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Leys

1 iNTrOduCTiON On June 30 1921, Herefordshire businessman, Alfred Watkins, was driving along a road in Blackwardine, near Leominster. Attracted by the nearby archeological investigation of a Roman camp, he stopped his car to compare the landscape on either side of the road with the marked features on his map. Whilst contemplating the landscape around him he saw, in the words of his son, like a chain of fairy lights, a series of straight alignments of various ancient features, such as standing stones, wayside crosses, hill forts and ancient churches. The discovery, he later wrote, came to him like a flash. Enthusiastic commentators since have interpreted it as a mystic vision see illustration opposite, which the methodical and practical Watkins would have certainly indignantly denied. Watkins was not the first person to notice alignments at ancient sites, but he was the first to propose that alignments existed all over the land and, crucially, to give them an appropriate name, leys, because of the frequency with which this Saxon place name, meaning a cleared strip of land, occurred along them. Since he made his discovery public ley lines have become associated with prehistoric trackways, ancient astronomy, UFOs, mysterious earth energy, ghosts, flying shamen and spirits of the dead. What a long, strange trip its been. The Royal Forest of Dean, 2000
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