The costs and benefits of rural mysticism
Jul 7th 2011 | HONEYSTREET, WILTSHIRE | from the print edition
Farm life, but not as we know it
WHETHER extraterrestrials or pranksters are to blame, in the Wiltshire countryside crop circles are costly: around £1,000 each, says Tim Carson, a farmer in the village of Alton Barnes, whose land has been dotted by 125 circles since 1991. Lost crops have become part of his annual routine, because his corner of the county is the global centre for crop circles. Fifty or more formations appear in Britain’s fields each year, usually between May and August; around three-quarters are in Wiltshire.
不论外星人还是某人恶作剧，Tim Carson这个生活在Alton Barnes的农民正因Wiltshire郊外的麦田怪圈每年承受着1000英镑的损失。自1991年起，他的田地里至今已有125个怪圈错落其中。因为他所在的乡村一角正是全球怪圈的集中地，损失农田对他来说已是家常便饭。每年英国都会出现至少50个怪圈 ，通常这类事发生在5到8月，而其中约有三分之二在Wiltshire。
They are likely to make farmers especially cross in what has already been a tricky year. Fuel and fertiliser prices have risen; a dry spring means yields are expected to be down 25-30% on last year in the south-west. Now Wiltshire is being trampled by summer tourists, many of them mystically inclined. Some circular formations are visited by thousands of these enthusiasts, causing further damage to crops and sometimes property.
Occasionally, there is an upside for farmers. In 1998 commercial circle-makers acting for Mitsubishi, a Japanese carmaker, paid Mr Carson for the right to cut an outline of a new model named the Space Star in his fields. The commission “more than compensated for the loss of crop”, he says. Shredded Wheat, a breakfast cereal, once had its logo carved in a wheat field. Some landowners charge for entry or solicit donations, though the tale of the farmer who made £30,000 from tourists is exceptional.
But while farmers tend to suffer, others gain. The circles augment a mystical aura that emanates from Stonehenge, and that contributes hugely to Wiltshire’s £850m tourism industry. Visitor shops are stuffed with crop-circle memorabilia; coach tours frequent them. At the Barge Inn, a community-owned pub in Honeystreet, drinkers enjoy tipples named Croppie, Alien Abduction and Away With The Fairies. The pub has customers from all over the world, even out of season, and the nearby formations have “no doubt benefited the business”, says Terry Kemp, who works there.
但就在农民遭殃的时候，另一些人确从中获利。这些怪圈提高了源自史前巨石柱的神秘氛围，为Wiltshire8.5亿磅的旅游业作出了巨大贡献。商铺里满满当当地都是麦田怪圈的纪念品，一车车的游客已司空见惯。在Barge Inn，Honeystreet上的一家社区酒馆里，人们乐衷于品尝名为“谷物”，“外星人的祝福”及“远离小精灵”的烈酒。即使在不当季的时候，酒馆里也有来自全世界各地的顾客，在那里工作的Terry Kemp认为附近的那些怪圈“毫无疑问帮了大忙”。
The exact value of crop circles to the broader economy is unclear. Visit Wiltshire, the county’s tourism agency, is understandably reluctant to comment, given that acts of trespass and criminal damage are involved. But perhaps if the upside were better understood, the benefits might be more fairly shared.