AN award-winning travel writer is the latest person to lose his bearings over Herefordshire’s celebrated geographer Alfred Watkins.

Man Booker Prize head judge Robert Macfarlane, in a Daily Telegraph feature, ambitiously titled The truth behind Alfred Watkins’ ‘ley lines’, misplaced the site of Watkins’ famed discovery by around 20 miles.

Robbing the good people of Blackwardine of their most significant historical event, Mr Macfarlane attributed the setting of Mr Watkins’ moment of clarity – where he observed a network of ruler-straight tracks spreading across the countryside – to the west Herefordshire village of Bredwardine.

He is not, however, the first person to make this mistake insists the Hereford Times’ walking correspondent Garth Lawson.

“People have perpetuated an error in an anonymous foreword to one of Watkins’ books since 1925,” said Garth, who questions whether Mr Macfalane actually read the whole book.

Mr Macfarlane, ironically the author of Original Copy: Plagiarism and Originality in Nineteenth- Century Literature, also told an audience at the Hay Festival last week that those in the border town could see idyllic Bredwardine, where, riding on horseback, Watkins was said to have had his eureka moment. In reality, said Garth, he was sitting in his car at the Blackwardine crossroads.

“Blackwardine is so unspectacular people don’t like to think that this big idea started here,” he said.

“Mr Macfarlane is a scholar without doubt, but he is wrong about this.”

Mr Watkins presented his observations to the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club in 1921, sparking a revolution in the way ancient pathways would be perceived.

His theory that tracks criss-crossed the country from key point to key point, and not avoiding natural obstacles like mountains, guaranteed his legacy as one of the county’s most renowned sons.

Aside from authors, his ideas – outlined in his book The Old Straight Track – have been oft-quoted by proponents of extra-terrestrialism and students of telluric electrical forces said to flow through the world.

Most notably perhaps, his fame saw the Wye Valley Brewery name a beer, Watkins’ Triumph, in his honour in 2002.

‘Ley hunters’ still scour the country to signs of his ancient routes, and in his book Herefordshire Walks, Garth plotted a ramble taking in Mr Watkins’ vantage point at Blackwardine and including the sighting points at Croft Ambrey and Stretton Grandison that shaped his theory.

In his piece in Saturday’s Telegraph, Mr Macfarlane describes his own ley hunt via Bredwardine, as a happy – if not historically accurate – experience.