Well, we’d tried everything else, why not have a go at water divining? It’s not like we needed much equipment; a quick snip with a pair of bolt cutters at some old fencing wire, and there we had it, two divining rods.

So continued the saga of the lost water pipes in our wood. The thing is, we’re almost sure there was once a water supply to an old toilet block and research hut near basecamp. All that remains of the toilet block now is a capped off metal septic tank with a robust terracotta-pipe-and-gravel soakaway; but we do have an intriguing photograph from fifteen years ago of two metal u-bend toilets on a concrete plinth over the septic tank, sitting alone and incongruous in the middle of the wood. It would be really handy to have a water supply, so if there is one, now hidden, that used to supply these u-bends, we’d like to find it.

Our drive to find a water pipe has waxed and waned over the last four years, but with the exciting news that we have been granted permission to construct a modest wood-drying shed near the septic tank, our enthusiasm to find the old pipes has resurfaced. Hence the water divining, which I have to say I didn’t have much faith in, given all that I had read indicated it was the result of the ideomotor response*. But hey, it was worth a go.

I set off with the rods first. My scepticism and self-conscious embarrassment lead me to make a start while everyone else was busy with other things. I’d very briefly watched a youtube demonstration of a man in Australia locating a drain with two bits of coat hanger, so wasn’t expecting anything. I certainly wasn’t expecting to feel the bits of wire start to twitch a very short distance into my walk down the path between base camp and the septic tank. I’ll admit to being a bit unnerved by the feeling; my heart rate shot up and there was a prickle of ‘spooky’ at the back of my neck. I stopped, walked backwards and psyched myself up to carry on, telling myself I was imagining it. As I retraced my steps forward, the wires twitched again in the same place as before, and as I continued to walk forward the wires slowly swung across each other. As I carried on walking, they slowly uncrossed and stayed uncrossed until I completed a loop and came back to the same spot, when they determinedly crossed themselves again. I went to get some lunch.

I’d not mentioned to the children about finding water pipes with divining rods, but Mark had been looking over my shoulder when I’d watched the youtube clip. He had not however been watching when I’d been wandering up and down the path with the rods.
‘You try’, I challenged him.
‘Did you have any luck?’
‘Not sure’, I mumbled, ‘but just walk up and down that path a bit’.

When Mark found exactly the same spot as I had, Peta wandered over wondering what we were up to. She wanted a go. When both she and Joe had also found the same spot independently, we stood and looked at each other. We circled the spot and found a few places where the wires crossed, bashing in sticks each time – when we looked, they were all in a straight line. The four of us stood around, kicking bits of twig on the floor and acknowledging how bonkers this was – and then we fetched a spade and dug a hole. Everywhere we have dug a hole in the area around basecamp, we have hit limestone bedrock usually within a spade’s depth of the surface, even less in many instances. We’ve dug down to put in the posts for tables, looking to see how deep we could put posts for the shed, investigating round the septic tank and searching for things that have set off the metal detector – usually bits of metal tree label, old nuts and bolts and once, tantalisingly, an old, disconnected tap – so we have had some experience of digging holes. This hole was different – it carried on down, and down, and at the bottom there was water. It wasn’t the pipe we were hoping for, but it was water, and given the wood was bone dry (this was during this year’s exceptionally dry April in the UK), it was not what we were expecting… And I am still not sure what to think. Maybe it was just coincidence that we dug a hole and there was water at the bottom, but it was certainly an interesting experience – we aren’t going to forget the day we went looking for water with a a bit of fencing wire. Realistically though, I think if we want to find out whether there is a water pipe in the wood, a request to the water provider is the way to go, though wouldn’t it be ironic if they sent one of the water diviners they subcontract occasionally to find out? Meanwhile the saga of the water pipes continues as we eagerly await the delivery of our wood-drying barn in August. I get the feeling that our plastic water carriers are unlikely to be retired anytime soon…

* movements made by muscles due to subconscious thought.