ROLLRIGHT LEY, Northamptonshire/Oxfordshire

From an earthwork by Chipping Warden in Northamptonshire, the ley runs from 16 3/4 miles SW to the Rollright stone circle in Oxfordshire. A difficulty to watch for when attempting to plot leys through the Rollright Stones is that their relative positions on the 1:50,000 and 1:25,000 scales do not quite tally. A small difference, but enough to seriously affect ley hunting.

Starting in the NW, the round earthwork next to the A361 at Chipping Warden, marked on the map as Arbury Camp (49404858), is encountered. This is 'presumably of Iron Age date', overlain by a medieval field system.

A few miles further to the SW the ley crosses over into Oxfordshire and passes through an ancient river crossing known as Cropredy Bridge (47004650). The site's main claim to fame is the fierce battle that was fought here in 1644 during the Civil War, but the bridge has existed since 1314. The river is shallow here and almost certainly the ancient bridge replaced a ford: in the Walterstone ley (W1) a proven case of this happening in more recent times is described.

The course of the ley just misses Hanwell castle before reaching Wroxton Church (41744176). The present church, All Saints, is 14th century and stands on the site of an earlier church of which nothing now remains. The ley passes through the NW corner of the tower (rebuilt in the 18th century).

Not far SW of Wroxton the ley passes over the corner of Castle Bank Camp (40604085). This is not easy to see as there is no direct access from the road, except by a public footpath which we were unable to find, and the earthworks are now very low and easily missed. Only on the NW side, which has a hedge running along it, are the banks at all substantial. The nature of the site is uncertain. The O.S. records cast a wide net: 'It may have been a square camp, a pastoral enclosure or a field system of the Iron Age. Roman influence is possible'.

Carrying on to the SW the ley passes over the curiously named Jester's Hill, presumably a natural feature but with a most unnatural looking regular slope, and crosses the NW corner of Madmarston Hill Camp (38653890). This is one of the few hill-forts to have been properly studied in the county. Numerous pits containing animal bones, pottery and grain have been uncovered in addition to a spring. The now fairly low earthworks enclose 7 acres. The camp is presumed to be Iron Age.

The final ley marker is the spectacular Rollright Circle (29563087). This is more properly known as the King's Men, a stone circle 105 feet in diameter, associated with the King Stone standing nearby and the Whispering Knights dolmen, which is visible across a field from the circle. The circle has not been dated by scientific excavation but is presumed to have been built around 1800 BC.

Grinsell has rightly stated that 'this group of monuments has associated with it one of the richest collections of folklore of any British prehistoric site. The stones were once men, as their names suggest, that have been turned to stone; the stones cannot be counted; the stones used to go down to a stream to drink on New Years Eve (or, in another version, when they hear the Long Compton clock strike midnight); misfortune has befallen those who have moved stones, and so on. If some legends are folk recollection of energy at sites, as suggested in Chapter 4, then this site must be significant in that sense. This possibility is endorsed by the dowsing survey carried out in 1973 by Tom Graves, who found abundant evidence of 'overground energy' operating between all the Rollright Stones and even being 'transmitted' from them across country to other sites.


26.5km in length

Bearing 48.3°/228.3°.