The report we carried recently about the ‘sheep circle’ photographed in Scotland has caused something of a fuss - and more widely than might have been predicted. BRIAN DAMERELL, author of the original piece, tells the story of his continuing search for a solution…
This article is written as a follow-up to the piece I wrote on the subject of sheep circles. This appeared in the April 11th 2002 update to Swirled News. At the conclusion of that article I asked for any information from those who read it. I had some theories sent to me and I have learned quite a bit about the fact that, apparently, sheep in circles are not as rare as I thought.
I have been told that the extraordinary behaviour of the sheep is due to satanic intervention heralding the anti-Christ, whilst on the same day I received news that it is connected to Jesus Christ, the good shepherd. Those two people who responded thus know who they are and are aware of my feelings about their findings. Before I delve deeper into this story, I feel that I must furnish the facts of the case in order to, perhaps, get more thoughts on the possibilities of finding a solution.
The photographer who took the pictures and the video, Pam Penfold, is a bone-fide nature lover, who takes her camera everywhere with her. On 17th March 2001, she and her husband were on a motoring holiday in Scotland. The weather was very wet. At that time the British Isles were in the grip of the Foot and Mouth outbreak, which meant that access to farms and the countryside was very limited, if not downright discouraged. Somewhere on the A9 north of Inverness, she and her husband decided to change seats in the car, enabling the driver to become the passenger. Due to the F&M restrictions, most of the lay-bys were closed off with tapes and warning signs, but they found one that was open. Pam spotted the sheep in the formation of a “near perfect” circle and took the first photograph. A few minutes later she took a short piece of video and then another photograph. The time frame between the two still shots was approximately twenty-five minutes. Pam is also a member of the same retirement club as myself and on February 20th 2002 she asked if I had seen a photograph of anything like this scene.
I know that she does not do her own processing, but, unfortunately, due to the vast number of photographs she takes, she also does not keep the negatives (This may change in the future)! Having asked a few pertinent questions of fellow crop circle researchers and received encouraging remarks about continuing the investigation, I asked her if it would be all right to expose this shot to the power of the Internet. I had warned her that this course of action could lead to the usual ridicule and derision which most of us take with a pinch of salt. Consequently, we went ‘public’ with the help of Andy Thomas and Swirled News.
On 21st April 2002, a column appeared in the ‘Sunday Telegraph’ covering the phenomenon of animal circles over the years, written by Paul Sieveking of 'Fortean Times'. This article covered circles of Exmoor ponies, cats, sheep on Baildon Moor in 1988, and a variety of reports of bird courts or ‘rook tribunals’. How strange that this should appear at that particular time.
The sheep also appeared in our local paper, the ‘Medway News’, on May 3rd and told the story quite well, asking for readers to come up with an explanation. Various replies appeared the following week, ranging from “fairy-rings” to “the farmer has obviously put feed down in a circle” and the “sheep had heard the Red Indians coming”.
Meanwhile, while trawling the Net, someone from the National Film and Television School saw the picture on the website and was taken by the “imagery of the circle”. The NFTS trains students to make short films (about five a year) on subjects suggested by the tutors. This one was to be on nature and I was asked if I would be willing to take part, with Pam and someone else. Quite willing to try a new experience, we agreed and soon it was done and we are now waiting to see the final cut. There was, however, a possible sting in the tail, as the other person involved was a well-known early crop circle investigator who was famous for his ‘plasma vortex’ theories. The producer of the film told me that he had been talking to Dr Terence Meaden and suggested that I contacted a friend of his who had taken a video of a sheep circle several years ago. Oh dear, I thought, Pam’s pictures have now gone from being possibly unique, to becoming old hat. The person who had taken this evidence was none other than Colin Andrews. I have contacted Colin, who confirms that he did, indeed, take footage of a sheep circle at Cheesefoot Head, near Winchester in about 1988. He also told me that he wrote an article for Terence Meaden about it, which was published in his ‘Journal of Meteorology’. The circle was maintained for “some minutes” before it began to disperse. At the time, he didn’t place too much importance on the incident, as he believed that, although novel and probably extremely rare, it was nothing to do with crop circles. He adds, “I could obviously be wrong.” I am very pleased to say that Colin has promised to dig out his old videos and that we may be able to compare results.
John Sayer has told me of someone who has taken photographs of animal circles in the Avebury/Silbury Hill area. If you are that person, can we get together and compare notes? I am a genealogist as well as a croppie, and one of the first lessons you learn is to ask questions. You can spend a couple of years researching your family when you suddenly find that Uncle Frank has done all this before – “you want to talk to him”! If there are any people who are working on this subject out there, please contact me, as I would be most upset if you turn out to be another ‘Uncle Frank’.
This story has now been aired in the local paper, Meridian Television, BBC Radio Kent, Channel Five News and the ‘Daily Express’, the latter ending with a curious theory. It states: “One theory, taken from the crop circle world, is that small, circular winds force the sheep to gather in this way.” What a strange thing to say - surely that theory is years out of date?
We have had a telephone call from someone in Scotland whose family have been ‘in sheep’ for many years and confirms that they have never seen anything like this. Her son is living in Australia and has promised to ask the local ranchers (anyone within a thousand miles, probably) and shearers if they can enlighten us.
So, the subject rumbles on and the interest with it. Keep your eyes peeled for sheep, as well as crop, circles this summer.
Hopefully, the next update will clear up some of the outstanding questions, but please keep asking those questions.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has responded to this story and, especially to Andy Thomas for giving it space on Swirled News.