Ley line criteria

From "The Ley Hunter" Issue 1 Nov 1969, by Paul Screeton. The original Alfred Watkins definition is here

Practical Hints on Ley Hunting

I apologise to those who have previously read this article in Jimmy Goddard's "Handbook of leys and ", and to those who find it somewhat elementary. Nevertheless, I believe it will form the best introduction to the subject for the new enthusiast.

The only essential requirements for ley hunting are an Ordnance Survey one-inch to the mile map , a straight edge (3ft long if possible) and a sharp-pointed pencil with a fairly hard lead. Smaller scales of map are not advised because they do not give enough detail, and larger scales do not cover enough area to be practical, though it is useful also to have a small-scale map covering the whole of Britain, if or major leys have to be extended.

Leys can be found on any OS map expect those covering heavily built-up areas or very mountainous areas, so the first thing a prospective ley hunter will probably wish to do is buy the map covering his own area. This has the added advantage that sites can be easily reached for fieldwork. The alignments are very numerous, and it becomes clear as soon as work is started that one person could never hope to plot all the leys even on one OS sheet. Do not be discouraged by this; the really important point of ley research is the discovery of new facts about leys, not the quantity of leys found.

The way it is usually done is to take several of the more prominent sites on the map and join any two. If the total of sites which lie in the alignment adds up to five or more, the ley is acceptable. It is often worthwhile to take a particular site separately and to circle the straight edge around it slowly, seeking alignments in different directions. In this way centres are found, though they very often form themselves, sometimes in an unmarked spot. If on going to the spot you find (as I have often done) that there is a clump, or a mark-stone there, you have made a discovery and it is good evidence for the validity of leys. It is also encouraging, in that it shows you are not wasting your time.

Acceptable sites include: Prehistoric mounds, camps, and anything dating back to Prehistoric times; eancient churches, castles, cross-roads; hilltops (initial points) and triangulation pillars; mark stones; hilltop clumps. When aligning them do not cheat! Be very strict about rejecting a ley if it does not have five good sites in alignment, and do not accept any point if the ley does not pass directly through it, or (in the case of camps etc) touches its side.

Fieldwork is essential, and I have had to reject a number of leys because on looking at the sites themselves I have found them to be invalid. It is especially important to check the ages of churches; anything after the 15th Century with no record of earlier churches on the site is unlikely to have any ley significance. Also it is important to check on the origin of place-names, whether or not they sound significant. A significant sounding name could be very modern; on the other hand, something which does not sound significant may be very interesting if its real meaning is found.

Another interesting thing to try is to see whether one ley point is visible from the next along its ley, or if there are points that can be seen but are not marked on the map. Check the orientation of churches; sometimes you will find they are not aligned facing due east - and one can make interesting discoveries, as I did at Othery Church, in Somerset, when I found it was inclined a little to true east - just enough to make it in precise line with one of the most important leys to be found, and which has shown almost conclusively its connection with .

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Transferring leys from small-scale to larger-scale maps is more difficult than it would seem; be sure that angles, distances and locations remain precisely the same. It is also difficult to extend leys form one OS map to another with accuracy. It is for this reason that it is not wise to be dogmatic about what sites etc an passes through - you can only say that this is so within the limits of your accuracy. It is best to do as little transferring as possible.

It is, of course, not only leys in themselves that are interesting to study. The researcher should always experiment with new ideas of they come to him. It was this way that many very strange things have been found - such as Doug Chaundy's White Horse Triangles and his vast "star map" that he found from the positions of long barrows on Salisbury Plain. There seems to be no end to the mystery and fascination to be found from the countryside around us.

Ed Note: To this should be added the later commonly accepted qualification that a good ley should include a minimum of five points over a distance shorter than ten miles.

  1. was proposed by Frenchman Aime Michel, who asserted that sightings on particular days in France in 1954 formed radial alignments. This was apparently linked to leys in 1960 by Tony Wedd in "Skyways and Landmarks". That's all I'm saying about s. I just can't go there. I might be able to accept the odd sighting. I was able to accept leys on their own. Connecting the two is a place I just can't go to. To digest something that extraordinary I need extraordinary, not circumstantial proof.. Each to their own...
  2. Today's equivalent is the Landranger 1:50,000 series of maps