Crop Circles

Wiltshire, England, is seemingly the crop circle capitol of the world. It is perhaps the only place one can visit on any random summer day and see at least one crop circle on a hillside or in a vale. Wiltshire is also quite close to the town in the Southwest of England where my mother’s family lives. So during my recent trip to Great Britain we hopped into the car, my aunt in the driver’s seat, with no particular plan or agenda other than to see some crop circles.

A couple of miles outside Avebury, we spied a line of people trudging up a hillside wheat field across from Silbury Hill. We knew right away there must be a crop circle up at the top of that hill, although it wasn’t visible from the road below. And so, cameras in hand, we joined the procession, an interesting mixture of new age types, hikers, and tourists. Sure enough, when we got to the hilltop we found ourselves standing inside a crop circle. The wheat stalks were just taller than waist-level and had been neatly bent at the ground into a shape that was quite beautiful to behold, even from close up. It was roughly 50 yards across with a circular perimeter and a multitude of different patterns inside. Parts of the circle were crisscrossed into a sort of maze, while elsewhere there were circles within circles. It seemed to be exactly symmetric, and the precision of the craftsmanship (or would that be craftsalienship?) was simply phenomenal. We spent nearly half an hour wandering through the circles and pathways, and my cousin struck up a conversation with a hippie woman who gave her a four-leafed clover and directions to the Crop Circle Cafe, where we were told we could find more information about the “freshest” crop circles. More recently-flattened circles are less trampled and, according to this woman, that’s where visitors are most likely to “feel” things. On our way out of the field, we dropped a couple quid into the donations barrel set out by the owner of the field in an attempt to recoup losses caused by the appearance of the crop circle.

At the Crop Circle Cafe, we examined a wall of photos from the 2004 summer crop circle season. Many of the circles featured complex geometrical patterns, but some were simple solid circles. All appeared to be of high quality. Also in the Cafe was a map of the Southwest, pins stuck in where crop circles had appeared. About 95% were within the boundaries of Wiltshire County. Why? Explanations range from the skeptical (the farmers and crop-circle makers have an agreement to share profits from tourism) to the mystical (the area has sacred powers, thus the ancient Avebury stone circle, barrows, white horses, and, today, crop circles).

Despite the fact that we didn’t purchase anything, the kind proprietors of the Crop Circle Cafe directed us to another site where we could get a view of some circles from above. We followed her directions to a hill with a public right-of-way leading up its side. From the top we were able to see two distinct crop circles in the fields below. These were just as beautifully made as the circle we’d seen up close, and from a distant vantage point it was even easier to appreciate the symmetry of the circle designs. Looking at these circles, we came to a consensus that we’d consider the crop circles “unexplained.” In other words, they could be otherworldly, or they could be the artistic product of a group of talented people — we’d accept either explanation but are meanwhile just happy to revel in the mystery of the whole thing.

My photos of the crop circle tour are here.