It was a mark of the interest in the subject, and of the prowess of the speaker, that over 50 members, friends and members of the public turned out to hear stalwart of crop circle research, Lucy Pringle, give us the benefit of over two decades of study in the field - or should that be in the fields.
Strange formations have been appearing intermittently in rural Britain ever since mediaeval times, and possibly even before block printing gave them a medium for permanent presentation. However, it is only since the latter part of the last century that the simple circles
have blossomed into beautiful, intricate and, at times, spectacular manifestations of landscape art.
Lucy has been at the forefront of investigation into the phenomenon for longer than most, and few have stood in the front line of such a controversial field of research for so long. She touched on various theories of the root cause of the formations, and showed how the mysterious pictograms have developed over the decades. Doubtless, many in the audience were hoping that she would be able to tell them ‘how it was done’, but as with anything of real interest in life, it’s so much more subtle, and so much more complex, than that.
The basic elements of the phenomenon are well-documented, but bear restating for the benefit of those new to the concept. Each summer, large numbers of pictures appear in the fields - often very large scale. They materialise mainly in growing wheat, but are not unknown to appear amongst broad beans, potatoes or rape seed - and even in the snow of more northerly climes.
They are rarely seen in the process of formation and, in Britain at least, usually appear in the shortest hours of darkness in the summer months, often in locations of high visibility, and in areas well-frequented by local people and tourists alike. They have been known to appear in just a few minutes, which would account for their seemingly miraculous appearance.
The scale, geometrical accuracy and sheer precison are quite remarkable and, even if they were brought in to being by some advanced, invisible industrial process, the maker should be awarded the Turner Prize - every year. To use a hackneyed phrase, if you have never seen or sensed one, they really are something to ‘do before you die’.
The rock band, Led Zeppelin, may have brought them to the attention of the wider public by using an image of a formation which appeared in the legendary East Field next to the village of Alton Barnes, but it is Lucy Pringle and her colleagues that have brought the subject to life.
They have put forward and tested various hypotheses - and blown many of the more ridiculous tabloid theories out of the farmyard.
Serious investigation has been hampered by the activities of hoaxers, who have sought to confuse or confound the whole issue by attempting to reproduce the phenomena in the fields - sometimes covertly, sometimes overtly. However, who or what does produce the formations seems to be engaged in a subtle game of cat and mouse with both researchers and hoaxers, just as the protagonists are with each other. As the researchers make a discovery, or the hoaxers develop their skill, so the intricacy and sublimity of the pictures increase ahead of them.
For the dowser, there are tell-tale energy signatures of the features that can be detected on several levels. Some of these sensations can eliminate the less experienced hoaxers. But there is a complex interplay at work here, with fake formations on highly energetic sites. This, in turn, opens up a whole parallel debate about the role of intuition in determining their location.
While finding a root cause for the emergence of crop circles has proved elusive, Lucy and others are starting to put together a few pointers that have profound implications - implications that require a significant reconfiguration of the current scientific paradigm.
Many years ago, the appearance of a formation opposite Stonehenge, in full view of members of the public, gave an indication of how the events might unfold - and leads Lucy to an essentially scientific view of the process. Meanwhile, Yorkshire dowser and engineer Jim Lyons is starting to make inroads into the mathematics that underpins the phenomenon. West Country dowser and friend of the TDs, Hamish Miller, has studied similar simpler pictograms in ‘the ether’ rather than on the ground. He is coming to the conclusion that there is a complex interplay between earth energies, physical matter and the consciousness of the observer - or the dowser. It was apparent from Lucy’s understandably guarded presentation that she is coming to a similar understanding, albeit from a very different direction.
The fact that the formations have progressively developed in terms of complexity as interest in the phenomenon has increased - and that that development has to a large extent mirrored the response of both researchers and imitators - implies that there may be more than a little fire behind this particular smoke. We may indeed have set one foot on the path towards crop circle enlightenment - but the mainstream scientists aren’t going to find it easy to accommodate.
This was a top-flight presentation from a very accomplished speaker. It was evident from the enthusiasm of those attending as they left the hall that this had been a particularly stimulating talk. Those who have never had the chance to see a crop circle in person are doubtless leafing through their road atlases as you are reading this account.
Many thanks to Lucy Pringle for taking the time out to travel down from Hampshire to give us the benefit of her experience.