Plotting the Liverpool Ley Line

Over the past five months, I’ve been working on a monthly page in Bodge, the Liverpool Arts Lab magazine, called Ley Lines for Fun and Profit. As part of this, I began plotting strange and interesting points in Liverpool and looking for alignments between then using GIS software.

Even with only ~30 points, there are already promising alignments emerging, such as these two which run between Eleanor Rigby’s grave and the Mathew Street Manhole, via Calderstone’s park. I’ve put an interactive map online.

One of my favourite things about ley lines is that the arrangements have been shown to be a statistical quirk. While a lot of people have dismissed the idea for this reason, it makes me more excited. A surprisingly small number of points can produce some fascinating alignments. Alignments of random points are inevitable, particularly at the threshold of 4-5 points used to make a ‘classic’ ley line. Given the power of modern Geographic information Systems it should be possible to find some incredible geographical coincidences.

A few years back, I generated the alignments between Brighton pubs. During lockdown, I followed the most interesting of these with Ben Graham and found that it included some fascinating resonances. It would be easy to believe that there is real significance to these lines, even if they are only examples of apophonia.

Since Bodge is produced by the Liverpool Arts Lab, I thought it would be interesting to try to find a Liverpool ley line. I’ve been plotting points related to the Beatles and Cosmic Trigger. I’ve added some items from Atlas Obscura. I am hoping to find some items related to Julian Cope as well as Courtney Love’s time in Liverpool. I’m listing the ones I’ve found here, and I’d be grateful for any suggestions, which you can add at this link.

(I recently received a great suggestion, Liverpool’s Bond Street, which is the site of a time slip).

So far, I’ve gathered about 35 points. I’ve yet to find a truly convincing ley, but I’m starting to see possible candidates. Hopefully, as I add more places of interesting, something all emerge that tells an amazing story. I’m visiting Liverpool at the end of the month, and I hope to trace one of these lines and see what I find on the ground.

Walking the Brighton Pub Ley: an experiment

The threshold for how many places you need to generate ley-lines is surprisingly low. As computers became powerful enough to demonstrate this for mundane sites (like public toilets or pizza restaurants) mainstream ley line research died away. What remained of the subject was absorbed into new age thought, where the burdens of proof were lower.

Back in lockdown 3, I walked along a ‘synthetic ley’, the major north/south alignment of Brighton pubs. If you chart the lines between pubs, there is a large number of east-west alignments parallel to the seafront. Which makes sense, given that you would expect the town’s pubs would to be placed along the seafront and the main coast roads. There is however, one line which strikes roughly northwest, beginning at the Pull and Pump, then heading via the Bear Inn to the Swan in Falmer.

There was obviously no question of this line being constructed intentionally. Despite that, following the line threw up a number of synchronicities ands strangeness that would have strongly corroborated a line made of more ancient sites. It was a surprising result.

The first few sections were nothing special and I wondered if this was a waste of time. Ben pointed out the pub that hosted an early Festival 23 event, and the one where he first read poetry. They were some way off the line, however, even if they looked closer in real life than on the map.

Things became more interesting as we reached the North Laine. The line passed through the Prince Albert, one of Brighton’s most iconic pubs. From there, it entered the office block complex opposite, directly through a desk I’d worked at. An even bigger surprise came on the other side of these offices. The ley intersects the Brighton stone circle twice, but it actually passed through the 39th stone. A little later on it passed through a house I used to live in.

As well as personal resonances, there was the fact that the line passed through the Druid’s Head pub, perhaps hinting at where this line might have emerged? I’d not even realised that the Druid’s head was on the line – possibly it was closed when the dataset I had was generated. And then there were references to stellar alignments in the Bear and Swan pubs, referencing their respective constellation.

As a ley line, the Brighton Pub Ley is obviously just a matter of chance. Despite that, it was still deeply meaningful, on a personal level and a wider one. The experiment of creating this ley suggests that interesting work can be done using public GIS data and the right scripts to develop interesting, meaningful lines in any city.

Imaginary Spaces (Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi)

A young man lives inside a structure of endless hallways, containing countless statues. Tides flow in the lower levels where he fishes for food; to the east, some of the halls have collapsed. Sometimes, another man comes to visit.

Susanna Clarke’s novel Piranesi describes a man exploring a strange world. He makes his own calendar, and tracks his life through journals. This sort of high-concept novel makes me nervous, as it can easily collapse into what literary critics refer to as ‘wank’. I was sure any revelation would break the book, but Clarke delivered a satisfying conclusion.

Piranesi made me think of other books set in infinite buildings, such as the Library of Babel, or Ballard’s The Enormous Space. And, of course, House of Leaves, since Piranesi describes his building as ‘the House’. The TARDIS is another reference, and the book includes a subtle reference to the episode Blink. It also refers to Dunne’s Experiment with Time which just keeps turning up.

(Having said that, I totally missed the references of the name Piranesi, and it was only after reading that I went to google and learned about the Italian artist’s Imaginary Prisons).

While the book is not about memory palaces, it made me think about such uses of imaginary space. I’ve been reading about Ley lines again, thinking about the way space can be used to remember and to tell stories. Someone once told me about Fulcanelli’s book The Mystery of the Cathedrals, which claims that France’s great cathedrals are actually alchemy textbooks.

On the final day of the CERN pilgrimage, the Liverpool Arts Lab led a tour of Liverpool along the shore Lake Zurich. One place was mapped on another. I sometimes think about measuring out the distances between Varanasi’s ghats, and placing them along Brighton’s seafront. That way, I can take my daily quarantine strolls in an entirely different place.