Lines, tracks, ancient locations, spiritual sites. Send us your poems to celebrate 100 years of Ley Lines! Invented in Herefordshire!
The idea for these invisible connective lines across the landscape came to Herefordian, Alfred Watkins in a flash. According to his theory, these trackways connect ancient, spiritual sites from old churches and hilltops to standing stones. Amateur archaeologist, inventor, photographer and entrepreneur, Watkins first outlined his concept in a pamphlet called Early British Trackways and then in his book The Old Straight Track. Watkins’ revelation had an enormous impact: in the 1920s and 1930s it drove thousands of people to the countryside; a 1960s revival made links with the mystical and even UFOs, whilst in the 1970s it influenced the land art movement and artists such as Richard Long and Hamish Fulton.
Ledbury Poetry Festival has commissioned poet Rhys Trimble to write the opening poem, Ley Hunt. Please do send your poems using the form below. Lines, tracks, ancient locations, spiritual sites – there is much to inspire and many directions your poems could wander in.
Ley Lines Poetry Entry Form
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Ledbury Poetry Festival is collaborating with Hereford Museum & Art Gallery and Visit Herefordshire to mark this significant 100th anniversary with a county-wide celebration.
Rhys says, “When I think of ley lines I’m split between the rather mystical energy highways that they have come to represent and the prosaic techniques that Watkins suggests in ‘The Old Straight Track’ as an archaeological method in grouping finds along a line of sight. I borrowed some terminology from both Watkins and editions of Ley Hunter which represent the emerging spiritualization of leys when the hand made magazine was published in 1969. Lines also represent other things in art, mark-making suggests the line as the smallest unit of a piece of art. I used techniques like cut-up to find words that sounded well together, evoking prosaicity in some of the terminological words and the spiritual in a litany-like repetition of line, the line, the line.”
LEY HUNT rhys trimble
with inspiration from Watkins, Ley Hunter Magazine
deccan traps or three patches of scorched earth
live saccade, a divinity in self-similarity
portal to their othered mirror & mythos
undepth it charged corridor with meaning
meander parish on barish, treiglad
sheeptrack to mainstreet
kernel wave tide particulate dualism
axilation and boundary bisector
light the beginning
line:Hexerisk on air
deerfold purpose graphite on folded paper
boxing the compass S/ SW/SSE
golds above the station
virgo’s sheaf an alluvium: oak indicator
second from north:line
earth necklaces run
CAPLAR on magic
alignments radiating in all directions
mark stones, glyphic telegram dischord
line:parliament at Offa’s
hierophany: psychic brachiform
neuronal shovelful, rods cross cones
line:one stone fell, line:protractor in mid-air
line:mythico religious arca, line:earthforce charlatan
look up: chord, markmade in cartographic sway
a birdsong of points
follow your own pathway
by Sue Johnson
first work out the direction you wish to travel
this is your journey
the final destination will be yours alone
prepare well before you take that first step
visualise where you wish to be at the end
use all the senses to achieve this
ignore those who insist you will fail
or say you should follow a tried and tested trail
let them do as they wish
gather spiritual armour to sustain you
on days that are difficult and fogbound
give thanks always for any help given
step confidently towards your chosen goal
it doesn’t matter if the steps are small
keep going and the end will be in sight
help others along the way if you are able
as they in their turn will help you
avoid those who are vain and bitter
or any who do not share your vision
you do not need that kind of negativity
wrap them in red thread and move on
rejoice when you reach each staging post
reward yourself for the work you have done
rest in peace at the end of each day
by John Edwards
hidden in a manscape
look at it, tailored,
‘ad hoc’ patterns of
field edges, trackways
folds in the earth
telling an hidden tale
rising beckoning beacons
lowered cairns and barrows
tumili to tumps
mounds and mark stones
no fancy uptodate words
dragging old ones
into everyday parlance
where my fascination
lies in the variation
of the sounds
spoken word accents
in the tongue of then
and maybe the man
the pair and plough
travel in straight lines
not being aware of Ley
or a Ley Line even
and there beneath
into a magical
infiltrate our souls
by Laura Potts
Twenty years from where we were, I stand
by the garden gate watching the younger me
swinging free feet over the wall. Small,
and as young as the summer will always be,
with you and your dungarees, soil-stained
and torn, as you swallow the last
of the corner-shop sweets and the sun rolls back
on his thread. He licks the lawn into colour and
we laugh, talking over how the shadows will fold
into the sooner dawn and how a piece of old moon
will unwind on her spool, saying ‘this is the way
it is meant to be. This is the way we were born’.
Today we have been wildlings and escaped
to some place in the forest where the trees play
the light through their leaves. Their arrows cling
to your skin until your hair is a chorus of gold,
until you look at me with those eyes which say ‘will
we come back here when we are old, oh when we are old?’
With cracked hands we churn up a wheelbarrow
out of the shed and freewheel down to the stream.
I flip a pebble and watch it drown,
while you say ‘like this’, and cartwheel another.
It skitters and lives, gifted, as a blackbird trills above,
calling ‘one day you will laugh and one day find love’.
Then the silver thread chimes from the back door –
a woman’s soft voice and the scent of knives and forks.
We part through the fence, our secret handshake:
tomorrow we will meet on our wall and be young again.
Now, I watch from the gate as our voices spill
into our kitchens, and wonder whether you, like me,
will ever stand in the sad glamour of rain,
your eyes bright before the lights of childhood again.
by Jane Harland
You could have danced on my jewellery,
packed, as it was, in sand,
whilst wind blew gold leaf with glittering abandon.
You own my death
(you, already wreathed in death)
and my wealth, ribbed within this mound.
My people built and dragged a ship
through estuary mud, onto your land,
dug and shaped my grave, riveting me into place.
Your people have deduced my past,
un-earthing artifacts, both Christian and Pagan;
silver spoons and bowls, gold and garnet
interlaced with biting beasts.
They think they know my story;
a great ruler lording such largesse along East Anglia’s land.
They think, by piecing helmet, placing stag
and tracing shapes etched onto earth
they can reclaim my past.
They think. I know.
That I am Raedwald.
by Ann Worrall
They carried her
To a shallow hollow
They had dug in the beach
And lined with stones.
The crunch of pebbles
Underfoot, the slap
Of waves teasing the shore,
The cries of seabirds:
This was the music that accompanied her rites.
Shaman arranged her in the kyst –
Hands curved together, head
Resting on a rough pillow –
Did those who knew her
Caress her cheek,
Cold now and stiff,
As she crouched in her last home?
We do not know. But
They had dressed her
In her finest clothes,
Surrounded her with items
To delight- her spindle,
Bead necklace, bone comb –
Which speaks of loving.
Perhaps hoping she’d walk one
Lonely evening when they
Missed her most- there in
The flickering flames of
The hearth fire outlined –
In that frail hope, they covered her
With deer skin – weighted with stones
Yer light enough for the dead to disturb.
Sung to by sea and wind,
She lay unseen,
Whilst all she had known
Was slowly hidden by the sand,
Until it shifted in a storm,
to show her bones.
A sand that whispers to us constantly
But keeps her secrets.
by Josephine Graham
I stood on my head
Between two stones
Irreverently, my temple
Grounded, shoulders to ankles stacked
A monolith of bones
The earth was soft
I levelled my gaze
Under parallel knees
The ley laid out
From north to south
In flesh and gneiss
Through indifferent rays
Of an ancient sun
New and old shadows cast
Lines extending all ways
Starward, skyward, inward.
Anchors future to past
I drifted feet down
Like the setting moon
On this Neolithic mound
Stepped away from the pull
Of unknowable mysteries
Of rocks set in ground.
by Jodie Duffy
These times are dressed
in different clothes
but buried beneath
are the same bones
as the solstice arrives
just before sun rise
I step into the shadows
of the standing stones
I tread the ancient path
the instinctive network
it still exists
under this modern skin
I chase a golden thread
as it disappears
into the smoke rising
from the burning within
at each hilltop
I look for the next
thread a new bead
on my quivering string
the horizon breaks open
the sky glows red
in the crowning pause
we are beyond everything
when the light softens
we are wrapped in relief
I hear bird song
trilling of our birth
soil clings to my palms
under my fingernails
my blood soaks
into the earth
Steps in Time
by Samuel Mackereth
A metred note is filtered
by branch and ragged leaf, and yet
unnatural in its regularity.
Somewhere beyond the two walls of the old barn, walls on older walls,
the treasure seeker swings
the culprit detector left, right; left, right
and steps in time.
There are layers in nature, and human use of nature.
The flats and troughs of the dingle are unwashed leftovers,
houses and drains that shaped an ancient helping
of spring, brook, wood and rich pasture.
The note hastens and halts. A blade penetrates
the membrane of older worlds where coin and brooch and ring and tool,
Medieval, some Roman, lie covered.
This time a false alarm, a bolt,
aged but not ancient;
perhaps no older
than broken bottle-glass beside the wall.
Younger: the flapping blue of tangled sheeting,
the upturned bucket, cracked and half swallowed yet
long to digest.
Our layer is placid: absent the bustle of coin or coach or cottage.
Only a few sheep, huddled, share
the brook, the wood, the sculpted hill. Turning
I walk the sunken coach road, nettled,
my footsteps lonely on the shrunken path.
The bolt is cast aside, unwanted metal.
The rhythm resumes:
The light of the World
by Donald Falconer
What is the point of pain? Is it not the partner of pleasure?
Do we not feel fear to heighten our sense of existence?
To always be touched by the warmth of the suns rays
will this not make your heart cold to shun winter days.
Is life not to suffer, and cry tears, then feel misfortune
trickle down you face in burning, icy balls of terror.
Will you deny that life is unfair, uneven, twisted and bent,
that people are angry, unkind, cruel, devious and bitter,
and will steal your money and your wife for less.
These are the things you must know and accept
hold them tight and tighter to your weeping soul.
If only life was but a bowl of sweet and lovely cherries
and love was as simple as a cloud floating in a blue sky.
But it is not, and were are human, and we are frail and week,
and life is full of pain, error, disappointment and grief.
Remember this my son or your life will be an illusion.
I tell you, suffering is good for your soul and necessary.
It is the other side of the scales weighed in the balance.
You cannot have one without tasting the other on your lips.
Sweetness must be tempered with a bitter pill.
The black illness the takes you to the point of death
must be endured to feel the wonder of a healthy skin.
Lost sleep must be endured in the darkness
to open a cathedral of wonder and light.
Temptations and vice must be born with delight
to know that integrity burns in a heart of fire.
Yes, you must accept all these things that pass
and bear each with a cool and temperate breath.
Face all with a brave and enduring mind,
ready to fail, fall and get back up again.
Yes these are the lessons that you must learn
before you can become a patient man.
So, will you face the shadow of your existence,
accept it, and move forward into the light of the world.
Foot Prints on Worm Hill
by Judy Dinnen
Soft marks of human passing,
Invisible people, no heartbeat,
no coloured scarf or cheery nod.
Here your presence and yet absence.
Your marks pattern wet mud,
slither and stride in the daily walk.
They climb the slope of Worm Hill,
amongst harsh, brown stalks,
between green signs of new life.
You are the crowd of human passing,
the tide of coming and going.
We tread the crossing path,
through the hedge gaps,
over the style, following you
mystery folk. Now I see you
have a companion, a large canine,
a rosette of paw marks shows
his place in the blur of yesterday.
You are the crowd of human passing,
the tide of coming and going.
We look back at the spread of hills,
the dark, smudgy winter sky.
Rain drips onto the wet ground,
fills the prints of man and dog.
Our prints add to the muddle
of human walking, following
the neat line from one village
to the next. We are part of the
crossing crowd, the human flux
of lockdown people.
We are the crowd of human passing,
the tide of coming and going.
by Bob Woodroofe
Down the dreaming tracks
spirit children linger
in the footprints of ancestors.
Poets of your own creation
you sang the world into existence.
Sacred to the wandering tribe
the tune remains the same.
Words haze and mingle,
cross boundaries and borders,
map the contours of your land.
Earth gives forth life eternal,
wound the earth, wound yourself.
That is the way of the land.
It takes you back when you die,
go back in, dream time.
Follow your own song line.
Search for pasture
where you do not have to ask
to be at home and yet
are free to leave.
by Bob Woodroofe
I am the Dodman come to mark the way
you must search for my signs along the ley
the old paths embedded deep in the land
measured by me with twin rods in my hand
They can be read if you trouble to look
lain down on the land like an open book
just follow the line back deep into time
the track leads straight on as upwards you climb
My ways are slow made with a measured tread
like the snail with twin horns upon his head
over ridge and furrow from mound to mump
through plough or fallow tumulus to tump
Notch on the skyline for you to follow
gleam of pond or stream down in the hollow
crest the summit close by castle and church
then for the next sign you carefully search
The sunlight glitters from moat or from mere
shows the way that leads down both straight and clear
follow the line to bury burgh and moot
on past how and knap till you reach the toot
There are endless paths that you can follow
walk one each day another tomorrow
until the day when you run out of time
and have finally walked your last ley line
Sleeping girl, Rhynie
by Mandy MacDonald
adream in her stone-lined cist
still as still
she has lain for centuries
her small body melting
to a ghost print
engraved by peat
she is a feather, a breath
so quiet among
the clay moulds for cloak-pins
the fragments of Frankish glass
no grave goods blessed
her passage to whatever afterlife
she had feared or hoped for
narrowed to one tiny bone
that rang, almost beyond hearing
almost by accident
against a student’s trowel
— I have lived so many lives
here in my waiting:
I have been beetle, earthworm, mite
I have diminished
I have enriched
at last, the sky —
speckle-dark, a merlin
dashes over the dig, is gone
ley lines lie
by Eithne Cullen
Along the ley lines
lie the Great Pyramids
of Giza, Chichen Itza
ley lines’ mystery deepens
all wonders of the world
connect, surprise archaeologists.
Along the ley lines
lie wonders that defy
the laws of architecture
defy the gravity of situation.
pockets of energy –
round the globe
like lines of latitude and
longitude that transverse
and intersect. And meeting
throw up energy to form
landforms that surprise,
monuments that belie
realism and the prosaic.
by Bess L
He wasn’t completely wrong
Ley lines do criss-cross these nations
Watch the sun set through the ruins
Of Whitby Abbey high above the bay
Be still as it rises beyond
The sarsens on solstice day
Pause to turn skyward
On Giant’s Causeway
And at low tide on the Gower, admire
The wrecks exposed by the receding waves
Then tell me you don’t sense them too
But what he should have mentioned
Is no map will ever be adequate
As ley lines surpass dimensions
by Hélène Demetriades
On Uig Sands I walk along the tide line
of an empty beach collecting shells
in wonder at the salmon pink of tiny clams,
the indigo of mussels, the yellow of the periwinkle,
the blanched breastplate of a sea urchin
double perforations running up a seam.
I press these fragments back into wet sand,
make a collage, lose myself.
My daughter jitters on, The shells are pretty,
I see that. Are we done?
We walk up and down the shifting dunes,
watch a cloud of starlings chasing sheep.
We come across a Uig chessman, giant replica
of his kinsmen found buried in the sand.
A solemn seated king, a sheathed dagger
like a sacred scroll in his upturned hands.
A circle in the round
by Hélène Demetriades
Here at Castlerigg,
in a bowl of green mountains
a stone circle celebrates.
Can we go now?
my daughter asks intermittently
as we trudge the grass.
Once I was a meaning maker
who looked for sacred moorings to confirm her,
now silence is replacing me.
Can we go now?
my daughter insists, scuffing the grass.
I turn my back on the megaliths.
by Yvonne Marjot
We walked this track,
stumbling over tree roots,
the air thick with moisture
and scent of pine.
It took hours to find
the standing stones:
the way tangled, half-lost,
marked with a raven feather.
We thought we’d last forever,
I mossy – you lichened –
shoulders to the storm.
Now you are gone,
the forest felled,
stones bared to the sky.
I can never go back.
Dowsing at Polsethow
by Penelope MacBeth
What would you make of us
Rambling with our tatty coat-hangers
Across your sacred field
The buried well of Glasney?
In our rainbow stripes
Laughing at our own audacity
Yet drawn here
By the same
A rare vision
All those years ago
Charmed by the same willow tree
And the murmuring of the same tumbling stream
Which running over remaining stones
Whets our appetite
Not for the future
But for the past
For the fallen splendours
The vast soaring vaults
The well stocked gardens
And the marvellous habitations of Polsethow
Assembled for a while and now dissolved
Now spread like the ashes of the departed
To scent the air
To warm the breeze
With the dust of former ages
A taste we know but cannot bring to mind
So let us surrender to these sticks
And by their crossing
Name the place
Where living waters still rise underground
Within the mire of our subconscious selves
by JLM Morton
and to the crowd control barrier
blocking the footpath to the lake
I say what is your provenance
do the pig iron and ores
in the nursery of your bones
age the carp by the thickness of its scales
can your chain of custody hold
spike rush, speedwell, fleabane, bedstraw
in the un-historied lines of your cage
you cannot certify the emeralds
of the Beautiful Demoiselle
threading hope through the reedbeds
this place cannot be detained
from soothing the torrents,
weighing each tusk, each tooth,
each mammoth rounding things out
with the flow of Churn, Coln, Leach
and an abdominal love
teaching me pity
for the conceit of your claim
on the memory of water.
by Sue Moules
although they are hidden
under mud and grass
forward and back
tracks across landscape
where our ancestors walked
triangles of churches
carved white horses
join imaginary dots
magnetism and water
reveal a picture
of land currents
rivers of energy.
by Gary Liggett
Without a shepherd
windblown grasses sing
through endless blades
Gathered sheep ruminate
upon heefed carpets,
pinned by ancient lore
to a megalithic portal.
Soft light on England’s pastures,
where men hauled sarsen stones
for ceremonial rites
over miles of chalk —
makes you wonder
how they did it.
The weatherman mentioned rain.
‘though sheep tuned in,
They listened to instinct
on a different channel
via Avebury’s giant crystal set,
while growing wool
for your carpets and clothes.
Full moon in Libra, 2018
White Leaved Oak
by David Thomas
In the end it was a spark
That tore your heart
Out, as it melted glass
And blackened pennies;
Turned ribbons to dust.
Five hundred lifetimes once bound
Together, suddenly unwound –
Released back to a hot wind
And the red earth,
To begin again in hope and sorrow.
by Tamsin Pearce
Across Chase End
Ragged Stone Hill
Your silver boughs
Guardians of land
Valleys of legend
Ley lines crossed
Mighty roots held
Circles of voices
Myths were told
Embers died out
White leaves unfold
* A poem celebrating the history of a white leaf oak tree, five hundred years old, which was sadly destroyed in a fire last summer near Eastnor
The Keswick Stones on the Longest Night
by Charles Lauder, Jr
Hunched over in the rain that points heads
toward the center shoulders and arms rounded
as a cradle hands as cups for rattling dice
(in the corner a craps game has started) the circle
is called to order the agenda announced:
trains are to be made to run on time
parking spaces assigned the number of crisps
in a packet defined. Two stand guard
at either end of the circle collecting passwords
and handshakes (under the knee with rumps bumping)
—the first to greet and let through sunlight
upon its return three hours from now. In anticipation
thirty-eight get drunk on a five-finger punch
of power jostle to next hold the speaking stone
and vow reduced waiting at the checkout
speed limits on mudslides and cyclones
the onset of menopause delayed another ten years.
Tributes to the poor and destitute recited
as sonnet or sestina move the group to tears
—if only there were more of them to help bury the dead.
They hold rolling races down into the next valley
and try to count the number in their circle
but the number keeps changing: the luckless are topless
(having lost their shirts in a snake-eyed throw) topple
over dead while the legless crawl away to sleep it off
dream of chasing the local birds
heifers and sheep included and wake rock hard.
by Jenny Hope
I lick my face from the plate of the moon,
come clean to reflect on the fleece-white glow.
I’ve not time for sleep, much to do. Livestock
ought a hex or two; perhaps a visit.
Sailors curse me; at sea I cause a storm,
while on land if I hold straight, scare-wits
shiver. I speak with stark, ungodly cry,
run long bones ragged, cut through the parish.
Another trick? I make chaste brides turn from church;
let stretched shadows hound me from my form.
For thirst I’ll suck your cattle, bone and dry;
but to sup my flesh may snare both sorrow
and despair. Life furrows the old straight track
as I shift, from buck to doe, buck and back.
Drawing a Straight Line
by Jane Harland
(After ‘The Weirdstone of Brisingamen’, Alan Garner
and The Legend of Alderley)
Why is it always a day at October’s end,
always a farmer travelling to Macclesfield,
a white horse, late afternoon?
Why in each version does the same route apply
in the same sequence:
Thieves Hole, Seven Firs, Golden Stone,
Stormy Point, Saddle Bole?
And why near Alderley at all –
neither the straightest or the only road?
Why does he not take the facts
at face value?
why dig through layers of soil
to answer questions most of us
take for granted,
describe procedures irrelevant to most,
and then refute their relevance?
Is it his craftsman’s heritage
which takes him to such lengths,
that his great-grandfather’s carving
is stamped still on a sandstone hill
on a Cheshire plain
and that men of few words
pick and choose with care
through fear of waste?
Or is it the desire to forge a truth
as white and pure as metal
which his forebears hammered into shape?