Alfred Watkins (1855–1935) was born in Hereford and lived all his life in Herefordshire. Best known for his discovery of ancient tracks (the ‘Ley Lines’ of his book, The Old Straight Track) he had many gifts and interests, and was especially keen on photography and his beloved Herefordshire.
The core of this book is an unpublished manuscript by Watkins entitled The Masefield Country, of 1931 – an evocative piece about Herefordshire and the area around Ledbury, inspired by John Masefield’s glowing speech in praise of his native county when he accepted the Freedom of Hereford in 1930, after becoming Poet Laureate. The piece is composed of stories gleaned from Watkins’ meetings with a variety of people on his travels, and reflects on three poets with Ledbury connections: William Langland, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and John Masefield. It is full of asides, insights, wryly amusing anecdotes and deep feeling, coupled with respect for the rural wisdom of ‘men of the soil’, expressing his feelings for Herefordshire as a whole, and concern that it should sustain its traditional values and native wisdom in a fast-changing world.
Alfred Watkins’ text is prefaced by an introduction to his life and work, and followed by a section on his pioneering photography and developments in photographic equipment. This extended revised edition includes more than 200 of his photographs of Herefordshire.
Ron Shoesmith ran the City of Hereford Archaeology Unit for many years. He has been well supported in editing Watkins’ manuscript by his wife, Jennifer.
Paperback with flaps | 224 pages | 210 x 240 mm | Revised edition 2020
210 b&w illustrations