Wiltshires’ ongoing mystery
by Keith Kellett
The county of Wiltshire, in the west of
England is famous for its circles. The best known, probably, is the huge
stone circle at Stonehenge, followed by the bigger circles at Avebury,
thirty miles north. Less well known is the site of the circle of wooden
posts … concrete pillars now mark where they were … at Durrington, near
Stonehenge, at a site now known, naturally, as Woodhenge.
Recent excavations have revealed an ancient village near Woodhenge, where
it’s been suggested the builders of Stonehenge had their homes. So, now I’m
wondering if Woodhenge was possibly a ‘mock-up’ of its more famous neighbour.
Over the last two or three decades, Wiltshire has been noted for circles of
another kind. Mysterious patterns have been appearing in crops, to be erased
at harvest time. They have been appearing in other counties, too, as well as
in other countries, but Wiltshire seems to receive most.
Simple circles had been appearing in farmers’ crops for generations, but the
media didn’t start taking an interest until the early 1980s. By 1990,
however, the new phenomenon had changed from simple circular patterns into
massive and complex geometric formations. Then, they really caught the
public imagination, especially as many of them could be found around ancient
sites such as Stonehenge, Avebury and Silbury Hill, the largest manmade
mound in Europe.
Theories as to their origin abounded. Were they maybe caused by freak
weather conditions? Or, the down-draught from military helicopters, often
seen over Wiltshire.
Some even dismissed their cause as rutting hedgehogs! A few believed that
they were messages from other worlds, although many others said, if that
were so, surely any passing extra-terrestrials would have left a message we
Could they, suggested one wag, be the intergalactic equivalent of ‘Kilroy
Wuz Here’? Or, the equivalent of a giant game of noughts-and-crosses?
At that stage, human activity was discounted; after all, I had passed one in
a field I knew to have been empty half an hour before, because I had flown
over it in a helicopter.
Farmers declared it was nothing to do with them. Usually, thousands of
pounds worth of damage had been done to their crops, which some of them
recouped by charging admission to their fields and sometimes, producing
souvenirs. Others weren’t so lucky. The ‘key pattern’, which appeared in a
field near the village of Alton Barnes was reproduced on the cover of a Led
‘I only got a copy of the LP out of it!’ said the farmer, ruefully.
Near Alton Barnes, at a village called Honey Street, a pub called The Barge
stands beside the Kennet and Avon Canal. Surprisingly, though, there’s very
little canal and barge memorabilia there, just a painted milk-churn in one
corner, some decorated plates in another and a model of a canal narrow-boat
in a display case.
The back bar is different, though; in fact, it’s probably unique. Over the
years, it’s become the unofficial headquarters for ‘circle-watchers’ …
they prefer to call themselves cereologists, but are more often called
So, it’s been decorated with a map showing the location of almost every
circle or pattern reported so far, and photographs of most of them are on
display. One wall is almost covered with a bulletin board, upon which the
Croppies can post information, or leave messages for one another. Any blank
wall … and the ceiling … has been painted with a mural by artist Vince
Palmer, showing some of the best-known patterns.
Media interest began to wane in the late 1990s. For many years, people had
been coming forward, and claiming they had been responsible for the crop
circles. Few believed them at first … I suppose it could be claimed that
they didn’t want to believe them … but much weight was added to their cause
when they gave a demonstration of crop circle making of TV.
But, although the media have decided the circles are no longer newsworthy,
and packed up their cameras and moved on, the circle-watchers aren’t
convinced that all has been explained.
They admit that some of the circles could be due to human activity … indeed,
those bearing recognizable trade-marks certainly are.
2006 was a fairly quiet year for circle activity; the peak seems to have
been in 1999 … but, what will 2007 bring? The ‘season’ starts around April
or May, so if you’re anywhere in the world … but in England or Wiltshire in
particular … watch those cornfields carefully. You never know what you might
written for fun while serving in the Royal Air Force, Keith Kellett
developed his hobby into a business when he retired. He has published in
many print magazines, and on the Web., and is presently trying to get his
head around blogging, podcasting and video.
For more information on this unique phenomena, there is now a whole
website, telling their history, and how to make a crop circle, at www.circlemakers.org. The best website for circle-watchers is
www.cropcircleconnector.com. You can find out about the latest sightings,
and report your own, here.