Wildly over-estimating the size of formations seems to be sadly common in crop circle research. We’ll avoid getting Freudian as to why this might be, but will say that it works in reverse as well – formations which croppies don’t like and / or consider man-made are sometimes claimed as being smaller than they actually are.
Take the Milk Hill formation from August 2001. Firstly we should say that we consider this formation a staggering achievement. It has rightly earned its place as one of the finest crop circles ever. It is, of course, also very large. We’ve often seen this formation listed as being 1,000′ across, and have even seen it listed as 1,500′.
So how big is the Milk Hill formation, exactly? Andreas Mueller surveyed this formation and put its overall diameter at 787′. Peter Sorensen didn’t measure the formation but did phone the farmer to ask how widely spaced the tramlines in the field were. From this figure – 24 meters – Peter counted the number of tramlines the formation spanned and estimated its overall size as 767′, which is only 20′ different to Andreas Mueller’s figure. Therefore the claims that this formation is 1,500′ are over 100% inacurate. Even claims that it is 1,000′ are out by more than 200′.
We don’t understand why croppies feel the need to do this, particularly in the case of the Milk Hill formation, which is more than impressive enough as it is without the need to lie about it.
Let’s take another example, the formation which appeared at Woodborough Hill, Wiltshire on 11th July 1997. Judging from the tramlines (aerial shot below) we’d guess this formation to be approximately 300′. 300′ seems to be the general concensus on this formation’s diameter, from what we’ve read, with one notable exception; in an interview with Linda Moulton Howe (in her book Mysterious Lights & Crop Circles, page 60) Charles Mallett says of this formation “it was huge, a quarter mile across”. A quarter of a mile? Charles, what on earth are you on? A quarter of a mile is 1,320′, which means your estimate is more than 1,000′ out. And you wonder why the general public don’t take crop circle researchers seriously, when they can’t even get basic stuff like that right?
Woodborough, July 1997. Not a quarter of a mile across… It’s amazing how far crop circle design has progressed over the years. When this formation appeared it was praised for its extreme complexity, but it’s really nothing more than twelve rings equally centred around the perimeter of a circle half the diameter.
That said, we do find it a very striking formation. We remember attending a lecture some years ago by Andy Thomas, in which he stated that since the famed East Field pictogram of 1990, there had been a formation of high quality in East Field every year (he appears to have forgotten 1995, in which East Field didn’t have any circles at all; the only year that hasn’t happened since 1990). When it came to 1997, however, Andy’s quality East Field formation was this one at Woodborough (which was in the field directly opposite East Field, Andy’s argument being that it was ‘pretty much East Field’). Which means that (a) Andy chose to ignore the actual East Field 1997 formation – which was, it has to be said, a horrific mess; see aerial shot – and that (b) he lied about the evidence to fit his theory. Both aerial shots by Lucy Pringle.
We suspect that the croppie obsession with making formations out to be bigger than they actually are is in part due to the notion that the larger a formation is, the less likely it is that people made it. However, this ignores the fact that there are a number of known man-made circles in the 300′ range (for example the Avebury 29th July 1999 Daily Mail comission, or the Sorensen/Russell/Hein Hilmarton formation of July 2001), and even a few around 500′ (for example Cranford St Andrew, 1st August 1992 – see photo – which dwarfed every other formation that had appeared up to that point). Other croppies, amusingly (yes, Colin Andrews, we’re thinking of you specifically though you’re not alone in this) think quite the reverse; the larger and more complex a formation is, the more likely it is to be made by people. In part we suspect this is down to said researchers harking back to a hypothetical golden age when the bulk of the designs in the fields were small and simple and croppies could get on with their research without all those evil ‘hoaxers’ around to spoil the fun.
One of our favourite small formations of recent years is this one, which appeared (in amongst a series of dumbbells) near West Overton, Wiltshire, in July 2006 and which measures approximately 15′. A thing of great beauty, in our opinion, looking delicately hand-sculpted (and we suspect it probably was in a literal sense). Note the way that the flattened crop seemed to curve up the sides of the perimeter. However it has all but been ignored by the majority of researchers purely – we suspect – due to its size. Perversely, the people we know who most like it are circlemakers. What does that say? Perhaps because they see beyond the ‘bigger is better’ mentality and can appreciate it for what it is.