Crop Circles, Tornados and Aliens oh my!

Last week I was looking for a neolithic burial tomb and some ancient stones on Googlemaps.  There are thousands of such places but most people only seem to know of Stonehenge.

Whilst I was looking for my tomb and amongst various other prehistoric works, I saw something that screamed to get my attention from space.  A crop-circle but not just any crop-circle.

Reports of the circular designs date back centuries but the recent wave of them go back to Wiltshire started in the 1970s,  It should be remembered and it is likely no coincidence that Wiltshire also houses Stonehenge and the more extensive Avebury Stone Circle along with burial mounds, barrows, ancient roads and lay-lines and all sorts of other things going on in this quiet and rural county.

Crop-Circles were originally relatively simple circles in the middle of fields of wheat and barley though some of them have got ever more ornate over time.   How some are formed is something of a mystery. Some believe they are made by UFOs or formed when spaceships land, or assume they are the handiwork of inexplicable forces. Others passionately insist the designs are all man-made.

It seems that many of the complex designs are done by ‘artists’ or trespassers who destroy farmers crops in the dead of night but that doesn’t explain all of them and it seems unlikely that decades and centuries ago, people would risk their lives to go out in the dark without good lighting to just make a circle in crops.

As well as aliens, there may be another answer. It may be known as a green and pleasant land but southern England is also a hotspot for tornadoes.  There are more twisters per square mile in England than in any other country.


They are most common between Reading and London, with the Thames Valley our very own Tornado Alley.   On average England is hit by about 34 tornadoes a year – which works out at 2.2 per 10,000km sq.

The fastest twisters in Britain had recorded speeds of up to 157mph, while the US’s can see winds topping 300mph. Whilst tornadoes may be more commonly associated with the USA, in films such as Twister or sweeping Dorothy from Kansas in The Wizard Of Oz, the larger size of America means that its average number of tornadoes is just 1.3 per 10,000km sq each year and even then they don’t generally affect the whole country.

It seems that most tornadoes in the UK are created along long, narrow storms that form along cold fronts, whereas most tornadoes in the United States are created by isolated storms.

Some of our tornadoes do cause quite bad damage, I remember driving through one in north London and not quite believing my eyes thought to myself that if I didn’t know better then I was in a tornado and it was only a few hours later that reports came in to verify this.

Most of our tornados are very small and localised, many just twist around in our undulating gentle hills and plains and blow themselves out as quickly as they appeared; where they contact the ground they can easily flatten crops.

Back to what caught my eye on google maps; a fantastical jellyfish like being.  It’s hard to quite take in the scale but it is massive and of course totally invisible on the ground.  At the bottom left of the photo you can just make out the narrow path the creators trod to go in and out of their design.  Apart from that it is magical!


Intricate Crop Circle

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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