PUBLISHED: 15:31 29 November 2009 | UPDATED: 16:19 20 February 2013
Since more crop circles appear in Wiltshire than anywhere else in the world, we look at some examples of this year's 'devil mowers'.
Although the study of crop circles only started in 1980, the phenomenon has been noted for hundreds of years. Indeed there is a story of a devil mower dating from 1672, where corn had reportedly been laid down by an evil spirit. Much data has been accumulated since then: the number of recorded designs exceeds 6,000; the formations are not always circular; and seldom have there been any repeated patterns, only expansions on themes. Most interestingly, although crop circles are found worldwide, Wiltshire is still the most active area.
The formations are found mostly in cereal crops, including maize, but also in any ground cover that can take an impression fields of vegetables, rice paddies, grassland, woodland (where trees are bent), sand, earth, ice and snow. Over the years, samples of thousands of plants and soil have been analysed in laboratories, and results show that the formation of crop circles generates an intense heat that makes the cells of the plants swell up and bend, transforming the composition of the soil.
Based on these observations, scientists have concluded that crop circles can appear within seconds, and that they appear in all weather conditions, ranging in size and design from small simple circles to huge geometric shapes of over 500ft in diameter, the largest recorded being over 1,000ft long.
Every year thousands of visitors flock to Wiltshire during the summer months to visit the crop circles on the ground (and possibly fly over them for a really spectacular view), yet many residents of Wiltshire are still unaware that more than one or two still appear in our fields. This year over 70 appeared in the UK, nearly 60 of which were in Wiltshire (or lying just on the Oxfordshire border), and with more and more tourists visiting the area, some of the farming community have accommodated visitors in return for donations, a scheme which has been welcomed by enthusiasts. The Wiltshire Crop Circle Study Group, based in Devizes, has been busier than ever this year with visitors contacting the group for information about the formations and their appearance, and requesting information on how to visit them.
Some controversy still remains as to whether or not crop circles are man-made, but with many appearing in just a few hours of darkness overnight, and often while enthusiasts are positioned on hilltops trying to solve the mystery, no team of crop artists can practically lay claim to them all. In fact, there is little hard evidence to support they can lay claim to any. And so the mystery continues.
With thanks to Francine Blake and Clare Oatley of the Wiltshire Crop Circle Study Group.
PHOTOS: OLIVIER MOREL, WILTSHIRE CROP CIRCLE GROUP