Crop Circles

Crop circles (c) Adrian Warren and Dae Sasitorn

Britain from the Air - Crop Circles

Fact or folklore?

The first crop circle ever reported was in 1678. According to the story, a farmer and a crop mower were arguing about the cost of harvesting the farmer’s oat field. The farmer was furious at the mower’s price, and stormed off swearing that the Devil himself should harvest the crop. 

That night, a dazzlingt light lit up the oat field and in the morning the farmer discovered perfectly round circles in his crops. He was so frightened by the circles, which he thought could only have been so "neatly mowed by the Devil or some infernal spirit", that he abandoned any attempt to harvest the field.

A phenomenon in British fields since the 17th century, crop circles continue to puzzle us. There have been many bizarre explanations for them. Some have said they are the work of aliens trying to communicate with us using symbols. Scientists have suggested tornadoes, lightning, plasma, and more convincing suggestions, such as wind, heat and animals.

Although there are many theories for why crop circles occur, most have been identified as pranks. Doug Bower and David Chorley admitted to creating 250 crop circles over 13 years using wooden planks and two lengths of string.

Fact or fiction?

One of Britain’s most enduring hoaxes is the Loch Ness Monster. A photo of the creature taken in 1934 by the surgeon Colonel Robert Wilson made its way into the papers and for decades was taken as evidence that a sea monster lived in Loch Ness. Wilson refused to have his name associated with the photograph, so it became known simply as ‘The Surgeon’s Photo’.

Finally in 1994, sixty years after the photograph first emerged, the truth came out. One of the men involved admitted to creating a model from a toy submarine fitted with a serpent head. The hoax was well planned; Colonel Wilson was chosen as a frontman because of his respected status.

'Nessie' is not Britain's only hoax. In 1912 the skull of a "million year old" human was discovered in Piltdown, Sussex by an amateur archaeologist. Scientists believed this 'Piltdown Man' was the missing link between primates and humans. Then in 1953 it was exposed as a hoax. The skull fragments were only 500 years old, and the jaw bone belonged to an orangutan.

In 1917 two young girls produced photographic evidence of fairies living in the bottom of their garden. The pictures only emerged as hoaxes in the early 1980s when the women admitted to faking four of the pictures. They used paper cut outs propped up with hat pins. They insisted, however, that the fifth photo was real.

Click to reveal the full picture

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Location: Devizes, Wilstshire, SN10 4RT
Grid reference: SU 04064 55368

Britain from the Air - Crop Circles credits

Thank you to -

Adrian Warren and Dae Sasitorn for aerial photography

Text researched and written by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)

In 2008 one of Britain's most complex crop circles appeared in Wroughton, Wiltshire. Measuring 150 feet across, it was said to be a coded diagram for the first 10 digits of 'pi' - 3.141592654