Monday, 9 June 2008

The Old Straight Track

Not quite a "trackway" but the straight road over the mynydd yesterday, and more of that cloud in the valley. Click on photo to enlarge.

This book is fascinating. When I was at University, one of the courses I did was Landscape Archaeology, which really taught us to look at the landscape in a different way. Shanks and Tilley's "Phenomenology of Landscape" did the same thing, as it related features in the landscape to the settings and orientations of prehistoric sites.

Alfred Watkin's book, The Old Straight Track, was originally published in 1925. He was a great countryman, and his job as outrider (or brewer's representative, for his father's company) meant that he did a great deal of travelling and thus accrued a deep knowledge of the local countryside and its social history and customs. The existence of Ley Lines, for this book is where they all started, came to Watkins in a moment of inspiration whilst he was out riding in the hills near Bredwardine (which is where the Rev. Francis Kilvert was buried - he of the diaries). Initially this theory caused huge controversy amongst archaeological circles. This I can well understand - they have an inbuilt resistence to any "oddball" ideas.

The full title of the book which Watkins wrote, includes "its Mounds, Beacons, Moats, Sites and Mark Stones." This shows what he included in his alignment theories. That such places were linked in the landscape in straight lines. The alignment of Churches and prehistoric remains were particularly significant. He spoke of "Salt Leys", one involving my father's home village of Bovey Tracey in Devon, and place-names with "white" or "whit" in the name signifying the same, salt having been so essential to our ancestors for the preserving of food.

He discussed the derivation of place names and why villages, churches and prehistoric mounds or burial chambers might be where they are, even why trees were planted to mark specific sites - Cross Ash, Mark Ash, Mark Oak etc. The Mark Stones he wrote of had me looking for similar in my area, and there is one in Cynwel Elfed here in Carmarthenshire, which is now surrounded by a sweep of tarmac pavement on one side and with its back to a field, just where a lane peels off the main highway. Others appeared to be there merely to stop the wheels of carts knocking against the edges of buildings in tight lanes and corners.

Unfortunately, Ley Lines underwent an epithany back in the 1960s and 1970s when they were perceived to be lines of energy connecting places together and linked with UFOs - oh gosh, do I remember UFO sightings kicking off . . . . This perception can be traced back to one of the original members of the Straight Track Club, Arthur Lawton, who wrote a paper in 1938, stating that he believed that leys were related to a grid of power which came from the earth's core and gave off radiations which might be detrimental to any housing built on top of it. The prehistoric people of our country took account of this when siting their buildings or monuments. This idea still persists with many people (in fact, many who should really know better than to just recycle an old idea with no reference to the original book and concepts). My local dowsing group fell under this umberella. Because of my archaeology lectures, and because of my own senses, I do not believe they are "energy" lines. I can remember a conversation with a particularly idiotic woman (still in la-la land!) who said that there was a ley line leading to a holy well on her property and that her horses always shied/reacted when led over the ley line. My teeth still grit at the memory of THAT conversation, especially since there was no holy well anywhere on her property - she's made it up to try and impress people! The Ley Hunter magazine now deny that there are such energies although the ley line theory is very much proved. For further information read:

and from the early days . . .

1 comment:

Goosey said...

Lovely photos of the cloud/mist hanging in the valley.Sorry you are having a tough time with all the changes and the horses going, take care Goosey