Crop circles - what, why and tips for farmers

CLA looks into the landscape mysteries that crop up at this time of year
Crop circles
Wiltshire has the record for the most recorded crop circles, with over 380 since 2005 (library image).

In this blog, CLA rural adviser Lucy Charman delves into the mysterious world of crop circles, offering tips to members if their land is affected....

I am lucky to live on the Wiltshire, Hampshire, Berkshire border and at this time of year Wiltshire witnesses a huge influx of visitors, to welcome the Solstice at Avebury or the iconic Stonehenge.

The influx of over 10,000 visitors to Stonehenge from across the globe has a huge impact on the residents, highways and police resources. Yesterday we saw headlines of activists spraying stones with orange powder in a protest stating it is time for megalithic action to stop the burning of oil, gas and coal.

All over the area at this time of year, other quirks often start to appear in the landscape – I’m talking crop circles. Aliens, ley lines, or gravitational forces… it is the mystery that continues to fascinate people all over the world – or are we really just witnessing criminal damage?

In the last week, a neighbouring arable farm has been a victim to crop circle damage, and what makes it worse is that often visitors cause further damage, in one case driving a car through the ripening barley and across a stone curlew plot trying to locate it.

It's not surprising that many farmers will immediately top out the damage so that there is nothing to see – unfortunately, increasing the total crop loss further – a difficult choice to make. Some may however allow access, often asking for a charitable donation.

Mystical, sacred reputation

Wiltshire has the record for the most recorded crop circles, with over 380 since 2005, with Hampshire a close second, and Oxfordshire in third. Theories about the reason for such a high volume in the area include the crossing points of ley lines and the combinations of chalk, greensand and aquifers found in the area that are good conductors of electricity. Or is it simply a case that there are some enthusiastic crop circle creators that take advantage of the mystical, sacred reputation of the prehistoric sites across the county?

Satellite guidance and drones help to deliver amazing accuracy in a multitude of disciplines and enable intricate patterns to be created easily. Either way, this year, the solstice and approaching harvest align (in the same way that the sun aligns with the Heel stone) to add additional problems to what has already been one of the most difficult faming years on record.

It is important to be aware of who/how and when to act. Creating a crop circle is criminal damage and therefore an offence that should be reported using the 101 service – unless you are lucky enough to catch someone in the act or have purposefully created one as a visitor attraction like a maize maze!

Advice for farmers

Try to deter visitors entering the land where possible, or if you are willing to allow people to visit, at the very least guide them to use a desirable route. Think about likely entrance points, gates should be regularly locked with good quality padlocks and hinges can be reversed or capped. Keep in mind that gates crossing a public right of way should not be locked as access must be maintained.

You should make sure that areas that are off limits to the public are signed as such. Rigid signs can be purchased online from agricultural suppliers. If you are welcoming visitors, offer guidance using some simple signs :

  • Where can visitors enter the field and where / how can they make a charitable donation
  • No smoking – ensure people are aware of the hazards of naked flames in dry crop
  • Leave no trace – litter can cause injury to livestock and wildlife and damage to machinery
  • Stay off the crop - Do not cause any further damage to crop – use the tractor tramlines
  • Parking - Direct people to where they can park safely without causing any obstructions to you and the highway.

It is highly likely, if affected, that many people will aim to take photos of a crop circle using a drone. It is unlikely that some of the GDPR legislation around drone usage will be relevant, however it is important to be vigilant if drones are flying away from the vicinity of a circle as they can be used to gather intelligence for serious criminality. Suspicious drone activity may be reported to neighbours and through your local Country Watch scheme if you are part of one, as well as to your neighbourhood policing team. It is worth noting down vehicles' registration plates or photographing them as a record too, should suspicious activity be noticed.

This time of year is definitely not all bad. The sun has finally made an appearance and there is no doubt that the local rural economy is boosted by the huge influx of visitors needing accommodation, food and drink, and just perhaps, by celebrating the solstice, we can boost the sun's energy and guarantee a good harvest, and eliminate the evil spirits that have hounded the 2024 growing season so far!

More help

Further guidance on access, drones, rural crime, trespass and more can be found at


Key contact:

Lucy Charman Rural Adviser, CLA South East