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13 November 2014

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Long Meg in the mist

Long Meg in the mist

Ley lines explored

A local author publishes a new book on ley lines in the Midlands. The idea of the ancient trackways was first suggested by one of Hereford's most famous sons.

Alfred Watkins

Alfred Watkins was born on 27 January, 1855 at the Imperial Hotel in Widemarsh Street, Hereford. He was the son of a local farmer and businessman – the family businesses included a flour mill, a brewery and the hotel.

He was a pioneering photographer – he published many books on the subject and invented a small exposure meter, the Watkins Bee, one of which was taken on Scott's ill-fated expedition to the South Pole. He was made a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society.

He was a keen amateur archaeologist, and a member of the  Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club. He developed his theory of 'ley lines', which he felt were ancient trackways, made by using the various landmarks, especially on hills, as sighting points.

There's a plaque in his memory on his last house at No. 5 Harley Court, Hereford.

Anthony Poulton-Smith has made it his business to trace the ancient ley lines that run across this area, and has written a book based on his research.

The idea of ley lines - ancient trackways linking landmarks - was first proposed by the Hereford amateur archaeologist, Alfred Watkins.

He believed that stone age man built them, using surveying rods and line-of-sight to lay out straight trackways.

He published two famous books on the subject: Early English Trackways in 1922, and The Old Straight Track in 1925.

Anthony Poulton-Smith told BBC Hereford & Worcester his interest in the ancient trackways came from another area of research:

"It was my interest in place names that produced my interest in ley lines, because there are so many place names that form markers on ley lines, and so many that are the only remaining markers for ley lines. 

"Occasionally you'll find a tumulus or a barrow or an ancient cross or a church, but mostly it is place names that give you the clue there was a route there."


The idea of ley lines has been controversial since Alfred Watkins first suggested the idea, something that Anthony Poulton-Smith acknowledges:

"Detractors say that if you draw enough dots on a piece of paper, then you are bound to find a straight line that links a lot of them. 

Alfred Watkins - inventor of Ley Lines

Alfred Watkins - inventor of Ley Lines

"There a lot of churches on them because Christianity replaced the earlier Druid and heathen/pagan religions, and the easiest thing to do was to build a church on wherever they worshiped."

Regardless of the controversy, he believes that there are plenty of interesting places and features to be seen along the ley lines, including an unusually shaped rock on top of Bredon Hill

"There’s a stone outcrop called Banbury Stone, and if you look at it from behind and to the left it looks like an elephant kneeling.

"Legend has it that when the Tewkesbury Abbey bells can be heard chiming midnight, the elephant walks down and drinks from the Avon."

Anthony Poulton-Smith's book is called Ley Lines Across the Midlands.

last updated: 27/07/2009 at 11:22
created: 27/07/2009

You are in: Hereford and Worcester > Places > Places Stories > Ley lines explored

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