These things were first described by archaeologist Alfred Watkins in his 1925 book The Old Straight Track. He claimed that in ancient times when Britain was very densely forested, people built roads in geographically convenient straight lines. He believed that the lines had been called "leys" because so many of them passed through towns with "ley" in their name. He would later claim that these "ley lines" existed in many countries all over the world, especially in Europe. His theories were generally dismissed by his peers, however. Then wacky occultists heard about it, and decided that they must be magical. Now ley lines (sometimes written as leylines) are hypothetical alignments between places of power, which may be magical, magnetic, or psychic in nature. These places of power are where two or more ley lines cross and are often known as Ley Nodes, Nodes, or Nexuses. Nodes are often regarded as spooky or unearthly. Stonehenge is said to be built on one such intersection. They are often invisible conduits of magical power that flow through the earth and air. Mages can tap into them to gain their powers. Places where multiple lines intersect at nodes attracts wizards and other supernatural beings like moths to a flame. In reality, there are MANY English villages and towns that end in the syllable "-ley". So it isn't surprising that any line drawn on a map would fall close to at least one such place. The Anglo-Saxons were in the habit of building their villages in forest clearings. "Ley" is simply the Old English word for a forest clearing, which is why so many places end in the syllable "-ley". Often related to Rule Magic in Functional Magic. Sometimes they are a form of Geometric Magic. May function as a necessary Magic Prerequisite in some settings. A sister trope of Place of Power.
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Anime and Manga
- Outlaw Star has the Galactic Leyline.
- Mahou Sensei Negima! mentions this concept, with a number of points on earth that have great amounts of magical energy. The World Tree is on one of these points. One of the Big Bad's plans to break The Masquerade involves using The World Tree point to start a chain reaction spell with the other points.
- Rurouni Kenshin at the end of the series Kenshin and co. have to deal with an antagonist who is trying to divert the "dragon lines" (lines of magic power related in some way to feng shui) in order to destroy a capitol building with many heads of state inside.
- Note that this is only in the Anime. The Manga took the stance of "Magic isn't real" and stuck to its guns like a baby to its bottle.
- Rental Magica got these. People use them to choose places for big spellcasting, pure-magic monsters use them as a subway, and when magical pollution—which is already unpleasant—happens to be fueled by one, it creates a "Magi Night".
- A Certain Magical Index mentions spells that tap into Leylines, like some tracking and teleportation spells. Notably, Touma's Imagine Breaker does not have any real effect on Leylines because they replenish their power instantly.
- Pokémon the Movie: Black/White uses the dragon pulse belief described under Feng Shui as a source of random conflict near the climax. Removing the castle from its spot disrupted the one it was resting on, causing a destructive chain reaction. They had to head off the disruption a few miles down the vein and plant the castle there to stop it.
- Little Witch Academia features this as part of the territory. The Leylines are a series of networks around the world that allow magical energy to flow and connect various geographical locations, making them both a magic power source and a form of fast transportation for witches. Additionally, they're later explained to have formed from the roots and branches of Yggdrasil, and become unstable when anti-magic objects like salt are brought into them. Later on, Professor Croix introduces what are functionally wi-fi routers that absorb magic from ley lines.
- The DC Universe has Ley Lines as well, though they're rarely mentioned.
- They were the basis for the "Millennium Giants" story arc in the Superman comics in the 1990s. Giants (suspiciously similar to Marvel's Celestials) woke up and started walking around Earth causing chaos, until Superman restored the natural balance of the Lines by sacrificing the electric powers that he had gained previously. (The whole thing might have been just an excuse to get him back to normal.)
- Chinese heroine Gloss, of The New Guardians, calls them the Dragon Lines of Power, and draws upon them to create various seismic effects, as well as gaining incredible strength, speed, and flight.
- Primal Force had Maltis, a.k.a. Dr. Mist of the Global Guardians, assemble a new group of magical protectors named the Leymen. One new member was Meridian, who could teleport along ley lines.
- The Invisibles features a brief mention about how Canary Wharf was built to tap into the power of the Southern Dragon Line (which is why they put a pyramid on top of the tower).
- Hellblazer, in keeping with its "throw it in" magic system, features these as a prime part of someone's plan at multiple points.
- Ley lines play an important role in the first story arc of Ruse.
- Ley lines have shown up in a number of different 2000 AD comics:
- In Caballistics, Inc., ley lines are areas of increased paranormal activity. A locked-up psychic with a murderous streak also uses them to amplify his powers without anyone noticing that he's using them long-range.
- In Absalom (which is a spinoff of Caballistics) St. Paul's Cathedral in London is noted to be at the center of a network of ley lines, explaining why the same site was also used to built a Roman temple and before that a druidic stone circle.
- In Age of the Wolf, ley lines are used by the werewolves to navigate their flying ships around the world.
- In the Harry Potter fic Blood Quill Consequences Snape told Harry that new spells were created by weaving energy from the ley lines into a unique pattern.
- Pony POV Series: According to 7 Dreams/Nightmares: Bright Eyes story, It turns out in the POV-verse, this world has nine lay lines, with three places where the lines converge: Everfree Forest (with the Castle of the Two Sisters as being the true convergent point), a location in the Griffon lands, and a third in the Deer homeland. Zebras, Minotaurs, and Deer are able to use the leylines to access knowledge about the world and other worlds due to the nature of their own magic
- They are a pivotal plot point in the Digimon fanfiction, A Dragon in Shining Armour.
- The Visionaries fanfic, Blood in the Water featured as a plot point, in which it compares leylines to rivers through which magic (water in the metaphor) "flows" across the world. Damaging one is implied to threaten the balance of magic everywhere on the planet.
- In The Infinite Loops, Ranma learned how to connect to the Earth's leylines. One notable loop ends with Ryoga stumbling across and attacking one of the lines Ranma is using, causing the entire solar system to explode.
- Ley Lines (Nihon Kuro Shakai) is the English literal title of Japanese director Takashi Miike's 1999 film, which does not address the phenomenon of ley lines directly, but rather uses the idea subliminally as the film's heroes set out along their own 'ley lines', or the railways of Honshu to Tokyo. It is the final installment in a series of three films, titled 'Black Society Trilogy'.
- Thomas and the Magic Railroad: The titular railroad was inspired by ley lines.
- Mentioned in a throwaway line early in Hellboy. As the Army unit explores the island, Dr. Broom explains to the Sergeant Rock in charge that the ruins of Trondheim Abbey were built on an intersection of ley lines, which he explains as the boundaries between this world and others. The sergeant calls it a load of crap.
- Ley lines played a role in the Ghostbusters reboot. The villain was using some kind of device to "charge" lines around Manhattan, in order to open a portal at their intersection and bring about the apocalypse.
- Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures series features these as necessary for casting almost any magic, though in emergencies mages can draw off personal reserves that they've stored from the ley lines. In Myth-ing Persons Skeeve has to go into an Uberwaldean dimension that has virtually no ley lines; his abilities suffer accordingly, while the natives have grown up with this level of power and are skilled enough to make use of it.
- Found in the Heralds of Valdemar novels, complete with Nodes. They're described as rivers of Life Energy that bleed off from all living things and "flow" to another plane. Further, it requires certain magical potential to attempt to tap their energy without being overwhelmed or burned out; mages who can do this are called Masters (or Adepts, if they can also handle nodes).
- The conspiracy theory in Foucault's Pendulum assumes that The Knights Templar learned to harness the power of the ley lines.
- Rupert in Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones is very distressed when he realizes the hotel where he's gathering his magical candidates is built at a node between ley lines. It has a bit too much magical power behind it for him to be comfortable working with it. He's entirely right, of course.
- Another Diana Wynne Jones novel that uses the concept of ley lines is The Homeward Bounders, where they're tied up with the position and behaviour of the Bounds.
- Stephen King's The Dark Tower series has proxy Ley Lines.
See the TURTLE, ain't he keen?All things serve the fuckin' Beam.
- The Book of Night with Moon; about feline wizards who maintain magical gates that lie beneath Manhattan. Cats happen to have a natural talent for manipulating the magical "hyperstrings" that form the worldgate under the city.
- In The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, ley lines are used for magical travel.
- They appear in at least one of the Saga of Recluce novels by L.E. Modesitt Jr., when the heroes are attempting to learn how to handle both Order and Chaos magic. Otherwise, they are hardly ever mentioned, you can read several of the novels and not even know they exist. Most mages don't know about them.
- Moon of Gomrath (by Alan Garner); the young hero has to follow a ley line in specific circumstances to find a magical plant.
- In both The Moon of Gomrath and its preceding book The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, leylines are places of power where things of the Dark may not go. Characters use this to advantage to fight against capture or death inflicted by the witch, the Morrigan.
- The Rev. Watkins' book The Old Straight Track is referenced and quoted from in The Moon of gomrath and is used to drive the plot at a crucial point in the book,
- Used and mentioned pretty regularly in later volumes of The Dresden Files. Chicago, where the majority of the series takes place, is a major convergence point of many ley lines, which is why so much important stuff happens there. Other centers of ley line concentration include Edinburgh, where the White Council has their headquarters, and a Mayan temple where the climax of Changes occurs is another. One island in Lake Michigan, Demonreach, is actually a source of one such ley line, which is why Harry is cautioned against using its power when he claims the location as a sanctum.
- Played with in Melting Stones by Tamora Pierce. It's mentioned that up until recently, the local mages enhanced their spells by drawing power from what seems to be ley lines. As of the beginning of the story, the power has become unstable and unusable. Later on you find out that they actually drew power from the borders of tectonic plates, and the instability is due to the fact the local volcano is about to blow.
- Used to form the entire basis for magic in Irene Radford's Dragon Nimbus, Dragon Nimbus History, and Stargods series. At least, until a mage decided that dragon magic worked better.
- In the Darkness Series by Harry Turtledove (an allegory of World War II set in a generic fantasy world) leylines take on the role of railway lines in our world, with enchanted carts floating above them. However, because leylines also go under the sea, most ships are also enchanted and ride along them rather than using sails (the Algarvians at one point pull off a surprise invasion by using only rare sailships, magically undetectable). The biggest hub of leylines in the world is the Lagoan capital of Setubal (the equivalent of London), explaining its role as the centre of global trade.
- Ley lines in the Kate Daniels books are fast-moving currents of magic. It's impossible to touch them safely, as any living thing will be sheared off at the knees. However, the ley lines will drag anything along with them, so they're used as transportation. "Ley taxis" are cheap wooden platforms stacked up at every ley point, which people use to ride on.
- In Neil Gaiman's American Gods, it's revealed that in America, instead of getting a mystic urge to mark Nodes by building temples or megaliths on them, people get a mysterious urge to build tacky roadside attractions like The World's Largest Ball of Twine.
- Played straight with The Ship That Won.
- These play an important role in Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon—it is, after all, a Mind Screw about surveyors.
- In Good Omens, Anathema is investigating the Ley Lines and finds they have been moving. They're forming a spiral around the hometown of the Anti Christ.
- A major plot driver in The Mislaid Magician or Ten Years On, one of the Sorcery & Cecelia novels by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer.
- In Spider Robinson's Star Seed an Australian Aborigine is going into space for the purpose of tracking the Songlines, which are her culture's version of Leylines. See Real Life below
- Implied in The Sword of Truth, where towers composing an ancient barrier are built at seemingly random distances from each other, from several yards to several miles. As a sorceress explains, power lines in the earth itself were used to choose the spots.
- The Raven Cycle is set in a small town located on top of a ley line, which may or may not be preserving the the body of a dead Welsh hero.
- The cities in the world of Shaman Blues and The Girl from the Miracles District are full of ley lines, which can be tapped for free magic power and provide "highways" for ghosts to move along without wasting precious energy. They can also, unfortunately, be poisoned by large amounts of black magic in the area, influencing magical creatures around them.
Live Action TV
- In Lost, the island is suggested to move along these lines, as well as having centers of geomagnetic energy.
- They rarely mention them, but ley lines exist in Charmed. The Halliwell house is built on a Nexus, which is why it's so magical.
- The stone circle in Children of the Stones gets its power from ley-lines.
- In the Lost Girl episode Caged Fae, it's mentioned that a prison is build upon a ley line because they are potent geothermal currents that strip the Fae prisoners of their powers.
- Beacon Hills in Teen Wolf apparently has similar energy currents running through it, although they are not in straight lines.
- QI ridiculed the theory in one episode. A map of England was shown apparently with the familiar straight lines meeting at several nodes. Stephen Fry revealed that it was a map showing the location of Woolworths stores, which formed the "nodes".
- The Dark Eye also has leylines along with other forms of Functional Magic.
- Dungeons & Dragons: as usual, has almost anything at least as an option:
- In the Birthright setting realm magic involves using and even creating ley lines to access remote sources. This is necessary because most human wizards live in cities, but human settlement screws up the magical energy.
- In the third edition, characters can accesses earth nodes to gain powers. Also certain magical locations give temporary abilities when used right.
- Exalted has them, though they're called dragon lines because it was the reptilian race known as the Dragon Kings who first mapped them out. In Exalted, it's not so much that their course is determined by the landscape as that the landscape is determined by their course; Essence, as the term implies, literally makes up everything. Geomantic weapons such as the Thousand-Forged Dragons, which can warp, drain, or even destroy a region's dragon lines beyond repair, are thus among the most potent weapons of mass destruction in the setting.
- Mage: The Awakening has ley lines as currents of supernatural energy which conduct resonance (the overriding concepts of a person, place, or thing; e.g. a hospital could have a strong resonance of healing or sickness), and their course is influenced by the local landscape. Nodes are where ley lines intersect, and where their resonances mix and intensify. Mages can harness nodes for free energy. Ley lines and nodes tend to influence the resonance of the areas they pass through. Hallows which occur within nodes tend to be heavily tainted by the resonance, which makes the Mana less suited for mages.
- These are cards in Magic: The Gathering. If you have one in you opening hand, you can start the game with it in play (the battle takess place on that spot). You can also bring them out at any other time, but you have to pay for it like any other enchantment.
- Ley lines are at the heart of Rifts. In the backstory, the Great Cataclysm was caused when a nuclear war took place on the Winter Solstice, during a planetary alignment, feeding vast amounts of power into the ley lines. This overload set off natural disasters across the planet, causing further fatalities and pouring more energy into the ley lines, until finally the world was left in ruins. In the game's present day, the still-overcharged are like massive walls glowing so bright, they can be seen from space at night. They are such a noteworthy source of power that the average magician is known as a Ley Line Walker.
- And where two or more Ley lines converge, they create a Nexus. Nexus points are where the eponymous Rifts appear. Three Nexus points interconnected by Ley Lines form a Triangle, where weird things can happen. Like the one by Bermuda.
- It is further stated that Ley Lines also extend into open space, which is why planetary alignments can cause increased activity on terrestrial ley lines. The Great Cataclysm on Earth also caused ley lines to erupt on the Moon and Mars, and possibly other planets, as well as causing intense solar flare activity. In the Three Galaxies sub-setting, interstellar ley lines are used extensively by magic-using civilizations (e.g. Space Elves) to travel through space without the need for conventional technology (although they use a lot of techno-wizardry).
- Rolemaster campaign setting Shadow World. Essence Flows follow paths around the planet Kulthea and can be tapped for magical power by touching them.
- Shadowrun has Ley Lines called "Mana Lines." In Asia they're called "dragon lines." Places where they cross (and greatly increase ambient mana) are called "power sites."
- Vampire: The Requiem has them, primarily used by the Covenant called Ordo Dracul, and referred by them as "Dragon Lines".
- Ley Lines are somewhat important in Warhammer Fantasy: For starters, the High Elves use them to keep their island home afloat, and disturbing the stones that mark them tends to have really bad consequences (a stray Goblin warlord and his shaman almost sunk the continent, which considering its status as a Cosmic Keystone would have been a Bad Thing.) The Slann also use them to communicate with each other, unfortunately for them they had to move their continent around a bit, which meant that their cities in Lustria and the Southlands are no longer aligned, which means they cannot communicate. This leads to redundancy at times, such as hitting the Cathayan fleet with two hurricanes.
- Blue Rose has wellsprings, where magic bursts forth and can be tapped by arcanists, and ley lines (also called streams) connecting the wellsprings to each other, which can also be tapped for power, but their main use is locating where wellsprings are, as their own power is very little compared to the springs.
- Iron Kingdoms: At least three factions use ley lines.
- Iosan (elven) warjacks (called "myrmidons") used by the Retribution of Scyrah are not steam-powered like human warjacks. Instead they have an arcane accumulator which collects and stores magical energy from nearby ley lines.
- The druids of the Circle of Oroboros have been known to perform some of their rituals at ley line nexi.
- The Convergence of Cyriss makes the most extensive use of ley lines, as they are trying to move and reshape the ley lines and nexi in order to get their goddess Cyriss to manifest on the world of Caen.
- World of Warcraft has these: Ley nodes are shown in the elven territory, and Karazhan is highly spooky because every single ley line passes through it. Before his defeat the deranged Dragon Aspect of Magic tried to redirect them all to his base where he could toss the magic "safely" into space in a misguided attempt to protect the world.
- The Wild ARMs series seems to alternate between having one or multiple ley lines running through Filgaia. It is mentioned directly in Wild ARMs 1 and Wild ARMs 3, with the first game mistranslating it as "Ray Line" (although this was fixed in the remake).
- Ley points also appear in Wild ARMs 4, Wild ARMs 5 and Wild ARMs XF. They are identified with one of each of the elements and affect the element of spells or summons used from on top of them.
- In Wild ARMs 2, they're mentioned as part of the plan to trap an Eldritch Location inside a "Mana Prison". However, they're again mistranslated, this time as "Ralines" and "Raypoints".
- There's an exploration badge in City of Heroes that mentions Ley Lines.
- There's a couple actually, Paragon City is referred to more than once as a place Ley Lines cross, which is used as the explanation for why so many magical things happen there.
- The city zone Dark Astoria lies on top of a Ley Line, it is theorized that some of the ghosts that can be seen walking around in the fog may be visions of people in an alternate universe where the place was not taken over by Banished Pantheon cultists and their zombie servants.
- There's a couple actually, Paragon City is referred to more than once as a place Ley Lines cross, which is used as the explanation for why so many magical things happen there.
- Dungeon Siege II refers to Ley Lines.
- In Shadow Hearts: Covenant, has ley lines serve as a very minor piece of the plot on the second disc.
- In Destroy All Humans! 3, according to the "Lunarian Church of Alientology", they are "invisible rivers of mystical energy", and they want to build where the ley lines cross in order to use them to communicate interstellar distances with their minds.
- The Crystal Lines in Final Fantasy XI. They're easy to spot, considering the Zilart essentially encased them in cement.
- There's also the leypoint in Wajaom Woodlands. Players can complete a quest to receive a ring that teleports them to that point that involves them getting struck by lightning.
- Leylines are arguably the underlying concept of Draw Points in Final Fantasy VIII, which are depicted as fissures in the ground that stream with magical energy, not unlike a natural gasline.
- The eponymous railway of The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks are not only rails for the royal trains, they also act as the Ley Lines that channel the energy of the Spirits and keep Malladus imprissoned within the Tower of Spirits.
- The ritual known as the Holy Grail (from Fate/stay night) works by using a giant mana circle to collect mana from the two foci of leylines under Fuyuki, and then using this mana to summon Heroic Spirits. In the ending of Fate/Zero, Kiritsugu uses explosives to damage part of the leyline so the circle will eventually be obliterated by an earthquake before the Fifth Holy Grail War can occur. Too bad the Fourth didn't end normally...
- While not explicitly used in Super Robot Wars Z, but Asakim Dowin's Humongous Mecha Shurouga can execute its strongest attack "Ley Buster", which turns into a crash attack generated by a circle of seemingly magical energy. The above picture is even given a Shout-Out as part of the "Spheroid of Destruction".
- Heroes of Might and Magic 4 has those. Sacred Groves are created at the crossings of those. Conveniently, there can be always at least one such crossing in each Preserve, seeing as a grove can theoretically be built in any of such cities when it isn't forbidden by map settings. The groves boost a hero's maximum mana count permanently by 3. Additionally, Gauldoth the Half-Dead's campaign (the necropolis faction one) involves opening a portal to another realm, where Gauldoth's master Kalibarr is being held prisoner. That is done by destroying the Angel's Blade at a giant nexus point of the same kind of lines, which is described in words as a place where many rainbow-coloured lines meet, visible to a practitioner of Nature magic like Gauldoth. On the map, it looks like many other evil-styled Quest Gates, though.
- Dungeons of Dredmor has an ability tree in which you specialize in the usage of ley lines, who increases mana and mana regeneration.
- Tales of Berseria (and by extension Tales of Zestiria, which Berseria is a distant prequel to) calls them "the earthpulse." A good chunk of the game involves hunting down nexuses, called earthpulse points. On a few occasions the cast actually enters the earthpulse physically.
- Fire Emblem Fates features the Dragon Vein mechanic, where any dragon-blooded (read: royal) character standing on a tile with streams of glowing energy can use their turn to alter the terrain and conditions on the map. Upon using it, a silhouette based on one of The Four Gods appears on-screen, hinting it might be akin to the same Dragon Veins in Feng Shui. In-game myth explains this as a side effect of having the blood of the god figure who shaped the world in its very beginning.
- The world of Nexus Clash is riddled with Ley Lines powered by Good, Evil or Arcane energy. They can be absorbed to recharge one's Mana Meter, but Good and Evil ley lines may harm those that they deem unworthy.
- The Sins once used the term to define the spot where they built the temples to draw energy from. Rhett quips that this makes the embodiment of evil hippies.
- Ley lines, and nexuses where they cross, are mentioned early in 8-Bit Theater. Black Mage is a living nexus.
- In Tales of the Questor, Ley Lines are discussed quite often when talking about their system of magic, known as 'lux.'
- While it hasn't influenced the plot, one annotation on Irregular Webcomic! pointed out that moving vast numbers of ancient artifacts to the world's museums would turn them into immensely powerful nodes.
- The physics of magic in Elf Blood dictate that magical energy is fluid, and flows along tidal pathways that essentially act as leylines. When two or more of them meet, they push up against each other and form a lofty Place of Power that is a valuable resource for mages.
- Nikki Reilly from the Whateley Universe can tap ley lines to increase her power. Her dependence on them comes back to bite her in her combat final, where fallout from a previous fight in the same arena has caused all the local ley lines to become temporarily messed up.
- As mentioned in the description, there are a handful of real-world beliefs that use the term. Whether the lines are created by what is built on them, or things are built on the line over the centuries because it is there, tends to vary.
- In traditional Australian Aboriginal belief systems there are "songlines", which are sort of equivalent to ley lines. The simplest way to describe them would be spiritually significant paths through the land between places like water holes, hunting grounds, or sacred places. These paths (sometimes hundreds of kilometres long) and the landmarks along them are memorised as long, complex, extremely sacred songs that tell the story of how they were formed by gods or totem ancestors, such as the Rainbow Serpent.
- When a newer religion (most notably Christianity, for its tendency to convert natives) entered an area, the place the church would end up being built was usually either on the very site of the old worship, or if they didn't convert, a secondary spot of importance was chosen, usually a mountaintop or the center of a grove of trees, or somewhere else that was considered naturally vigorous, lucky, or both.
- Because of this, older churches in Glastonbury, Somerset, have problems with militant New Agers trying to "reclaim the sacred places for paganism". The senior vicar at one church says this is a regular problem and points out, not unreasonably, that whatever his church might have previously been, for over a thousand years it has been a Christian place of worship and he'd be pleased if people respected this.
- The Muslims do this too, if this article is any judge.
- Feng Shui has a similar concept known as Dragon Lines (or Dragon Breath/Veins/Pulse, depending on the source and translation), vessels through which the planet's Chi flows. They're usually depicted as more ubiquitous and varied than ley lines.
- Telluric current is the Earth's natural electricity that flows underground and underwater. There's also White noise (aka static) experienced when an analog radio or TV picks up radio frequencies from the atmosphere.
- The electrical power-grid could be considered a man-made version; because there are good and bad places to ground, for the flow of electricity. The book Cross Currents notes that widespread human electrical systems are such a recent occurrence that the interaction with the Earth's natural electrical systems (even it's magnetic field) could be affected in ways that may take centuries to understand fully. This may be a problem as we depend on the geomagnetic field to protect us from solar and cosmic radiation, and we've already seen what can happen when chemical pollution interacts with the Ozone layer.
- The internet is probably the only real-life example that fits this trope quite well. Take a look at the map of the internet.◊ If you tap into the points where nodes meet, such as an internet backbone, your internet speed will shoot through the roof.
- Watkins' argument that "in ancient times when Britain was very densely forested, people built roads in geographically convenient straight lines" falls down on several inconvenient truths in civil engineering. Not even the Romans could manage to build long straight roads for very long distances. You can clear a path through forests with enough effort, but you still need to cross ranges of hills and mountains. An absolutely straight road over hills or mountains would be so steep as to be unclimbable. You need to (i) aim at natural gaps or low passes between hills; or (ii) compromise by having your road follow the shallowest possible contour up and around rising ground. You also need to aim your road at the best and most practical places to cross rivers. And these are rarely located on a convenient straight line between the places you want to connect. A moment's reflection will tell you curves, bends and deviations, however slight, are inevitable in the best-surveyed roadway. And in countries where really long straight roads are possible - Australia or the continental USA - there's a subtler problem. For roads approaching a thousand miles long, the curvature of the earth itself means the engineers must build in a bend or two at some point. Or else the long straight road between Denver and Los Angeles that looks so good on paper will miss its target by quite a long way if built to that tantalising straight line. Paper is flat: the planet isn't.
- To a cursory glance at the map, the A47 road, a significant highway crossing the flattest part of England and connecting Norwich to Yarmouth, is straight as an arrow. If you wanted an example of a possible ley line on the map of England, you might begin here. But the problem is - it isn't. Generations of boy racers, in big powerful cars and motorbikes, have come to grief at a place called Acle. Here, people wanting to see what a motorbike can do at over a hundred on a long straight road have had the moment of realisation that at Acle, it's not as straight as they think. There is a very slight but significant curve. note People travelling too fast have run out of road, and buried themsevles in the fields beyond.
- Historian Graham Robb, in his book the Ancient Path, is a modern suporter of Watkins who claims to have found evidence for the proposition that the ancients built long straight roads, arguing that the Romans were simply improving on tracks and roads already created by peoples they conquered, especially in Britain.