes”

George has a greater than 99 per cent success rate, but modestly chose to talk about a couple of rare failures. “Because, ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “you donít learn from your successes, you learn from your difficulties and failures.”

He must have learned a lot from one spectacular failure in Australia, where they spent around £7M on drilling but hit a deep layer of rock that turned out to be impenetrable, and had never been discovered before. They brought in drillers from Texas at a cost of £5,000 a day, to no avail. The Australian Minister for Mines told George, “You found it, you better name it,” so he called it Rotex. “Fortunately it wasnít my £7M,” says George, “but I didnít get my fee either.”

George then mentioned another failure, drilling back home at Bournemouth Golf Club through several layers of chalk and sand, until they reached strata comprising such fine sand it was almost like talcum powder. It was so fine it was simply backfilling the bore hole. George suggested putting a steel tube down but still it invaded. There was water there, but it turned out to be dirty and unusable, so that project had to be written off.

An unsullied reputation

His reputation remains unsullied, however, and he is famous in Australia. The scale of farms there is significantly larger than here. “A million acres of farm land,” says George, “with 70,000 cattle. It had been very dry for over three years, no grass, cattle dying, so I had nine boreholes drilled for them. That worked, and I was treated like royalty.”

Again in Australia, a group of farmers near Perth wanted him to come straight away, they were in desperate straits too. George told them I canít get a flight that soon, but they said leave the flight to us and sent him a First Class ticket. “I decided I liked champagne after my fourth glass,” reports George, “and when the young lady attendant came along and offered me a pair of pyjamas to put on, I thought things were definitely looking up!”

One of Georgeís major achievements is discovering how to dowse the geology of an area. It is important for a water diviner and his driller to know what strata they will be drilling through - limestone, sand, clay, chalk, etc., and even geological maps donít give enough detail. It has taken him six years to develop this ability, but tells us weíll have to wait for his next book before learning how itís done.

The Complete Book of Dowsing

Another major achievement, of course, is his book, “The Complete Book of Dowsing: The Definitive Guide to Finding Underground Water”. “I wrote that so that the knowledge wonít die with me,” says George cheerfully. ďRead Chapter 3,” he recommends. “If you read that and understand it, you will have some useful information.”

He leads you to believe there is another book on the way, but when pinned down, admits it might be some four years away. “So Iíll have to live that long to write it.” Losing his wife to cancer of the spine, which then spread, just a few years ago was a sad loss and, one senses, not least because of the amount of work she contributed towards his books.

But most important of all, he has achieved the love and respect of everyone with whom he comes in contact, and thatís not just other dowsers and celebrities, but most government departments including coal boards, the MoD, Leyhill Prison, Wormwood Scrubs, British Rail, several hospitals, Severn Trent Water, RAF stations, the projected Stonehenge by-pass, the police, and not forgetting Billy Butlin who had a holiday camp full of unhappy campers because there was no water. The holiday camp king had a full rig standing by, collected George in his helicopter, and whisked him off to Minehead to dowse for water.

“A million gallons a day”

Everyone was concerned that, being so near the beach, the water would be salty and not potable, but George discovered excellent fresh water coming under the Bristol channel. It still produces a million gallons per day, and that was 60 years ago! He has since dowsed all Mr Butlinís holiday camps.

He is always in hot demand so was mildly surprised one day when someone wanting an appointment in Milford Haven said, “I canít be here that day, Iím having tea with Aunty.” George gently suggested his time and his dowsing were more important than tea with Aunty, but on this occasion, Aunty turned out to be the Queen!

Finding Mr Mullins

During a lively question and answer session, someone asked how he had got started in dowsing, and discovered he could do it. “Mr Mullins,” said George. “My father was a big contractor working on a large estate. His driller had drilled three holes, all dry, and somehow they found Mr Mullins, a dowser from Bath.”

“We watched him do it. He dowsed with a hazel twig, and decided to drill right between two of the existing dry holes. We felt a bit sorry for him really, but then suddenly there was plenty of water, and everyone was pleased. So I got myself a hazel twig and discovered I could do it too. I had a bicycle - I was too young for a motorcycle at that time - and I used to cycle over to Mr Mullins in Bath, who took me on as his only pupil. We couldnít tell how deep the water was at that time, but we could definitely find it.”

George mentioned Mr Mullins in his book, and one day received a surprise telephone call from a lady in Cheltenham, who was excited that George had known her Great Grandfather. She came to meet him, and he was able to give her a photograph of the elderly man.

“If water is five miles away,” says George, “I can go straight to it.” He does not map dowse, and feels it is not accurate enough. He always keeps in mind the catchment area for the rainfall. Usually 28 per cent of rainfall penetrates; a third runs off, a third evaporates. “If the catchment area is impervious, for example, clay, 90 per cent of the rainfall will run off.”

Asked if he ever resorted to primary water, ancient water to be found under the earthís crust, he said the oldest thing he had ever found was a piece of rock that was dated to be four thousand million years old. “I have found water that was 5-6,000 years old, and I have tasted water that is 1,000 years old.”

“I have tasted water that is 1,000
years old.”

Further questions got George on to the subject of sidebands, an inevitable hazard when drilling. Any flow of water will send up sidebands either side of the main stream. Further out you then get another set of sidebands, and further out again you get another, three bands altogether.

George said in passing that angle rods werenít very good for finding out what depth the water is to be found. He uses his hands, his head, plastic/nylon style rods, his mind, in fact, his whole body.

He speaks cheerfully of his few failures, but on one occasion he was too successful. He had dowsed the best site for a borehole for a couple in Wool, Dorset, and the driller came to drill while George happened to be away working in Australia. One morning he received an anguished phone call saying, “Weíve drilled where you said to drill. The water is spurting 22 feet in the air, weíre getting 16,000 gallons per hour. What do we do to stop her?”

All he could advise over the crackling line to Australia was to cut a section from a tree branch, hammer it into the hole and use it as a cork. They wonít forget George Applegate in a hurry, and neither will we. It was a privilege to have him as our speaker.

     Share this page with friends on facebook