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By Nigel Swift

I was interested to read about the latest excavations and theories at Arthur’s stone, as it’s a place I’ve visited very frequently. One thing particularly caught my eye. It’s later stage was said to have “pointed to a location to the southeast between Skirrid Hill and Garway Hill

That equates with this image I took looking along the capstone in 2005. You can see Skirrid fawr very, very faint just below the arrow and the capstone is indeed not pointing directly at it but I wrote at the time: “It seems likely that before the capstone slumped to one side the alignment may have been even more precise and pointed EXACTLY at Skirrid.”

That thought also prompts the further thought: how many more alignments have been lost due to the stones slumping over the ages? Anyone have a time machine? If true then maybe Alfred Watkins should be re-examined:

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Alfred Watkins was born in Herefordshire and the concept of leylines may well have been born there too, and not only because of that. In 1870, fifty years before Watkins proposed them, William Henry Black gave a talk in Hereford to the British Archaeological Association entitled Boundaries and Landmarks in which he suggested “Monuments exist marking grand geometrical lines which cover the whole of Western Europe”. It has been suggested that Watkins may have had Black’s ideas in the back of his mind when he had his sudden revelation – when riding in the hills above Bredwardine – again in Herefordshire – “The whole thing came to me in a flash”

Arthur’s Stone is right there and was presumably uppermost in his thoughts – in fact, he proposed his ideas in a lecture “Early British Trackways, Moats, Mounds, Camps,
and Sites” delivered in 1921 to the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club in Hereford in 1921 before he published his book and mentioned “Arthur’s Stone, a dolmen, which was probably the core of a burial tump, is on two sighting lines” and also refers back to a paper by G.H.Piper, again fifty years earlier, delivered to the same society which noted that “A line drawn from the Skirrid-fawr mountain northwards to Arthur’s Stone would pass over the camp and southern most point of Hatterill Hill, Oldcastle, Longtown Castle, and Urishay and Snodhill castles”. (He quotes quite a few previous authors indicating he was far from being the originator of the whole idea).

What strikes me about his writing (in contrast to those who have seized on his ideas and invented “alternative” concepts) is the fact that he bases them on down-to-earth common sense. In particular, the idea that a genuine ley is likely to have at its two extremities a prominent natural feature at one end and an artificial “sighting tump” at the other and any features in between, like fragments of ancient trackway, are consequent upon the use of a straight route between those two extremes. No woo woo master plan then, just logical human behaviour. And as for Herefordshire, he says “In some districts—as Salisbury Plain and the Yorkshire Wolds—there are groups of adjacent barrows so numerous that it is probable that most of them were built as burial mounds only, not sighting mounds. This is not the case in the district investigated.”

So it seemed to me the best place to see a genuine, no messing, possible Ley would be right there, in the gorgeous hill country above Bredwardine and the Golden valley…

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