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WINCHESTER LEY, Hampshire


The course of the ley runs from the N of Winchester SSE through the ancient city itself, over St.Catherine's Hill to its S, and terminates in a tumulus beyond that. It is just under 11 3/4 miles long.

Tidbury Ring (46264292) begins the ley in the N. It is a large site, a prehistoric camp, ringed by ditches and trees, hard by the A34 which deviates to go round the Ring's E flank. Coins have been uncovered on the site and the remains of Roman buildings were discovered in the centre of the earthwork, though nothing is visible above ground. Standing at the S entrance of the camp, good views down the ley toward Winchester are to be had.

The ley passes over the A34 at a sudden bend, and about 4 miles further on passes over a long barrow (47283615) near South Wonston. The feature is virtually invisible; only the merest ridge can be detected in a small field. During our fieldwork, an elderly local man told us that the barrow had been over a hundred yards long, and showed us slight banks either side of an unadopted road running alongside the field which indicated, he claimed, the place where one end of the barrow had been. His information was borne out by our research at the O.S. A bowl barrow and another long barrow used to exist in the immediate vicinity.

The ley next enters Winchester. This city has been a pre-Roman settlement, a Roman town, and the capital of England (until 1278). The third ley point is the parish church of St. Bartholomew (48153019) in Winchester, a 12th century building in King Alfred's Place. On the line of the ley, across the road from the church, is the 15th century Hyde Gate, at the site of Hyde Abbey and supposedly the burial place of Alfred the Great.

The ley continues across Winchester and reaches the Cathedral (48222927) where it passes through the Lady Chapel at the E end of the building. In 645 King Cenwalh of Wessex had a church built on the site, but nothing now remains of this Saxon cathedral. The cathedral guidebook suggests that it is 'not impossible' that monolith pillars in the transepts of the present cathedral were taken from the ruins of a Roman temple previously on the site. Winchester Cathedral is another that Professor Lyle Borst feels owes something to the geometry and orientation of former megalithic structure on the site. This supports the earlier opinion of E.O.Gordon, who wrote that it was practically certain that the cathedral had been built on the site of a stone circle 'from the fact that several druidic stones were at one time to be seen in the Close.' The cathedral is associated with St. Swithun, one of its bishops, who died in 862. Many miracles were reported at St. Swithun's tomb, and it became an object of pilgrimage. The present cathedral is basically Norman. Alfred Watkins claimed there was a well beneath the alter, while Underwood reported that the crypt contained two wells. Underwood studied the cathedral by dowsing methods, and found it to be related to a variety of geodetic phenomena.

From the Cathedral, the ley reaches the S outskirts of the city and passes over St. Catherine's Hill (48402765), the next ley point. The hilltop is encircled by the earthworks of a camp dated to about 500 BC. A clump of trees in the centre obscures the foundations of a medieval chapel dedicated to St. Catherine. Near this clump, and dead on the ley, is the turf labyrinth known as the Mizmaze. The origins of this feature are unknown. Some think it dates from the 18th century, while many believe it 'may be much older'. As Jacquetta Hawkes puts it. W.H. Matthews noted that it is the groove between the turf paths that delineates the labyrinth: this suggests an error in recutting at some time. Standing on the Mizmaze and looking back along the ley, Winchester Cathedral is just visible beyond the rim of the hill. It was a surprise to us when doing our fieldwork to find the labyrinth on the ley, for its position cannot be accurately understood from the 1:25,000 map. Finally, a legend relates that the larger stone of the Long Stone chamber tomb, several miles away near Mottistone, was hurled there by a giant from St. Catherine's Hill.

Some ley hunters and ufologists consider St. Catherine to be symbolically associated with the fiery 'Catherine Wheel' or UFO in the sky. Whether or not there is anything in this notion, the SE area around Winchester, dominated by St. Catherine's Hill, became the stage for a number of dramatic UFO/humanoid contacts in 1976 and 1977. In 1958, over Winchester itself, two objects were seen 'buzzing' an aircraft by two witnesses - one of them an ex-RAF air-gunner using binoculars. In 1968 a formation of UFO's was seen over the city.

The final ley point is a tumulus marked on the map at 48992455, near Twyford. The feature is virtually ploughed out - just visible. It had been a bowl barrow according to O.S. records.

Archives

18.6km, bearing 172°/352°.

WinchesterLine