ONE of the country's most popular - and secretive - artists may have left his mark on a Herefordshire town.

Artwork bearing all the hallmarks of renowned graffiti artist Banksy appeared on the wall of an alleyway off High Street in Ledbury in the early hours of this morning.

It featured a life sized portrait of famous former town poet John Masefield and the opening line to one of his poems.

Town businesses say they are mystified by the new addition, while members of the town's forthcoming poetry festival deny it is a publicity stunt.

"We know it wasn't there at 11.15pm last night," said John Nash from John Nash Antiques and Interiors on the High Street, whose property borders the alleyway.

"Whoever it was would needed to have had some light as there isn't any lighting in that alleyway.

"We know nothing about it but the quality of it is outstanding. It's obviously someone who knows what they are doing."

Another trader so he wouldn't be surprised if it was a Banksy, an unknown artist whose street art often features dark humour.

"I was working until about 8pm and there was nothing there then," said Martin Clark who runs Tilley Printing, also on High Street.

"But by 7.30am this morning there was John Masefield with a quote from one of his poems.

"I've got no idea who did it. It could be a Banksy. It's possible.

"People have been round to try and verify it."

Ledbury Poetry Festival, which gets underway on Friday, has been linked on social media to the artwork, but bosses denied knowledge when contacted by the Hereford Times.

The poem quoted beside the image of John Masefield is called Sea Fever, one of his most popular works.