It was Roy Bird, the publisher of "Quest for Knowledge" magazine, who inspired the theme of this piece, when he recently mentioned to me that he saw a parallel between crop circles and snowflakes, in that, although scientists can tell us that no two snowflakes are the same (even though they form in "family" groups) and that meteorological conditions will determine to an extent their design, the exact process of how they take on the shapes they do can still not be fully explained.
The same, said Roy, seems to be true of crop formations: no matter how much we discover about what has happened to the crop within them, to what extent weather conditions and stage of growth of the plants affect their appearance - no two are exactly the same, they seem to belong to family groups and we are still no nearer understanding for certain how they come into being.
In this context I find it interesting that one of the early formations of this year was nicknamed the "Stonehenge Snowflake" - for obvious reasons:
Appearing in green barley in the same field as last year's "Julia set" spiral of circles, across the A303 from Stonehenge, this 460' diameter design rapidly sprang up again, as downed immature barley invariably does. This, compounded by the farmer's unwillingness to allow visitors into his field this year, frustrated the efforts of researchers to conduct a full examination - much as a melting snowflake defies the scrutiny of a curious child on a winter's day!
But looking back to the first formation of 1997 below Barbury Castle in Wiltshire,
we can see what was to become a joint underlying theme in many of this year's formations: the equilateral triangle and the "Star of David". Two overlapping triangles, which form the six-pointed star, can be superimposed on this design. The equilateral triangle was also found at Strethall in Essex:
on Rockley Down, Wilts.
and, of course, at Stonehenge itself, which more obviously displays the Star of David in the "branches" of circles.
The triangle was again apparent at Cuxton in Kent:
and by joining the centres of the alternating larger (or smaller) circles which form the ring, we also find the six-pointed star. Although slightly skewed, the formation which lay between Danebury Hill Fort and Longstock in Hampshire
also contained the overlapping equilateral triangles. There were others, but perhaps the most spectacular were those which formed next to Silbury Hill
and below the Alton Barnes (Wiltshire) White Horse:
Finally, the last recorded formation of the year was on Hackpen Hill, Wiltshire,
which contained much food for geometrical and/or numerological thought: basically an equilateral triangle, it is overlapped by a triangular "burst" of small circles; around its perimeter are nine small triangles; and its shape is a tessellation of 58 equilateral triangles, each of which is 1/49th. of the main figure.
The summer is over, the harvest is in and with the ploughing finished, all visible traces of the crop formations have "melted away". During the winter, as we reflect upon the year's events and anticipate next season's offerings, perhaps we can also find time to contemplate the beauty and mystery of the snowflake...
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