Archaic Tracks Round Cambridge—An addendum to my last post about Alfred Watkins and the Roman Road

My bag and map on a bench beside the Roman Road
Following my last post about the eccentric, attractive (and wholly spurious) theories about ley-lines proposed by Alfred Watkins’ (1855–1935) and found in his book called The Old Straight Track (1925)—a post which included a set of black and white photos I'd taken taken along the old straight track nearest me, namely the so-called Roman Road (Via Devana) that passes by Wandlebury Hill Fort—I continued to do some "off-piste" research about him. I think this is mostly to do with my delight in his own photographs, something I mentioned in a post of last week, which, as a teenager, encouraged me to get out into the countryside and photograph what I saw myself.

Anyway, in the course of that research, I stumbled across a mention of his last book (published in 1932) which, to my utter amazement, was entitled Archaic Tracks Round Cambridge. That was a surprise. I quickly discovered that it is long out of print and that second hand copies are being sold for well over £100. However, to my delight, I discovered that the wonderful Europeana Collections site not only has this short book available as a good quality pdf scan but also The Old Straight Track. I've put links to them below.

As, I say, I personally don't buy his theories—and Archaic Tracks (from which the plan on the right is taken) is even less convincing than The Old Straight Track!—but I do continue to benefit from Watkins' uncanny ability to enthuse and encourage a person to get out into the landscape themselves and to see what they can see. I spoke a bit about this in my last post but here are Watkins' words that close his Cambridge book. I think you'll see what I mean:

"Adventure lies lurking in these lines where I point the way for younger feet than mine. Detective work of sorts; unnoticed mark-stones almost buried in the banks of cross-roads, in the field, or on a town pavement; the edges of an unrecorded camp; a faint mound almost levelled; or, again on the ley of the land, as the eye looks straight on, the point of a distant beacon-hill as a mark on the sky-line.

Who will strike the trail?"

Well, me of course!

To accompany this current post I include for your pleasure some photos of the Roman Road I took back in June 2013 using Hipstamatic's Tin-Type "film". As always, click on a photo to enlarge it.

But, before we come to them here are the links to the pdfs of Watkins' two books at the Europeana Collections site:















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