Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Welsh Crop Circles

Welsh Crop Circles

There have now been over 10,000 documented crop circle formations - see cropcirclecenter.com for an awesome database - from all around the world. Although they are usually thought to be a modern phenomena, their history actually stretches back at least as far as the seventeenth century. This is unsurprising as simple circles can be formed by a variety of natural phenomena, from earthworks to animal activity to just possibly something more fantastical. This woodcut of the 'mowing devil' creating a crop circle in a field of oats dates to 1678:

The Mowing Devil of Hertfordshire

As time went on the blame for these circles shifted from demons to fairies to UFOs. In the 1960s a series of 'saucer nests' in Australia made the international press. It was this story that Doug Bower and Dave Chorley credited as the initial inspiration for the 200 or so circles they claimed to have created across England from 1978 onwards. 

They went public in 1991, demonstrating how they created crop circles with little more than a wooden board and a few pieces of string. Men Who Conned The World details the inconsistencies in their story, and there are a fair few of them, but whether they cover up an attempt to lay claim to other (better...) artists' work or something more sinister is very much open to debate.

Doug Bower and Dave Chorley

Whatever the truth of the matter, the confession resulted in an explosion of interest in the phenomena. What had been a fairly basic artform quickly developed into something seriously impressive as artists across the globe attempted to outdo each other in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It was the era that produced some of the best - and best known - formations, like the huge 2001 'galaxy' design, the binary code disc at Crabwood in 2002, and, my personal favourite, the 'Arecibo Response'.

The Arecibo message was sent out into space, via radio waves, in November 1974. It encoded a bunch of basic info about earth, the solar system and the human race, and was created to celebrate the remodelling of the Puerto Rican radio telescope it was sent from. Then, on August 21st 2001, a response was discovered in Chilbolton, alongside an image of an alien face. 

Arecibo Response Crop Circle

Coded messages would become almost commonplace over the next few years, but nothing can really recapture the excitement of this one having a first decipherable 'communication' from space. Along with its contemporary 'Galaxy' formation, this was the crop circle levelling up for the 21st century. Later, inevitably, public interest trailed off with a growing awareness of their man made nature and general over exposure, and some of the best crop circles today tend to be organised competition entries or paid publicity stunts. 

All the same there are still dozens of formations recorded each year, even mid global pandemic - check out The Croppie for up to date news on what's happening in the crop circle world. 



For a country famed for its farms and open space, crop circles are surprisingly rare in Wales. The most famous is probably the 2011 formation found in a Chepstow field of oil seed rape. The design was relatively small, with a diameter of 220 feet, but farmer Paul Rymer was far from pleased with the £600 worth of damage he found on April 22nd. The South Wales Argus reported:
Mr Rymer, 46, who has farmed on the land for the past 12 years said the flattened crops would die and weeds would grow contaminating the damaged area. He said: "I am not too impressed, I am annoyed about it. They don't know how much of a problem they have caused." Mr Rymer said he had now installed surveillance cameras on the land in a bid to catch any would-be vandals. He added: "We do not want them starting it anywhere else."

Chepstow Crop Circle 2011
Copyright details and more images at Coflein.

Other Welsh accounts tend to date to well before the modern wave of popularity. In 2005 Barry Smith recounted his own encounter with the phenomenon for a National Trust project on rural life during WW2. He said:
During WW2 I was evacuated to Wales from Birmingham as it was being heavily bombed. I lived on a farm in the village of Arddleen near Llanymynech. One day in the late Summer of 1941 I was given a good hiding by the farmers grown up son for allegedly damaging the corn. (Damage to food crops was very serious then as food was in short supply and rationed.) I was taken to see two corn circles I was supposed to have made. They were some way in to the field and could only be seen by standing on the field gate. A typical 5 barred farm gate. They were about 15 meters diameter. I did not make them and we never found out who did. Was I blamed for some of the earliest corn circles?
Barry wasn't alone. William Cyril Williams wrote in to the Sunday Mirror in 1991 to share his own experience with 1940s crop circles. He was then working on his father's farm, Pendfedw, at Cilycwm in an area surrounded by hills on all sides. Mr Williams recalled that circles had been seen there 'frequently', but in c. 1947 on a weekday August morning at around 10:30am he was crossing the middle of a wheat field when he heard the buzzing noise of a whirlwind starting up only a few metres away.  

He then saw a spinning mass of air with dust in it, and, as he watched, in a matter of  'only a couple of seconds or so the wheat fell down producing a sharp-edged circle 3 to 4 metres in diameter'.  This one differed from the other circles he had seen only in that it was completely flat-bottomed; some of the earlier ones had stalks standing at their centres like a conical pyramid. The vortex then died out rapidly, but during its brief lifetime (under 4 or 5 seconds) it remained at the same place.

As he said in his letter, partly reproduced at the Old Crop Circles site:
'With reference to the corn circles mystery I actually witnessed one being made. I was standing in a cornfield one morning and saw a whirlwind touching the ground and forming a circle in the corn. It was just the strength of the wind in the whirlwind that formed the circle.'
My search for Welsh crop circles also brought up a Daily Post online article from 2012, recalling some strange happenings in the early 1990s in Mochdre:
RESIDENTS in Mochdre speculated whether aliens had visited the village back in the early 1990s. On two subsequent weeks a farmer and a British Gas worker were left stunned after they discovered crop circles which had appeared overnight. Farmer Elwyn Williams discovered a perfect circle 40ft in diameter at his corn field at Garth Farm in Mochdre on Sunday, August 11. The 40ft circle left corn stalks flattened uniformly.

Corn circle researcher Margaret Fry of Llangernyw was a member of UFO investigation group Contact International and said at the time: "Even the most sophisticated detecting equipment has failed to discover why these circles appear. A variety of theories cover some of the appearances, but some, like this one, are totally baffling."

Days later and British Gas worker Maureen Carter had just finished reading about the crop circle whilst working at her Mochdre offices on Conwy Road. To Maureen’s amazement she spotted two more from the office at a field at Bryn Euryn. "It was quite strange. I had just finished looking at the piece in the Weekly News, and lo and behold we could see another one in a grass field with what looked like another one just visible beside it," said Mrs Carter.

Some crop circles had at the time been explained by fungal activity in the soil creating fairy rings, wind vortexes and pranks. Professor of physics Terry Meaden, the author of three books on the corn circle phenomenon, said at the time: "We think circles are created by a spinning column of air quite a way off the ground, and when it encounters very still air, forms a vortex. When the vortex’s tail hits the ground, it creates the corn circle effect. Alien theories are all very well, but a more physical reason for the circles is almost certain."
Despite their relative scarcity within Wales, Welsh people were still just as fascinated by the phenomena as those across the border. The most powerful account I've come across is this contemporary interview from The Cereologist with Kerry Blower, originally of Cwmbran, in the immediate aftermath of Matthew Williams and Paul Damon's hoaxing confession in 1999. It serves as a reminder to us all that behind every fraud is a trail of hurt and disillusioned people.

The Cereologist 1999 The Cereologist #24



Crop Circle Center has listings for another 15 Welsh circles. Google came up empty handed with further info on most of them, but I'd love to hear from you if you have any! Here is the limited available data listed below:

1936 - 'some circles' reported at Aberystwyth.

1940s - a few circles were found in Abergavenny.

1941, August - 2 circles of around 50 foot diameter were reported in the village of Llanerchymedd on Anglesey. 

1978, September 1st - a circle was formed in a field at Llanerchymedd on Anglesey. This was allegedly caused by a UFO landing reported by various witnesses on the same day. For more on that, see last week's post. :)

1983 - 'L' shaped design reported in Abergele, Conwy.

1989, April - two separate circle formations found in Gladestry in Powys.

1989, August - circle reported in Prestatyn.

1990 - 18 foot diameter circle reported in a barley field in Aberystwyth.

1990, April - circle reported at Betws-y-Coed in Conwy.

1990, April 27th - BUFORA (UFO Times #13) reported on circles at Llanfair T-H, Clwyd, investigated by Margaret Fry, stating: "woman land owner found series of rings in her fields which persisted over summer. Connected with crop circles and UFOs by media, but several experts visiting them are convinced they were caused by fungal growth." Awareness V17/N1 carried a fuller report:

Awareness Magazine

1991 - circle reported in Caernarfon.

1991 - circle reported at Bryn-y-Maen in Conwy.

1991, June - circle reported in Gwent. It is likely this circle that the PRUFOS (Police Reporting UFOs) database expands upon with: "June 1991, 05:00. Two uniformed officers, a police sergeant and a female police constable, were driving in the Blackwood area of Gwent in a rural location when they saw two orange UFOs circling above a farmer’s field. They stopped the vehicle and got out to watch. After about 10 minutes the objects disappeared in different directions. As the sun came up they saw a newly made crop circle under where the objects had been seen darting about the sky. Fearful of ridicule they made a pact not to report the incident."   

1992, August 16th - circle reported at Pontllyfni in Gwynedd.

1993 - circle reported at Deganwy in Conwy.

1993, July - Mostyn, Clwyd.

1994, June - 2 circles along the border with Chester. The Circular V5/N3 reported:

The Circular

Lack of details mean there is little distinction on this list between crop circles and crop marks, the former being flattened crops while the latter are archaeological features visible from above. The 2018 heatwave, for example, caused over 200 Welsh sites to be visible from the air like this medieval castle mound at Tregaron:

Tregaron cropmark 2018



ETA: I've been reading the Phenomena Magazine archive and came across this great write up in issue 004 of a crop circle found in Wrexham in August 2000:

Phenomena 004 6 Phenomena 004 7 Phenomena 004 8 Phenomena 004 9 Phenomena 004 10



For more like this please click the image below:
Weird Wales


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