One of this winter’s Very Big Jobs is to cut a road through the woods. It’s hard for me to spin this as eco friendly, so I won’t even try, but almost every tree I have cut down has been acacia, which is very fast-growing, incredibly strong, and perfect for fenceposts, steps etc.

But before we began, we had to locate a disused water pipe running between the Shack and the new pumping station. We should cut the pipe, the man from the Water Services said, on both sides of the access road and take the pipe out of the ground. I failed to find the pipe using their metal detector, so I did what any other rational person would do: I dowsed for it.

To dowse, simply destroy a perfectly good metal coat-hanger, create two L-shapes and stand quietly for a moment, holding a precisely framed question in your mind. (At least, I think that’s what you do – I know there are books on it, but I have’t read them). Then walk forwards slowly and wait for the rods to cross. Which they do.

(On doing this, I felt sure this is where the ‘X marks the spot’ expression comes from.)

I repeated the exercise a number of times, asking for the exact centre of the pipe. Then I started to dig for it. Eventually, when I had dug up to my armpit, I found this:


Which is just a hole. Disappointing, sure, but no great loss. Because a short time later, like a DIY episode of Time Team, a JCB arrived:


After just a few scoops, he found this:


Which is just another hole, only bigger. Disappointing, yes – and confusing. You see, I got Her Outdoors to check my dowsing with hers, and her rods crossed at EXACTLY the same points as mine – on both sides of the road. Which begs the question: What had we found?

It certainly wasn’t the water pipe, which was discovered about 12 feet away from where we thought it was; and way more than an arm’s reach into the ground:

Confused.

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