Sunday 13 January 2013

Mapping the Old Straight Tracks

Ley lines are not for me as a credible theory but, like ghost stories and other esoteric and arcane ideas, for a rationale observer who is open to a bit of subversion they hold an undoubted appeal. Alfred Watkin's Old Straight Track is a lovely book and a topographically detailed description of the places and sites the book covers. And the maps of the ancient landscape around Glastonbury shown here (beautifully produced by Palden Jenkins) are certainly striking, with an alluring dissonance between the seemingly rational geometry of the ley lines and the more organic and messy reality of the physical and historical topography.


  1. It's been a long time since I read Alfred Watkins. Like you, I don't think they are a credible theory and you are right - real ancient tracks mostly tend to be more messy and meandering. This is not to say that there is no intrinsic beauty in the organic way they delineate the physical topography.

  2. As an impressionable student in my late teens I became quite fascinated by the concept of ley lines and managed to find a copy of Watkins' Old Straight Track in my local library. Even in my early twenties, as a student in Weymouth, I made occasional forays into the south Somerset landscape to explore them. I even spent one summer evening sleeping out under the Tor. No wonder I got a very poor degree!

    I, too, no longer find them credible but at the same time I'd have to confess to feeling a sometimes intense and often spiritual relationship with the landscape. I've always been drawn to the West Country and its landscape and I keep on coming back, even when the rational careerist within me (she's not got a very loud voice) tells me to move to London.

    And then, last year, when I veered off the Camino de Santiago to explore the mountains of Leon, I had the most intense 'religious' landscape experience. But that's another story ...

  3. Fantastical theories such as ley lines, legends and folklore are a long way from any literal truth, but in a way this is irrelevant; they are all examples of our on-going need for spiritual connection with our environment and our past.

    Tracing a ley line on the map or on the ground, a pointless exercise? If it quickens the pulse and stimulates the brain, then why not?


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