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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gorgeous, thick compendium of Britain's aged sight lines.
Excellent, early-century guide to the fascinating ley lines that criss cross Britain. These lines were amply pushed by creating notches in mountains, clearing land to view old church centers and of course the pagan mounds we all know so little about. Watkins's book is a delight and inspiring. Go back in time when people had to rely on contours and landmarks from many...
Published on 14 Feb 2002 by Frederic Kahler

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A poor quality edition compared to some
This is the first edition of the Old Straight Track which I ever had, and it isn't an especially pleasant book to handle. Far better, if you can get it, is the 1970 facsimile edition produced by Garnstone Press.

Quality of the edition aside, this is a difficult book to pin down. First of all, Watkins was not a crank. He didn't beleive in supernatural forces,...
Published 19 months ago by Peasant


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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gorgeous, thick compendium of Britain's aged sight lines., 14 Feb 2002
By 
Frederic Kahler (Apalachicola, FL (before: Seattle, Las Vegas, France)) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Old Straight Track: Its Mounds, Beacons, Moats, Sites and Mark Stones (Paperback)
Excellent, early-century guide to the fascinating ley lines that criss cross Britain. These lines were amply pushed by creating notches in mountains, clearing land to view old church centers and of course the pagan mounds we all know so little about. Watkins's book is a delight and inspiring. Go back in time when people had to rely on contours and landmarks from many miles away. Sometimes older is better. Check it out!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original thinking on a facinating subject, 21 Jun 2009
By 
Peter Buckley "peter15115" (Dyfed, Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Old Straight Track: Its Mounds, Beacons, Moats, Sites and Mark Stones (Paperback)
My casual interest in ley-lines stems from my teenage years, when I, like others, found it possible to connect ancient sites on OS maps in the way Alfred Watkins describes. I found it worth investigating, and discovered 'The Old Straight Track' to be far more coherent in explanation of ley-lines, and related features, than much of what has been written since.
I believe man in prehistoric times to have been more sophisticated and well-travelled than customarily thought, although in consideration of ley-lines as so-called 'energy conductors', I rate with alien visitation and black magic, a bogus hindrance to honest investigation.
Alfred Watkins writes with clarity and a love of the Herefordshire countryside he lived in, and thus in reading his book, you have the bonus of almost stepping back to a gentler era. He paints a broad and sweeping picture that is hard to criticize. I cannot see the point of highlighting errors, for the simple reason it is so easy today, with the internet, to compare other sources. He is never dogmatic in any case, often giving alternatives to his preferred explanation. It is interesting that he sees in British place-names a link with the ancient near-east, particularly Babylon, this fits well with more recent investigators, such as Alan Wilson and Baram Blackett. A worthwhile read.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still the definitive book on ley lines!, 9 Feb 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Old Straight Track: Its Mounds, Beacons, Moats, Sites and Mark Stones (Paperback)
"The Old Straight Track" probably has influenced more seekers of "true" Britannia than any single book. It single-handedly began the ley-line craze, and probably is responsible for most of the current interest in barrows, megaliths, and "mysterious Britain." It's still readable, too. Good photos. Good arguments. Cool conclusions. Even if you don't believe, Watkins will make you WANT to believe. The truth is out there ... and it's been under our feet all the time!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A poor quality edition compared to some, 27 May 2013
By 
Peasant (Deepest England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Old Straight Track: Its Mounds, Beacons, Moats, Sites and Mark Stones (Paperback)
This is the first edition of the Old Straight Track which I ever had, and it isn't an especially pleasant book to handle. Far better, if you can get it, is the 1970 facsimile edition produced by Garnstone Press.

Quality of the edition aside, this is a difficult book to pin down. First of all, Watkins was not a crank. He didn't beleive in supernatural forces, and his 'ley lines' are simply ways of navigating about the contryside with no magical powers or starnge energies in sight. He brought together his theory as a result of many years travelling round the countryside, often on horseback. His thesis is that our ancestors, who didn't use wheeled transport all that much, laid out direct routes from place to place for those on foot or with pack horses to find their way along ancient trading routes. Salt is the main commodity he sees as being taken round the countryside by pedlars, but other products, such as flint and pottery are also cited.

So far, so plausible. When we get to the detail, however, it all starts to fall apart rather. We must forgive Watkins for not knowing things about archaeology that weren't discovered till after his time, but even so, claiming that ley lines must go back to 25,000 years ago (ie well before the last Ice Age) is pushing things well beyond where they'll go. The problems go deeper than that. Instead of suggesting a network of main tracks, off which the little-used paths to small hamlets branched, Watkins decides everyone must go straight across country, over hill and dale. As a result, the number of criss-crossing tracks becomes unfeasibly complex and entangled; no pedlar could remember which path to take when dozens crossed every valley or hill, heading off in different directions to link tiny settlements.

We can believe that salt and indeed flint (remember Grimes Graves) may have been traded across long distances. But Watkins argues that every use of the word "white" in a placename indicates a link with the salt trade, which is far from convincing. It gets worse; next he is claiming that every reference to "red" in a placename is proof of long-distance trade in pottery - while as any fule kno pottery, being both heavy and breakable, was generally traded the minimum possible distance from home until the coming of the canals.

One aspect of Watkins' theories I have no trouble acceptin is that laying out roads was the job of an elite class who claimed magical powers. That is just the way our ancestors would have done things, in the days when knowledge was kept secret and magic, rather than science, invoked to explain things. His construction of a whole theology and priestly class is, however, again taking things a bit too far.

Watkins was self-taught and his lack of academic rigour isn't too surprising. There are interesting ideas in here, but the later confusion with those who claim a different knid of ley line- one which focuses supernatural energies and may, or may not, have a connection with crop circles and aliens, has muddied the waters. As a result, little serious consideration has been given to the core of Watkins' theories, which is a shame.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The classic book on ley lines, 8 Mar 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Old Straight Track: Its Mounds, Beacons, Moats, Sites and Mark Stones (Paperback)
A thorough and fascinating investigation of ley lines in Britain, particularly Herefordshire. This is a classic in all senses of the word: it's an old book (written in 1925), the first to cover its subject (Alfred Watkins coined the term 'ley lines'), and doing it so comprehensively and logically that any other book on ley lines is almost superfluous.
The chapters and snippets on the origin and derivation of words, place-names and surnames are particularly interesting. For example, the modern meaning of the word 'black' is completely opposite to its ancient meaning!
This is the best book on history - ancient or modern - I've ever read.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pioneering book: rational theory of prehistoric mobility, misrepresented by both supporters and opponents, 7 Oct 2010
By 
Rerevisionist (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Old Straight Track: Its Mounds, Beacons, Moats, Sites and Mark Stones (Paperback)
Fascinating if over-detailed book (Watkins' 'The Ley Hunter's Manual' is I think better). Poor Watkins is misrepresented by both friends and enemies - the latter mostly professional archaeologists.

Trying to summarise: Watkins realised (he was among other things a commercial traveller around Herefordshire, and was well aware of the problems of finding one's way round, and the importance of landmarks) that prehistoric man had a problem of transport. To take one example: salt. There are local deposits of this in Britain; but projecting time backwards, how could the stuff be moved around? There were no motorways, or even roads; no tarmac; no motor traffic; no bikes; no maps; not even weedkiller to keep paths clear... obvious points which many people seem unable to grasp.

Watkins' theory was simply that straight tracks were laid out by line-of-sight and marked by whatever method was feasible - dug-out notches on the skyline (early man could do earthmoving on quite a scale), upright stones arranged in pairs to point the way, perhaps church steeples, large stones by the pathside - of types not found locally, to remove doubt. Watkins thought some large flat stones marked with cup and ball marks might be in effect maps of local 'hill forts'. He thought Silbury Hill was built specifically as a landmark. Trees were another possibility, though obviously they would be visible now, if at all, only by traces.

Another of Watkins's examples was water: springs of clean water were presumably a useful asset (and some contained health assisting minerals, though obviously we're in eras predating chemical knowledge). Paths to them might be marked out.

And much more in this vein, including signalling by means of beacon fires.

His SUPPORTERS have often taken a description by Watkins of a sudden insight into this possibility ('wires.. across the countryside') in an electrical sense, adding a whole assemblage of material on sacred sites, lights, currents, electric charges and shocks, and what have you. And of course there was a temptation to rule lines on the then-new Ordnance Survey maps. They also renamed as 'ley lines' what Watkins christened 'leys'.

His OPPONENTS generally laid into the detail - place-names for example obviously are a high-risk source of evidence. So are buildings - many 19th century churches are built in mock-old styles, many manor houses aren't reliable indicators of archaeological precedents, etc.

I think there was also a class element here: archaeologists like, or liked, to look at palaces, military structures, cathedrals, massive megaliths, impressive graves, treasure hoards, and generally high status things. Watkins tried to redirect attention to humble practical tracks and paths.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful and thought provoking, 31 July 2007
By 
Mrs. P. Burges (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Old Straight Track: Its Mounds, Beacons, Moats, Sites and Mark Stones (Paperback)
This delightful and easy-to-read book outlines the author's gradual realisation that certain well known, yet ancient, features of the (mainly) English landscape, link up to form straight lines called 'leys'. This leads to the author wondering who built them and why? Alfred Watkins presents his findings in a down-to-earth and thought provoking way, inviting the reader to join him in the quest for answers. Anyone with a love of nature and social history will not be disappointed.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars should be viewed at as a standard book of reference on leys, 22 Nov 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Old Straight Track: Its Mounds, Beacons, Moats, Sites and Mark Stones (Paperback)
Though quite old (1925) - nobody seams to have surpassed the depth and completeness with which Alfred Watkins describes the topographic handwriting our very ancient ancestors have left behind in the landscape. If anybody is interested in Ötzi, this book is a must. If anybody loves the idea of power lines - he must question the durability of his believe before reading this book. Be sure not to ease your attention when reading through long lists of examples - mostly important hints come unanounced. To be a ley hunter yourself will help you to truely appreciate the richness of different aspects, providing a greatly holistic picture of ancient orientation. What I like most about this book: This is no preacher or guru trying to convince you - you feel treated as a critical reader and motivated to deepen the understanding by taking your mountain bike out into the open air - searching for more tracks ...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Go straight on..., 27 Nov 2010
By 
Gkwells "Latium" (Great Britain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Old Straight Track: Its Mounds, Beacons, Moats, Sites and Mark Stones (Paperback)
Other than hearing the mumbo jumbo mystical types banging on about force fields and magical lines, I had no idea of what a Ley really was until I read the erudite Mr Watkins detailed and scholarly book.

If you wish to know the truth about Leys and have practical examples of how you can test Mr Watkins theories and assertions to your own satisfaction, then purchase this excellent book, it will change your view of the history of our country.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A classic text, 10 April 2013
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This review is from: The Old Straight Track: Its Mounds, Beacons, Moats, Sites and Mark Stones (Paperback)
It's 30 years since first reading this book and it made a huge impression at the time. Perhaps it spawned a generation of unorthodox ideas and odd theories, but Watkins had been out into the landscape and realised things that other people had not. I don't subscribe to the New Age theories but I do believe our ancient ancestors had great intelligence and a wealth of common sense. They knew how to navigate from place to place over considerable distances by using features of the natural landscape, and it's not unreasonable that the alignment of different features was a part of that. You may not want to be part of the mythology of this book, but it is nevertheless a classic, detailed, carefully put together study of how natural features played a part in the lives of the ancient peoples of these islands. (P.S. If you're a reader of Alan Garner, this is a 'must-read for 'The Moon of Gomrath'.)
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