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Archive for September, 2010

With the market as the highlight, the UNESCO World Heritage city of Bath is fast becoming known as ‘the Christmas City’.

Each year, the beautiful area between the stunning Bath Abbey and the internationally renowned visitor attraction, the Roman Baths, is transformed into a Christmas shopper’s haven – the Bath Christmas Market.  Theyare delighted to announce that the Bath Christmas Market will run for an additional 7 days this year – a total of 18 days!  Dates for the Bath Christmas Market 2010 are 25th November – 12th December 2010. 

In the heart of Bath’s main shopping district, 123 traditional wooden chalets adorn the streets; each one offering unique, handmade and unusual gifts, decorations and food items – everything you will need for the perfect Christmas celebration. 

The sound of carols echoing around the Abbey creates an extra special atmosphere at the Bath Christmas Market.  This is complimented by a full programme of entertainment at the event – carol singers, children’s entertainers and musicians that add to the festive ambience. 

View of Main Square  View of chalets and Bath Abbey

View of chalets and Bath Abbey  View of chalets and shoppers 

View of Main Square and Roman Baths   View of Main Square and Bath Abbey

View of Main Square and Roman Baths  View of Main Square and Bath Abbey

 Its a great time of year to explore Bath, join a coach tour from London or organise a private guided tour (from London, Salisbury or Bath)

If you can stay a night or two.  Click here for discount Hotels in Bath

Bath Toursit Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in History

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A million visitors from around the world flock to Stonehenge every year. But the monument’s status as an international attraction is nothing new.

Yesterday scientists said the stones were attracting overseas tourists thousands of years ago – after discovering that a Bronze Age teenage boy buried there around 1550BC grew up in the Mediterranean.

The boy – aged 14 or 15 – had travelled to Britain from Spain, Italy, Greece or France, crossing the English Channel in a primitive wooden boat, they said.

He was placed in a simple grave alongside an amber necklace just a mile from the stone circle.

Known as the Boy in the Amber Necklace, his is the third burial site of a foreigner discovered at the World Heritage site in the past few years.

The finds raise the intriguing possibility that Stonehenge was attracting tourists and pilgrims from across the globe thousands of years ago.

Archaeologists have previously shown that the Amesbury Archer – a man buried with a treasure trove of copper and gold and discovered in 2002 – was born in the Alps.

They also believe that the Boscombe Bowmen – a group of seven men, women and children found the following year – originated from Wales, the Lake District or Brittany.

Professor Jane Evans, who traces the birthplace of Bronze Age skeletons using a chemical analysis of teeth, believes the visitors were travelling to Britain specifically to see Stonehenge.

‘If you went to Westminster Abbey today and looked at the people buried there, how many are Londoners?

‘I don’t think many because the great, the good and famous are buried at Westminster Abbey,’ said Prof Evans of the British Geological Survey.

The boy's skeleton was discovered in 2002.The boy’s skeleton was discovered in 2002 at Stonehenge. Today scientists revealed that he must have been born and brought up in the Mediterranean

‘Stonehenge in a similar way is obviously a very important place and people from all sorts of origins came to Stonehenge and were buried there.’

The boy’s virtually intact skeleton was discovered at Boscombe Down, a mile from Stonehenge, by Wessex Archaeology during a housing development.

The remains were radiocarbon dated to around 1550BC – a time when the monument was already more than 1,500 years old.

Prof Evans said: ‘He’s about 14 to 15 years old and he’s buried with this beautiful necklace. From the position of his burial, his age, and this necklace, it suggests he’s a person of significant status and importance.’

She used a slither of tooth enamel the size of a nail clipping to trace his origins.

BeadsThe amber beads that were found buried by his side more than 3,500 years ago

By analysing the ratio of two different forms – or isotopes – of oxygen, the professor found that the boy came from a warmer climate.

And an isotopic comparison of the mineral strontium, which is absorbed by the body from plants, revealed that he was born and grew up in the Mediterranean.

The boy's grave was alongside dozens of other graves at the site but it was the only one that was not from BritainThe boy’s grave was alongside dozens of other graves at the site but it was the only one that was not from Britain

In contrast, the Amesbury Archer, who was buried 1,000 years earlier, was most likely to have been raised in the Alpine foothills of Germany, Prof Evans said.

Mike Pitts, editor of British Archaeology, said: ‘Archaeologists for a long time have been fighting the idea that there was any migration going on at this time.

‘But, clearly, there were individuals moving across huge distances.’

The Boy with the Amber Necklace was found alongside dozens of other graves.

However, all other skeletons studied so far at the site were raised in Britain. Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick, of Wessex Archaeology, said: ‘We don’t know why these people made these long journeys.

‘It’s possible they were coming to visit Stonehenge but we know people had been travelling great distances for thousands of years for trade and exploration.’

Stonehenge was built by early Bronze Age farmers – who lived in homes made of wooden stakes, twigs, chalk and clay – in stages between 3000BC and 2400BC.

It was actively used for at least another 1,000 years.

Stonehenge Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in Ancient History

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Just finished a guided tour of Avebury and discovered this stunning crop circle on Overton Hill, nr Lockeridge, Wiltshire.
 

I have included my image taken on my phone and managed to get hold of an aerial image.  It’s very unusual to discover crop circles this late in the year and particularly unusual to see one in the maize field.  To my knowledge this is the last remaining circle in Britain.  There is another one at Avebury, however the farmer got a little annoyed with people walking into his field and drove his tractor through the pattern.

I will be constantly in the area and will keep you ‘croppies’ updated

Stonehenge Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK

Map Ref: SU133666

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LEADING experts on Stonehenge will be gathering in Salisbury to debate the monument’s purpose next weekend.

The event, called Solving Stonehenge, is part of Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum’s 150th anniversary conference on October 2 and 3, 2010

The main speakers will be Professor Tim Darvill, Professor Mike Parker Pearson, Mike Pitts and Julian Richards.

The debate will be chaired by Andrew Lawson.

Museum director Adrian Green said: “This is the first time that all the leading Stonehenge archaeologists have been gathered together for a public debate in recent times.

“With all their conflicting opinions about the role of the monument, and the opportunity for the public to quiz the archaeologists, this promises to be a thought-provoking event.”

There will also be a paper about recent survey work at Stonehenge by English Heritage archaeologist David Field on Saturday afternoon and a tour of the Stonehenge landscape on Sunday afternoon.

Stonehenge has been a vital part of the history of Salisbury Museum. The first official guidebook to the stones was written by former curator and director Frank Stevens in 1916.

The museum’s collections contain finds from every major excavation at the site, and since Victorian times it has had permanent displays about the monument.

Tickets for the whole conference, including a buffet, are £60 for members and £75 for non-members. Separate tickets for the Stonehenge debate are £15.

Stonehenge Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – Bespoke Guided Tours of Ancient Britain

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Harry Potter magic at Lacock Village

Lacock named as European hotspot by TripAdvisor website

A Wiltshire village has been named as Europe’s top up-and-coming destination by a tourism website.

TripAdvisor UK says interest in Lacock, near Chippenham, has increased more than any other European hotspot over the past 12 months.

A spokesperson for the website, which offers holiday and hotel reviews, said:

“The use of the village as a film set over the last few years may partly explain its significant soar in popularity.”

 

I’d put it down to the fact that the UK is better value than it used to be.
Margaret Barley, Veitchly House B&B

Films and TV dramas including Pride and Prejudice, Moll Flanders, Emma, Cranford and Harry Potter have all been shot in Lacock.

“There has been a huge increase in the interest in Lacock,” added Alan Williams from Visit Wiltshire.

“It’s probably linked to the films that have been shot there, as well as the Abbey and the village.

“Certainly we’ve seen a lot more people coming to Wiltshire over the last year or so and we did really well out of the ‘Staycation’.

Margaret Barley, who runs Veitchly House B&B near Lacock, said it could be more than just the films that are sparking interest in their village.

She said: “I think I’m right in saying that Lacock is in the Lonely Planet Guide to Europe, and I suspect it’s because of the proximity to Bath, and there’s the issue of the exchange rate.

“I’d put it down to the fact that the UK is better value than it used to be.

Harry Potter Films
The National Trust property featured in the first two Potter movies and since they were released Lacock Abbey has been on the must-see lists of tourists from all over the world.

BBC Wiltshire joined the visitors to take a look around as they attempted to match the reality with the fictional locations.

Take a look through the BBC’s gallery of images and see what you recognise from Hogwarts!

First though, things you need to know about Lacock Abbey:

 

The fiction:

The Abbey’s cloisters and side rooms were transformed into the classrooms at Hogwarts School while the location was also used for Harry’s discovery of the Mirror of Erised.

The reality:

Stone carvingThe Abbey was founded in 1232 and comprises: cloisters, sacristy, chapter house and monastic rooms, courtyard, brewery and bakehouse.

Abbey converted into a country house c.1540

Grounds feature a Victorian woodland garden with an 18th-century summer house, rose garden, botanic garden and ha-ha.

William Henry Fox Talbot (1800–77), inventor of the negative/positive photographic process once a resident at Lacock Abbey.

Nearby Lacock village used to film Pride and Prejudice, Moll Flanders and Emma.

We have been offering guided tours of Lacock Abbey / Village and the Cotswolds for 20 years.  Our private sightseeing tours can depart from London, Bath or Salisbury
Cotswolds Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in History

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Not since 1996, when England hosted the European Championships, has the country held a major sporting event. In 2012 that is set to change as London becomes the venue for the Olympic Games.

Having hosted the Summer Olympics twice previously – in 1908 and 1948 – the English capital certainly has history with the event, but even still there are surprises abound with improvements needed to stadiums, transport and accommodation.

With around seven million permanent residents, it’s hard to imagine how the city’s infrastructure will cope with the extra influx of athletes and sports fans that will be descending on the city from the end of July – traditionally a busy tourist season in any year.

The International Olympic Committee has been thinking about this since 2005 – when the games were awarded to London – so big changes are expected in the city. The world famous underground has seen changes, with an expansion made to the East London Line and upgrades have been made to the North London Line and the Docklands Light Railway as well.

On top of this a brand new rail service has been created – named in Olympic fashion as the Javelin – which features bullet trains that will speedily take passengers across the city.

There are expected to be around eight million tickets for the Olympics available, with half of them priced under £20 to ensure bustling crowds at all events. This means all visitors – from those in top range hotels to those in budget hotels in London – will be able to snap up tickets for at least part of the extravaganza.

Sensibly, accommodation for the Olympians will be spread across the city to ensure all competitors are housed close to where they need to be to compete, rather than in an all encompassing Olympic Village as per tradition, but a tradition that has become outdated as the games have grown and the events no longer all take place in one place.

The events will be taking place in a mixture of old venues that the city is known for – such as Wembley, Lord’s and the O2 Arena – as well as specially constructed arenas. As well as new sporting venues, the city will see other new buildings going up. The Shard, for example, is due to be finished in May 2012 and standing at 1017 feet it is sure to be a major sight on the London skyline.

Paul Buchanan writes for a digital marketing agency. This article has been commissioned by a client of said agency. This article is not designed to promote, but should be considered professional content.

Hotels in London Must Shape Up for 2012 Olympics

Not since 1996, when England hosted the European Championships, has the country held a major sporting event. In 2012 that is set to change as London becomes the venue for the Olympic Games.

Having hosted the Summer Olympics twice previously – in 1908 and 1948 – the English capital certainly has history with the event, but even still there are surprises abound with improvements needed to stadiums, transport and accommodation.

With around seven million permanent residents, it’s hard to imagine how the city’s infrastructure will cope with the extra influx of athletes and sports fans that will be descending on the city from the end of July – traditionally a busy tourist season in any year.

The International Olympic Committee has been thinking about this since 2005 – when the games were awarded to London – so big changes are expected in the city. The world famous underground has seen changes, with an expansion made to the East London Line and upgrades have been made to the North London Line and the Docklands Light Railway as well.

On top of this a brand new rail service has been created – named in Olympic fashion as the Javelin – which features bullet trains that will speedily take passengers across the city.

There are expected to be around eight million tickets for the Olympics available, with half of them priced under £20 to ensure bustling crowds at all events. This means all visitors – from those in top range hotels to those in budget hotels in London – will be able to snap up tickets for at least part of the extravaganza.

Sensibly, accommodation for the Olympians will be spread across the city to ensure all competitors are housed close to where they need to be to compete, rather than in an all encompassing Olympic Village as per tradition, but a tradition that has become outdated as the games have grown and the events no longer all take place in one place.

The events will be taking place in a mixture of old venues that the city is known for – such as Wembley, Lord’s and the O2 Arena – as well as specially constructed arenas. As well as new sporting venues, the city will see other new buildings going up. The Shard, for example, is due to be finished in May 2012 and standing at 1017 feet it is sure to be a major sight on the London skyline.

London is the most expensive place to stay in Europe, according to a recent survey, and that news has emerged at the same time as tourism minister Margaret Hodge has warned that hotels in the capital must shape up in order to be ready for the 2012 Olympics.

 The average cost of staying in a London hotel has leapt by a staggering 12% since April, and now averages £119 per night across the capital. Although not as expensive as New York or the world’s most expensive place for a one-night stay, Moscow, the rates are remarkably high considering that two-thirds of all London hotels are unrated. The figures show that even relatively meagre two-star accommodation in London averages £88 per night and guests have to typically stump up £109 to stay in three-star rated hotels.

 Tourism minister Hodge is worried that the combination of highly priced accommodation and the large percentage of non-rated hotels will damage the reputation of the city, and is keen for the hotel industry to get itself in order. She said: “If the tourist industry is to reap the potential £2.1 billion from the 2012 Olympic Games, then 85% of London’s hotels must be accredited before then.”

 Hodge is concerned that many people attending the 2012 Olympics will be coming to London for the first time and therefore wants their experience of the city to be a positive one. She added:

 “Hosting the 2012 Olympics is a huge opportunity for London and the UK tourism industry. In five years London will welcome millions of first-time visitors and we will want them to come back time and again – hopefully bringing their family and friends. It’s all about creating a lasting and positive legacy for the capital.”

But, the government doesn’t expect the capital’s hotels to do it all by themselves. A recently unveiled multi-agency strategy entitled: “Winning – A Tourism Strategy for 2012 and Beyond” has been drawn up by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport aided by Visit Britain, Visit London, and an assortment of Regional Development Agencies, aiming to give positive advice and limited financial assistance to the hotel industry throughout London and the UK.

Now that the gauntlet has been thrown down for hotels in London to make significant improvements, it is important that they respond positively if they are to fulfil the government’s aim of making the 2012 Olympic Games the start of a lasting legacy
If you are planning a trip to the UK in 2012 you may save some time and money visiting these web sites:
http://www.Welcome2London.org.uk
http://www.BestValueTours.co.uk
http://www.HisTOURies.co.uk
http://www.LondonTown.com

British Tourist Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in British History

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Crop circles were revealed as a hoax almost 20 years ago, so why do so many people still flock to Wiltshire, convinced of their extraterrestrial powers?

Wiltshire’s a beautiful county and it’s an idyllic Friday evening at the Barge Inn, Honeystreet. Boats are moored on the canal that runs past the pub, there’s a White Horse etched into the chalk just down the road and in the pub’s back room the ceiling is painted with images of Stonehenge, errant cherubim and crop circles. ‘It is,’ one local tells me, ‘the Sistine Chapel of Wiltshire.’

The Barge indeed is Crop Circle Central – there’s even Croppie ale for sale – and circle aficionados arrive to camp here from all over the world: in the visitors’ book Kerry from Australia has written: ‘Great crop circles! Great people!’, while Miranda and Trond from Norway say: ‘Great to be back at Croppie HQ!’ No wonder an official at the Wiltshire Tourist Board tells me that they love crop circles; together with the numinous delights of Stonehenge and Avebury Rings they’re the county’s biggest draws.

Last year was a bumper year for fantastically elaborate, large crop formations – 70 or so, many within spitting distance of the Barge and one taking three nights to fully emerge – and in early August this year, more than 45 had been reported. And, remarkably, in June the scientific journal, Nature, ran a piece on them.

They’ve certainly lured a shaven-headed David Cheeseman down from Lewisham and he’s sitting in the pub’s back room, looking at photos of recent formations.
He has, he tells me, in the past done ‘night watches’ on nearby Milk Hill, hoping to see circles emerge, and he’s even photographed much-revered-in-Croppie-circles balls of light flying around. ‘What do I think make crop circles?’ he says. ‘Well, some are man-made and some aren’t. And the ones that aren’t man-made, it’s something energetic. I can’t say it’s extraterrestrials but…’

Andreas, Doreen, Pauline and Philip – four jolly Belgians camping in the Barge’s grounds – have no such caveats. ‘We come every year for the circles,’ says Doreen, a headmistress, unzipping her hoodie to reveal a sky-blue crop circle T-shirt. ‘And we’re normal! We’re just like you!’ Up to a point; they believe the ‘Space Brothers’ make some of the circles. ‘The man-made ones have no energy. We were in one today – so vulgar. But if you go into one made by the Space Brothers, you can’t stay too long – it’s so powerful it makes you feel ill.’

Mike and Sue are camping, too, and Sue is adamant. ‘They’re all man-made. And,’ she says with a grin, ‘there’s fewer this year because of the recession; cutbacks have to be made everywhere.’ That seems a bit unfair: 45 is a decent number, but it’s true to say they’re wider spread this year – possibly, one all-too-human circle-maker tells me, because the farmers near Honeystreet were miffed by last year’s abundance.

For, yes, humans have laid claim to making almost every circle known about. But their beauty, complexity and mysteriousness are such that not everyone is persuaded that a group of soi-disant artists, moving through the fields at night with planks, tape measures and garden rollers, could create such glorious formations. Particularly when the first circle-makers to tell their tale to the media were two pint-loving sixtysomething watercolourists from Hampshire called Dave Chorley and Doug Bower.

More spiritually, they’re documented by the Wiltshire Crop Circle Study Group, whose coordinator is a charming, softly spoken French-Canadian called Francine Blake. Their office, in Devizes, is stuffy and full of papers, so we speak in the car park; Francine – wavy, white hair, dark pink top, linen trousers – is excited because a new circle has been reported near Warminster: ‘The first since 1998!’ She has been studying the circles since 1989 and moved to Wiltshire in 1991, after a particularly beautiful, highly symbolic formation appeared at Barbury Castle.

In those pre-internet days, Francine only learnt of Barbury after it had been harvested – not for nothing are circles known as ‘temporary temples’ – and that prompted her move to Wiltshire. Now she and her ‘six or so’ staff send planes up to photograph the circles, publish a magazine called The Spiral and produce ravishing calendars of the best formations. She and her colleagues have also sent off soil samples from fields where formations have appeared to Defra’s predecessor and to laboratories abroad.

She spoke, she tells me, to ‘the head scientist’ at Defra’s predecessor and ‘he explained that the composition of the soil was completely changed – completely different to the rest of the field. That it had an input of energy so powerful it can create silica out of the soil. There are only two things that can do that: one is the passage of a glacier, which is obviously not happening. And the other one is the input of heat with the magnitude of a direct bolt of lightning. And that’s several thousand degrees of heat.’

There’s more: US labs have, she says, also found that the plants ‘have been subjected to very short, very intense bursts of energy. That burst of energy – before it disperses – affects our cameras, affects our compasses, makes people dizzy, makes dogs sick – a lot of people have had that.’

Ask Francine what she gets from the circles and she replies: ‘A sense of wonder. Which is something not many people feel these days. We’re so dull, so suspicious, so limited in our way of thinking.’ She speaks, tenderly, about the beauty of the circles, of how the lain corn seems to ‘flow like water’, of how each formation teaches each person something more about the field they’re expert in: the American Indian finds a message from Gaia, the Tai Chi guru a new form of Tai Chi, the physicist – well, one physicist said to her: ‘Quantum physics? Forget quantum physics. This is far beyond.’

As for mathematics, earlier this year a formation appeared at Wilton Windmill, which seemed like Euler’s Identity, one of the most beautiful equations known to man. Alas, one mathematician pointed out that the formulation was so executed that its translation from binary code was altered from an ‘i’ to a ‘hi’, which could, the mathematician said, ‘be somebody’s idea of a joke’. Worse, the ‘h’ could be a nod to Planck’s Constant – and planks are used by human circle-makers to create their formation.

No wonder Francine is suspicious of the media, and certainly of me. ‘My hopes,’ she says, sweetly, ‘are not very high for this interview. We tend to have very inaccurate, depressingly trivial articles on crop circles.’

But at least she’ll be interviewed, unlike Michael Glickman, a long-term luminary of the circle scene, whose mathematical interpretations of the phenomena are far too abstruse for me. Instead, he lets rip with a majestic telephonic tirade. ‘The media are stupid, narrow-minded, bigoted and boringly predictable. I want nothing more than sensible treatment of the most important event on planet Earth.

‘The hoaxers are the most constant con tricksters and liars in the world,’ Glickman says. ‘They are out fundamentally to deceive; we are out fundamentally to tell the truth. Hoaxers have never made a circle of quality. We’ve seen what they can do and it’s crummy. It’s the difference between a five-star meal in Lyons and a Big Mac.’

That’s Francine’s position, too, and the Earl of Haddington’s. ‘There are greater artists at work [than the hoaxers],’ he says. ‘Indeed there are. But so many are man-made. You have to wait.’

Lord Haddington, who’s taken a keen and sympathetic interest in circles since the late Eighties, tells me he thinks all this year’s are made by man; Francine disagrees and is certain that it’s physically impossible for such work to be done in a short summer’s night. So off she directs me to a recent circle near a Saxon flint church at Chisbury.

It’s a five-pointed star, surrounded by five chevrons, 10 diamond shapes and 41 mini-circles – I’ll later read, on Crop Circle Connector, that ‘it seems to call our attention to a close conjunction between Planet Venus and the bright star Regulus in Leo’. It’s gorgeous, though better in the photo, but I don’t feel anything. And my tape recorder works.

Which doesn’t surprise Rob Irving, the main author of The Field Guide: The Art, History and Philosophy of Crop Circle Making. It was to Irving that a Wiltshire policeman uttered the immortal line: ‘I don’t want to get involved in a philosophical discussion with you, sir, but they can’t all be hoaxes.’ Irving would take issue with the word ‘hoax’ because it presupposes that there are ‘genuine’ circles, though he does think it possible that weird winds may have brought about some circles.

Irving’s a big fellow, with a bit of beard below his lip, greying hair and a black T-shirt. He’s 53 and first got involved in the Croppie scene in ‘1990, 1991’. He started to make circles, he says, ‘because people said it couldn’t be done’. He’d gone to a talk about circles and the speaker, a ‘field officer’ for the Centre for Crop Circle Studies, had said: ‘While we don’t know what’s creating circles, we know what isn’t – and it’s not humans.’ He laughs.

Soon Irving was out in the fields, with planks, tape measures, ropes, gardening poles and a diagram: ‘You make your first circle and it’s visited and probably ridiculed as being man-made. And in the space of two or three outings, you learn quickly. You go from stumbling, blind human to God-like extraterrestrial within weeks. Within weeks, you’re producing “the real thing”.’

Now he’s a poacher turned gamekeeper, occasionally doing commercial circles for the likes of Mitsubishi, but essentially an artist and doctoral researcher into art and the landscape, which is, partly, what he sees crop circles as being about. As to their originators, Irving says, tongue only half in cheek, Doug Bower is ‘the greatest artist of the 20th century – or the most provocative’.

Doug Bower? Well, it was he and Dave Chorley who swirled the first crop circle, back in 1976, after a few drinks at the Percy Hobbs, at Cheesefoot Head, near Winchester. They’d been talking about UFOs and the books by Arthur Shuttlewood, a journalist on the Warminster Times, about UFOs over Warminster and what his paper called the ‘Warminster Thing’. Might it not be fun, they thought, to swirl some UFO landing pads of their own?

So, first with iron rods and then with plank stompers, a loping stride and a circular wire sight dangling from Doug’s cap, they started off. They kept it up for four years, barely creating a ripple of interest. Then the Wiltshire Times ran the headline: ‘Mystery circles – the return of “The Thing”?’

Cerelogogy, as crop circle study became known, was born. One researcher attributed the phenomenon to ‘plasma vortices’ – essentially wind effects that produced the swirling; and as Doug and Dave expanded their repertoire to incorporate straight lines and pictograms, so did the plasma vorticist expand his thesis. Others embraced more esoteric explanations, such as psychokinetic downloading from the collective unconscious, UFOs and higher intelligences. And the number of circles grew and grew, many of them 30 miles from Doug and Dave’s patch, and highly complicated. Doug and Dave were clearly not alone.

Still, it was Doug and Dave who went public in 1991: Doug told television cameras that there was nothing like being in a field of English corn at two in the morning, after a few pints and some cheese rolls, stomping corn.

Interestingly, the ITN report on their self-disclosure said: ‘This doesn’t mean all the circles are fake. After all, one counterfeit coin doesn’t make all coins counterfeit.’ And, among some devoted cerelogists, it became accepted wisdom that 80 per cent were man-made and 20 per cent ‘genuine’.

But a display of circle-making by a team of young engineers who won the 1992 International Crop Circle Making Competition was a revelation to the maverick biologist, Rupert Sheldrake: ‘For flattening the crop, they used a roller consisting of a piece of PVC piping with a rope through it, pushing it with their feet. To get into the crop without leaving footprints, they used two lightweight aluminium stepladders with a plank between them, acting as a bridge. For marking out a ring, they used a telescopic device projecting from the top of an aluminium stepladder. A string was attached to the end of it in such a way that by holding the string and walking in a circle around this central position a perfect ring could be marked out without leaving any trace on the ground in the middle.’ That’s complicated kit.

Mark Pilkington, a writer and publisher who helped with some of the more beautiful and complex late Nineties/early Noughties formations, talks of teams of three or four, using only the planks et al. It is, he says: ‘Physically and mentally hard work. Even after a modest job, you’re flat out. It’s often disorienting. I’ve worked on formations and when I’ve seen the photographs afterwards, I’ve thought: “Bloody hell! How did we do that?” ’

The designs are marvellous: perhaps it’s no wonder that, as Pilkington says, some cerelogists believe human ‘circle makers are channels for a greater force and that some formations are made by divine intervention’. Certainly, when Pilkington has told people what he’s done, he’s got into near fights: people want to believe. Such antipathy has gone to extremes: according to one of their number, one group of circle-makers had ‘potatoes stuck up their exhausts, wing mirrors ripped off our cars and threats of violence’.

Irving thinks people want to take ‘a vacation from rationalism’. And, he adds, it’s particularly the case that ‘people associate certain landscapes with legends. That’s why circles come to sacred sites: Avebury and Stonehenge galvanise this idea of mystery. I see it as a feedback route: people go to a certain place with certain expectations. Then something happens and they leave satisfied.’

It’s to sustain the mystery, he says, that circle-makers never claim authorship of a particular circle: ‘In our culture, art is all to do with artists: it’s about whodunit, not about what art does. With the circles, it’s about the effect they have on people.’

On the afternoon I meet him at the Barge Inn, Irving finishes his pint of Croppie and takes me to see what he classifies as ‘a schematic plan of a set of cruciform solids’ – or a formation that looks from above like a cross-hatched 3D image that reminds Irving of a pharmacist’s sign. It’s on Cley Hill, near Warminster, and in its middle are a collecting box (suggested fee £2) and a plastic folder containing an aerial photo and a copy of the Crop Circle Etiquette Guide. Irving nods appreciatively: ‘They’ve gone the extra mile. Normally, this would be set in a circle, but they’ve gone to the trouble of putting an outline round the thing.’

We move back towards my car. A couple appears and the woman asks if we’ve been at the circle. They’re Inga and Erik, and they’re Dutch, over here to look at circles. They were at Chisbury yesterday, and it was perfect: they’re very keen to see the Cley Hill formation. And what, I ask, do they think brought the circles into being?

Inga smiles, knowingly. ‘You mean, are they man-made, or not?’ She smiles again. ‘That’s mystic: that’s a mystery.’ And off they go, ready for a sense of wonder.

There are still some crop circles to view in the Wilthire area and Histouries UK will continue to offer private ‘crop circle’ tours.
Seeing is believing – the main crop circle saeson kinks off on May 2011 and contimues through to September 2011.  Why not join a guided tour of Stonehenge and Avebury and experience a ‘real’ crop circle for yourself.

HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours of Wiltshire
Wessex Tour Guide

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