“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Barge(ing) Inn to Crop Circles

Every year across Wiltshire tens if not hundreds of crop circles appear in the countryside during the night, as if by magic. The bulk of these crop circles or crop formations (as they are not always circular) tend occur near ancient sites such as Stonehenge, Avebury, Silbury Hill, the West Kennet Long Barrow or near chalk hill figures, which comprise the mystical landscape of Wiltshire.

The phenomenon of crop circles first came to prominence in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s. This new phenomenon soon caught the public’s attention and it was not long before they were attributed to visitors from outer space or in some cases freak weather, such as tornadoes or ball lightening. The reality of crop circles is much more prosaic however. In the early 1990s two Southampton artists claimed to be responsible for a significant number of the circles stating that they were made using planks of wood, rope and a baseball cap fitted with a loop of wire. The latter tool was apparently used to help them walk in straight lines. It is now widely accepted that crop circles are the product of artistic humans as opposed to visiting extra-terrestrials or rare atmospheric phenomenon.

Crop circles still however have significant appeal for many, and each year a considerable number of people from around the world travel to Wiltshire to be the first to see the new batch of crop circles that appear. The hub of crop circle hunting in Wiltshire is the Barge Inn in Honeystreet on the Kennet and Avon Canal. The Barge Inn which dates from 1810 is positioned on the Duke's Ley Line (running from Avebury to Stonehenge) and lies in the centre of the Wiltshire mystical landscape close to both the Ridgeway (Britain’s oldest road), the ancient complex of Avebury. The Inn is also overlooked by both the Alton Barnes White Horse and Adam’s Grave Long Barrow. The Inn has a crop circle room where an up to date record is kept of the current batch of crop formations, with a map showing their location and pictures showing aerial views of the designs. Each summer this room becomes the hub from which circle spotters deploy to try to be the first to explore new crop formations.

The Barge Inn also shows an interest in other aspects of the mystical and unusual.  The ceiling of the crop circle room has a detailed and exquisitely painted mural which shows the ancient Pagan sites that fill the nearby countryside. Some call this mural the "Sistine Chapel of Wiltshire". Taking the Pagan theme even further, the Inn hosts Handfasting ceremonies. During these ceremonies couples can pledge their love for each other by the ceremonial binding of hands. The practice of Handfasting originates from an old Norse custom, and the Norse term “hand-festa” means "to strike a bargain by joining hands". This Pagan ceremony is still practiced today and the ceremony ends by the traditional act of jumping over a broom.

If beer is more your thing, then at the Barge Inn you can partake in numerous suitably named beverages including Area 51 Cider, Alien Abduction Green Ale, Croppie Ale and Roswell Ale. The Inn is also currently seeking planning permission to erect an observatory in its grounds to enable customers at the bar to be able to keep an eye on the stars and to watch out for incoming flying saucers on their way to create a crop circle nearby!

The Barge Inn.

The circle gallery showing the current batch of crop formations.

The circle gallery showing the current batch of crop formations.

The map, showing the locations of the crop formations. 

Pictures, Wiltshire (August 2014).

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