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The Watching Way Dulverton

Welcome to the Dulverton Storywalk - The Watching Way.

The narrator finds herself recalling the moment the earth fell away beneath her feet in the church yard, but rather than fall she felt hands gently support her as help came. This is the tale of her discovery, of what really happened on that day.

The tale begins in the yard of All Saints Church, Dulverton. Make your way through the lynch gate and up the path to the main door, but then circle to the left, the story begins at the foot of the main tower door.

At the end is a little hidden geocache journal which you can sign and re-hide for the next walker.


Christopher Jelley
Chapter one

The Church

This walk should take about an hour, but starts here at the All Saints Church. If the west transept door is open then step inside and listen to the clock for a moment before you start, it really sets the scene. If not you must put your ear to the door and you can hear the heart beat of the mechanism in the tower, the slow pulse of the weight being thrown back and forth, setting the rhythm for the day.

Have you ever been trapped? I mean properly trapped where you cannot move a muscle?

I have, when I was only seven years old, and I remember ever second of it, my arms were stuck so awkwardly above my head that I could only just flex my fingers.

Firstly of course I shouted and shouted, but the more I called the more soil fell upon me and the more inevitable my fate.
Chapter two

It was here in the graveyard, we had been playing What time is it Mr Wolf and then Scratch Nine, which is hide and seek by any other name. I hid behind a gravestone, now long gone, for there was a little dip in the earth at its foot, I wriggled in. That was a mistake, a good idea turned sour, when the earth fell away beneath me and I knew I was caught.

As I waited for rescue I began to feel the warmth of the sun on my hands, they were obviously visible above the ground so I waved them about a bit but that did not seem to help. Then I thought about the shadow they must cast on the ground like a sun dial, and how many degrees or minutes had passed since I fell?

I was a living sun dial, but then the last thing I had looked at before I fell was not the sun, it was the Moon, and began to wonder if there was any such thing as a moon dial?
Chapter three

Then the reality of my predicament came back to me, and I felt panic rise in my chest, I was desperate for some distraction, something to take my mind away from this terrible situation.

But then a distraction is exactly what I got, for I heard voices, mumbled and muffled ones that did not come from above ground. Quiet at first but then the more soil that filled my ears the clearer I could hear, the closer the sound was.

Now before we move on I must explain, here in the town it is seen as rude to talk without covering your left wrist. Some put this arm behind their backs, others cover it more visibly with their right hand. This is the more formal approach and you will see locals do this, it is as if to say, I have time for you.

You will notice also most local folk wear long sleeved shirts, covering wrists and sometimes hands as well, this is part of the same tradition.

It sounds very eccentric I know, but all towns have their foibles and this is one of Dulvertons, it goes back a long way, further than you can imagine, and further than the town is probably aware. So if you have need for discourse or talk as you walk to the next chapter, please cover your left wrist as naturally as you can.
Drop down from the church and into town, then take a right behind the library/visitors centre. This is a small path which leads though to a car park. Head diagonally to your left across this car park to a little path which crosses the stream. The next chapter will reveal here by the leat which used to supply power to the wool mills.
Chapter four

The Beck

Place your ear against the stone wall and listen for me, can hear words in the garbled sounds bubbling up from the depths? I am not talking about hearing the sound of sea in a shell, for we all know that is just a trick.

Recently I watched a man checking the water mains, he laid a pole nearly two yards long on the mains pipe in the ground, it had a flat plate on the top which he put his ear to, and then listened to the water flow beneath.

I wondered if he can hear what we hear?

These sounds are like talk from another room, mumbled chatter with perhaps the odd coherent word here and there. Do you hear it?

The talk is very hushed, but if you wait for a moment I am sure they are there? I used to come often at the end of the day to put my ear on stone and listen, but I never heard them again like I did in the hole all those years ago.
Chapter five

I remember being very cramped and uncomfortable in the ground, but wide awake, and totally aware, these were no dreams from delirium. Perhaps the talk I could hear just came from the crypt, the transfer of sounds from the room beneath the church. This was more feasible, more likely, but then the sounds seemed to come from below me, rising from beneath my dangling legs, and I am sure at times they were singing a lullaby.

Today my doubts are set aside for I did hear all of it and remember straight and true, the pounding was not my heart or the blood in my ears, nor the church clock in the tower but something much much larger.

We will descend onto the grass sward from here before stepping into the woods, but before you leave, collect twelve little stones from the stream or here abouts. One for each month of the year or hour on my clock, tiny little ones will be fine, the smaller the better.
Continue down the path a short way, to your left are wooden steps which take you down into the lower carpark. The next chapter will reveal on Exmoor lawns, which is the sward by the river Barle.
Chapter six

The Sward

Sometimes when the sun shines I can make a sun dial here by using my whole body, if I could stand still for long enough I would watch the shadow slide along the grass. But Dulverton is Dulverton and rain is more the measure of the town. I still wonder about a moon dial, as I witness it creeping across the sky.

Fifty years previous to my accident there was a little girl who had been lost to the town, I think perhaps her shadow cast itself down to me and opened old tales, old superstitions. I was a little older myself when I could tune into these stories, for my very presence made people go quiet. Nothing would bring it out, but piece by piece I overheard and patched things together in my own mind.

My rescue was news, possibly big news, but I have never read any papers with reference to it, no clippings in a scrap book for this town likes to keep its secrets to itself. Hushed talk and quiet nods, the usual small town stuff.

Folk had always been very courteous to me in this town, always covering their left wrist in talk. But once I spoke and I had neglected to cover my wrist properly, and the look of disgust was almost palpable, lets just say I have never forgotten to cover it since, I recommend you do the same!
Chapter seven

Events like these are pivotal, everything is swapped around, everything is different and there is no going back, no return. For me it was more of an awakening, the knowledge that I am special, or more perhaps unique, the only orphan in the town, and in that empowerment also came isolation, distance, and inner strength.

On my fifteenth birthday a parcel came to my shop, the Dandelion Clock, and with it a letter which changed everything for a second time, but more of that later.

Before you cross the bridge can you collect just one more little stone which looks like a piece of the moon. I was obsessed with collecting moon stones before the accident.
Now cross the bridge over the river Barle and head to the right, the path will lead us to a spring head near the cottages, remember to cover your left wrist whilst greeting passers by and do not forget your little stones.
Chapter eight

Well Head

As I cross the river and look into the cool Barle waters I see children making endless dams and skimming moon stones, standing in their Wellington boots. I look to my own bare feet which have not been inside a shoe since that day nine years gone now.

I actually shudder at the thought of having them enclosed, for as I hung there above the chasm something kept gently touching them and they have felt warm ever since, even in the coldest rivers.

At first it felt like river weed, soft and tender, or perhaps a feather, but later a firmer grip of warm hands caressing me, comforting me, supporting me. Paranoia ? Hypoxia? Panic! Or really hands touching me, but what was beneath, what was helping me down there?

So I suppose I must seem a little eccentric to you, the wandering girl, bare foot, listening to voices in the walls. With my guardian gone, it is just me, my shop and a sleepy town, folk are happy to pass the day but depth is not forthcoming. A thin veneer of gentility and manners masking something unspoken, unshared, I put this down to being an orphan and therefore different but there is more to it than this I am sure of it.
Chapter nine

When the letter came I was caught broad side so to speak, you harden your heart and poise as time passes, keeping your head down and yourself to yourself, just the same as everyone else. I kept busy at my work and brushed off the formal hellos and closed curtains without thought.

The letter was on headed card with some scrolled Latin words, and beneath it in neat italic script, were the words.

I look forward to making your acquaintance, signed P.

Initially I thought nothing of this, then as time passed I kept on coming back to it, eventually having the note on my person at all times. For there was someone who wanted to get to know me, and that is treasure indeed.
Now into the woods, where my story continues, be careful you do not miss the junction to middle path. As we come into denser foliage, it is harder for your device to see the Satellites. Head up past the cottage and into Burridge woods, then along the rough road. In a short while you will find a sign that say's 'Middle Path' that is your turn so keep your eyes peeled.
Chapter ten

Middle Path

After the incident I was nursed at home, and when health returned I was taught there as well.

My schooling was truly an apprenticeship at the Dandelion Clock, we repaired time pieces of every shape and style and by the age of twelve I was well versed in angles, levers, trigonometry, and chronometry, as well as associated studies of maths and metals. Writing was a part of the day also but more for ledgering and accounts than poetry or verse, with a smattering of Latin for good measure.

Sometimes I went to sleep with my mind buzzing with the clicks of tiny ratchets and spinning balance wheels. But as my guardians eyes deteriorated and his health too, I stepped in to deal with the finer watch work, which was more akin to jewellery than anything else. I loved those days, the smell of the metal on my fingers, the deep hush of concentration delicately sliced by the mechanisms we repaired or created.

I have always been surrounded by clocks, my earliest memory is looking up from my cot at a mobile that used to spin gently in the breeze, made entirely from clock faces and brass wheels. Parts from old projects, and spares from repairs, all soldered up by my guardian to spin like an oratory above my bed, with the accompaniment of a lullaby about a galaxy of clockwork stars.

We would walk in these woods after work and I would place sticks and feathers inside the bowls of trees like clock hands. Time set for twenty past four, cake time, and break time.
You should take the steps left up the hill along middle path, and keep an eye out for any likely holes with my clocks still there, and perhaps set a few yourself, I find the feathers stick in the moss with great ease along this track.
Chapter eleven

Weeping Tree

Not sure why this tree has stopped me again and again, but I did hear talk from the roots once, it was very clear, almost legible.

Spotted any clocks? Made any repairs?
The track rises up the hill and eventually comes to a finger post, but there is no rush, make an easy pace and enjoy this special place. Make clocks and pendulums from leaf litter and tuck them in the trees for all those who follow behind.
Chapter twelve

Horners Neck

My shop has a strange sound, with so many ticking clocks, a little like beetles crawling. I love that sound, it has always been with me and when I think back to that day, I remember the deep clanking and think of it as some massive clock with gears and wheels, for me it is a homely sound, the rhythm of my life.

The letter came to me in a box, but inside was no regular time piece, it had come to be cleaned and serviced, but truth was there was no work to be done, I knew from the moment I opened it, that this was special.

The chronometer was pocket watch in design but the face spoke in tidal phases and moon cycles rather than hours and minutes. A harbour masters time piece I thought, tuned not to the passing hours but the shifting waters about the Earth. A fascinating time piece and something I had never seen before.
Walk up the ridge into the woods heading south, there is a small lean to shelter in the clearing, my tale is nearly told and you will be free to drop back into town when it is done.
Chapter thirteen


There is a small lean to shelter on the path, and smoke drifts lazily upwards from a fire, as I approached an old lady rises and comes to greet me in the formal style. Her clothes are neat and well tailored, her skin is white and clear like fresh water pearls.

Her neat hair is tied up in a bun and retained with a circular clasp which looked like an oversized escapement wheel. She peered at me knowingly, squinting in the daylight, then beckoned me close, on her lapel was the insignia again, with the same Latin motif.

She takes the twelve little stones from my hand and lays them in a circle to make a clock dial, the moon stone laying at twenty past four. Without a word she she then led me up towards the hill fort, leaving our stones behind, you might still be able to see them if you search around, and are welcome to add to the dials.
Follow her up the hill towards the ancient hill fort remains.
Chapter fourteen

The Hill Fort

I had been coming here on walks for years, and sometimes see the moon above the tree line, I wondered if this would be a good spot for a moon dial, but have never ventured this way in the dark.

The old lady lead me to the top of the hill fort where the path takes a little dip, but when I looked closer the path did not lift back up and carry along the ridge but spiralled down with turf cut steps into the hill itself.

We had not spoken a word up until this point, and she turned to me, took my left hand in hers then turned it out, palm up. This was done so gently, with such reverence that I was a little dumbstruck and I allowed her to delicately fold back the long cuffs that covered my wrist.

She looked at a birth mark there, a half ring of freckles in the shape of a waxing moon, something I had covered meticulously all my life, then she smiled with her eyes full of love and wisdom.

You must have lots of questions, she asks, her voice deceptively strong for her age.

Are you P?

Yes, it stands for Polly, and without another word she handed me a Tilly lamp and then the descent began, deeper and deeper the steps led, musty and untrodden in a long time.
Chapter fifteen

Deeper we go, endlessly down, the steps spiralling slowly, we pass landing after landing each with a cool iron door that is closed behind us. Their hinges squealing, dry metal on metal, not happy to be moved after solitary stillness in the deep earth.

These are jail doors, or those from a mausoleum, and each successive closure is more final than the last. A brass elevator with tiny leather pads as seats takes us further down than I can imagine. At the bottom there are more solid doors and then deeper descents in similar shafts, each rattling their way down, endlessly down, our ears popping at the pressure changes throughout.

Finally the stale cold air begins to soften, and the tunnel begins to rise rather than descend, and the steps lift us up into a great hall.

Barrel vaulting and white stone pillars feel more loved and tendered here than the tunnels we just came through, and cool blue light streams through tall windows.

Welcome home, Polly says and the old lady sits exhausted from her epic journey.

Tea and cake are brought and then I am escorted to new quarters, a wide elegant suite of rooms on the first floor.

On the pillow is the special time piece delivered for service to my shop a year ago to the day, I rest my head and hear the reassuring sound of the mechanism, the tiny clicks and rasps from the spinning wheels within. As I fall asleep I vaguely feel servants gently remove my outer clothes and tuck me in the white sheets, then sleep embraces me like never before.
Chapter sixteen

Fresh clothes greet me in the morning alongside a simple breakfast served in my rooms. Polly awaits and leads me out onto the smooth streets, there is a blue glow in the air like light penetrating through forest canopy. It resonates and buzzes and has a curious dynamic energy about it which confuses me, as I know how deep beneath the ground we are.

The carriage ride was swift and I was transfixed at the vastness of the place as we whizzed along towards our destination.

There are only a few people about now, but the shift will change in an hour, she said.

We pulled through ornate gates, and I glimpsed the Latin insignia again for all to read as they arrive at work. It read Luna vecte attollere aestus maris, some of you may know that Luna is the Latin for moon.

We drew up outside an impressive yet austere, building, a brace of columns stated this was not the tradesmans entrance.

Here, she said, and took me up the grand steps and through a polished marble reception area, the staff all rising on our entrance, all talk quoshed. They politely covered their left wrists in the formal manner of over town, and most were tongue tied on my introduction until finally we arrived in a grand office, doors large enough to take a horse and rider in full mount.

Inside was formal yet elegant, with a pair of writing desks place centrally, and to one side a low easel with a wooden stool, aside from the plan chests and timber filling cabinets there was little other furniture. Decoration was minimal with only a simple plaster frieze running about the ceiling looking rather elegant.
Chapter seventeen

But dominantly behind the desk on the wall was an impressive tidal clock, with the same face as that brought to the shop all that time ago, and above it a plaster Mermaid holding a banner with the Latin insignia.

Luna vecte attollere aestus maris

Vecte = lever? Luna Lever? No, Leaver Moon? And Maris was that the sea?

This is our office, she said, breaking your thoughts.

From the lack of furniture it was obvious that all visitors to this place were expected to stand before their superiors.

I was bursting with questions but did not know where to start.

What do you do, what do we do, what will I be doing?

Clockwork, she said, but on a rather grand scale, here let me show you and beckoned me over to the single large bay window, which overlooked the factory floor.
The story ends just along the ridge to the left, there is a line of mighty Beech trees which make an ancient fence running down the hill perpendicular to the path, the last chapter is here, and also the journal for you to sign.
Chapter eighteen

The End

From that one vantage point I could see a vast factory floor roll out beneath me, and rising from the centre like a monstrous leviathan was part of an escapement wheel.

This is the clock, we maintain, repair, design, service, and generally worship.. As the saying goes, if I had a lever long enough I could move the earth. She then points at the Latin and repeats

Luna vecte attollere aestus maris,

Lever the moon and lift the tide.

In short, she said, this tidal clock raises the moon and the skies, and in turn, the moon lifts the seas.

We stood there a while in awe of the enormous machine, watching the visible parts rumble and reverberate the office floor.

You are the new director, she said and then took my elbow and walked me across the office to the portraits. There was a little plaque with my name on it and an empty frame above, and beside it a portrait of Polly herself in younger years but still with the same intense and clever energy in her eyes. The wall was peppered with portraits, all directors, all to tend and worship the tidal clock.

We have something in common you and I, she said, and then in an act of disarming vulnerability she pulled back her long cuff from her left wrist to expose a birthmark there also, a half moon of freckles like a stain on her blue skin.

We are all marked for this work, she said and motioned to the portraits, every one of us. I raised my eyebrows, then lifted my sleeve back to inspect my mark, I had covered this all my life and hidden it away.
Chapter nineteen

I then recalled the day in town when I was looked upon with disgust for not covering my wrist, my sleeve had fallen open and the lady must have seen the mark. I had misread her unguarded revulsion, I had taken it personally not aware that I was unique to be marked so, she was shocked, and that was all I had seen.

Why was I not told? I asked. It is the tradition, it was the same for me, I cannot speak for the others.

Down in the town there is a shop called Number Seven which was once my Dandelion Clock, there are still time pieces for sale there and the sound of their mechanisms are so beautiful. I have vivid memories of my youth in this place and wonder when the next apprentice will arrive to be trained in the watching way.

I sit at my desk now, fathoms beneath the earth of Dulverton, and set out my tale for you. People down here still cover their left wrist when in conversation, but the connection with me and the great mechanism is so obvious that it has meaning, where in over town the gesture has become mere habit.

Every hour of my youth taught me all I needed to know about the work I now tend, and under my direction, all the Earth's tides are as regular as clockwork.

The End.

Thank you for walking the watching way, the next apprentice may be in your party, who knows! But for now I would like you to sign the log, it is hidden beneath the roots of a Beech tree just off the path. The tree is situated in a fence line of trees which goes down hill to your left (as you are walking along,) it also has an orienteering square on the back.
Chapter twenty

Great to hear your feedback and see any pictures of your adventure if you have any, http://storywalks.info

This is a geocache and finds can be logged at geocaching.com ref GC3955C

Many thanks

Chris Jelley

A special thanks must go to Martin Joiner for suffering me and for building this magic player.

Also to Carol Carey and Zoe Li of Somerset Art Works who had faith and vision in this project.

Storywalks have been created primarily with support from Number Seven Dulverton, with additional funds from Creative Pathways Professional Development Project funded by Somerset County Council CIDF and also LARC funding (Local Action for Rural Communities)

All rights reserved Christopher Jelley
The Quickest way back into Dulverton is along this ridge path, it drops down zig zag style, it is very steep, and can be really really really slippery (and muddy) when wet.
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