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Unusual methods were used to search for the site of an old farm building in Farnborough, to add weight to an historian’s years of research.

Waverley Dowsers, with members from Farnborough, Lightwater and Farnham, met at King George V Playing Fields, off Sycamore Road, with the intention of answering questions about a farm thought to have sat in the park – formerly the Knellwood Estate – in the early 19th century.

Dowsers attempt to tap into energy sources using a variety of tools including metal rods, pendula and other gadgets, visualising questions and then watching for small movements to interpret as answers.

Most members trusted a pair of L-rods to help locate the building’s position, circling the area and watching which direction they swung in, but Y-rods, a more traditional image of dowsing, associated with tracing water sources, was favoured by one member.

A group of eight dowsers were searching for the farm building which historian Jo Gosney – who lives in Farnborough and has written several books on the town’s history – believes fell into disrepair and collapsed in the 1860s.

She explained that her research, using maps going back to 1812, suggested the farm building was just behind a row of trees, between which the old Sycamore Lane used to lead to Sycamore Farm.

On the prospect of her work being verified by the sometimes controversial practice, Mrs Gosney was open-minded.

“I like confirmation of where things were and I like proof,” she said. “This will really be quite interesting.”

The dowsers patrolled the area in which the building was thought to have stood, asking questions and plotting the outline of the building according to the answers, using coloured flags.

The methods were all used to sense the remanence – the traces of an object’s presence – that remains after an object has gone.

While expensive equipment is available, equally effective rods can be made from coathangers and pendula fashioned from cotton reels, members said, as they are merely a visual indicator of energy sensed by the user.

Geoff Mitchell, an engineer who joined the group a year ago, said: “It’s [dowsing] got a bad name in a way, in that it’s weird. You’re finding stuff that can’t be known. But I just want to get out there and get stuck in.

“It’s all estimations. You’re thinking ‘am I influencing it or am I not?’.

“What we’re trying to do is get it off ‘weird’ and into reality and, like anything, practice makes perfect.

"If you think about electricity years ago – it was all around us but we didn’t know it was there. We’re still in the Stone Age really.”

The methods can be used to estimate the sex of an unborn baby, sense when a hard-boiled egg is ready to eat or find the location of an injury or sickness, while some members will ask whether they need an umbrella when they walk into town.

You cannot, however, use dowsing for money or love.

Mike Haxeltine, leader of the group, said: “Some of these things sound so bizarre but it isn’t until you see them and get results that you take them seriously.”

By the end of the evening, members had agreed on a possible location of the building, plotted the thickness of the walls and sensed the location of a smokehouse within the boundaries and declared the project a success.

They will revisit Waverley Abbey, near Farnham, on September 9 from 7pm, to attempt to find answers about the location of missing columns and the altar there. Members of the public are again welcome to join them.

For information about the group, contact Mr Haxeltine on 01252 541639.