MONTGOMERY LEY, Powys/Shropshire

This runs for 53/4 miles SE-NW through unspoilt countryside in and out of the border between Shropshire and Powys (Wales).

The ley may be said to start a crossway (25839130) of tiny country roads a Lower Cwm, with the E bank of the S arm of the junction formed by Offa's Dyke. This was built by King Offa in the late 8th century to mark the division between England and Wales rather than as a defensive work. The junction at Lower Cwm sits on the Dyke, and it can hardly be doubted that this is an ancient spot; perhaps one of the sites the Dyke's builders used as a reference point. From the junction there is an extensive view along the ley to Montgomery and beyond.

The ley passes through a pond and one or two mounds or hillocks that look artificial to us, but we will omit them from this account to avoid unnecessary controversy. SE of Montgomery the ley coincides with the course of the B4385 road for about half a mile, and down the stretch of road the church and castle at Montgomery can be seen in alignment: it was this view that alerted one of the present authors to the ley's existence. (A 1:25,000 map was purchased in Montgomery and just one line drawn to reveal the alignment now being described. There was no 'hunting' around on the map.) As usual, the ley immediately parallels the road.

St. Nicholas' Church (22379651), the next ley point, is on raised ground in Montgomery. The origins of the present church can probably be dated back to the early 13th century, but there is an unusual feature in the churchyard, a few yards from the line of the ley, where a bald patch of ground is marked by a rose bush and a notice saying 'Robbers Grave' This is supposedly the place where John Davis, hanged for highway robbery in 1821, was buried. He protested his innocence and prayed that no grass would grow over his grave to confirm this. However, no actual records exist of his interment in the graveyard. The bare patch is now a small, roughly cross-shaped piece of earth which was apparently larger in the 19th century. It is known that this part of the graveyard was unconsecrated in the early part of that century, and was a place where games were often played, suggesting perhaps that the location had pagan associations. The grassless summit of Dragon Hill (SE6) is called to mind as a possible parallel. The legend of the robber may record a real event, or it may be a 19th century fictional explanation of the bare patch - or a mixture of both.

On the ley between the church and castle, there is a curious set stone (22279669) in Arthur Street, which could well be a markstone.

The building of the stone castle (22159684) on top of the high, dramatic castle rock was begun in 1223, and the impressive site of the castle must have been a noted location from remote antiquity.

This is borne out by the fact that a prehistoric camp is situated adjacent to the castle ruins. The ley passes through the keep of the castle, the part of such structures that Watkins considered to usually be on the site of the original prehistoric marker.

The ley goes on to the mound at Hen Domen (21369802), part of a Norman motte and bailey. The top of the mound is, typically, to one side of the ley's passage.

The ley finally passes across the earthwork remains of a Roman gaer or camp (20809890), visible from Hen Domen. That this too is on a site of prehistoric significance cannot be doubted, due to the presence of a large stone (not on the ley) in the same field. A gnarled stone as tall as a man, encrusted with quartz, it is supposedly a glacial erratic but was known by the name 'Hoar Stone', an extremely old term which in turn means ancient - grey or hoary with age. Up until the 19th century it was considered to be a menhir, and it must certainly have been a focus of activity in prehistoric times even if it was not erected by man. The field containing the gaer is known as Hoar Stone Field.

It is certainly a remarkable coincidence if these Key Roman, Norman and medieval structures, falling on one line less than two miles long, were discovered by a 'chance' observation! Also interesting is the fact that the line includes two sacred wells mentioned by Francis Jones in his The Holy Wells of Wales (1954), in Montgomery and at Hen Domen.