Top of the Croppies 2023 (Part One)

Dec 24, 2023 | Croppie Gossip, Dene Hine, Top of the Croppies | 0 comments


Woo hoo! Top of the Croppies is five years old! To celebrate, we’re using the festive period to release our annual round up of the most wonderful, fantastic and inspirational croppies from the past twelve months. Well, at least we were planning to celebrate, until we realised that most of the people who came to our attention in 2023 are attention seekers with massive chips on their shoulders — and in the case of one competitor, some extra large portions of chips in his stomach. But they’re not all bad. There’s at least one who is trying to bring something positive to the crop circle world rather than simply crying from the sidelines. 

The Long List

‘Grrr … anti-logic timewaster. … atrabilious criticaster … deleterious groomer … divisive saltimbanco … shit art … yadda yadda …’ When Hamish Jacobs gets within half the world’s surface of a crop circle containing a dung heap we might (and only might) view him as more than a bitter so and so who just needs to move on.

This has been a crazy year for Top of the Croppies potential and there are so many people that could have made it. We can’t even fit everyone we wanted to into our long list, so we’re running it as a separate feature in its own right.

Let’s begin with a curious soul. John Hyne. Over the past few years we’ve heard a few stories of Hyne getting into odd scrapes. We can’t repeat them due to a lack of evidence, except to say we know for sure he pulled someone aside in a crop circle this year, angrily accused them of having made it and then went off to tell other tourists the formation was definitely not man made! How does that one work? Much more interesting though, was the tale shared by croppie Clare Kingston after she was buzzed in a crop circle by a low flying drone:

Now, why might having a ‘picnic in the circle’ with John be such an appalling suggestion? We can only … umm … guess. 

How we’ve really enjoyed watching the car wreck of the Crop Circles UK Group on Facebook as its owner took on new admin staff to replace those who had walked off into the sunset. What was once the best crop circle group became a play pen for one individual from Team Ten Watt to obsessively repost photos of crop circles he was involved with. We howled with laughter as his close protection team, led by loose tongued, wannabe circle maker James Thackrah, with noob Sue Jones in tow, raged against true believers, the guardians of the mythical pot of gold and, of course, this website.

The Croppie is a website, Sue. It doesn’t tell any lies, hence our use of screenshots to catalogue the actions of your idol. 

It’s odd to see Thackrah there given he once made a circle complete with a double-ended member to ridicule the individual he now fawns over.

Seeking safety in numbers after a lengthy exile in the void, always angry Team Ten Watt agent Hamish ‘Scatman’ Jacobs also turned up. We look forward to new raging against the Alexanders and The Croppie, as well as a more detailed dive into his new found obsession with manure. In the background cowered teamless circle maker Mark Gilbert, otherwise known as The Hampshire Cryer. We’ve been bemused by the videos on one of his YouTube channels which mock ‘bad … land art’ in Hampshire. On his other channel, more sober edits of the same pieces — now branded mysterious crop circles — are published. So, which one is it? It seems as if someone has the hump. We’re guessing it’s something to do with rumours suggesting his former team booted him into touch. 

Mark Gilbert’s finest moment, Pancake Plantation, Hampshire; July 2018. Photograph by Nick Bull

Regular readers of Crop Circles UK will know that Team Ten Watt members actually got off their behinds this year, heading out to make a paid-for approximation of the logo of a barber’s shop. The ever eloquent (someone hand the boy a dictionary) Deiniol ‘Dan’ Davies was on the crew, stunning us with the most brutal and cack-handed exhibition of stomper dragging we’ve ever witnessed. 

We guess the barbers shop in Swindon paid Dan an absolute fortune to make that commissioned job. Who is he kidding? £1500 isn’t going to keep you solvent for a year! Which probably explains the CCJs recorded against him.

According to his Facebook profile, that spectacle now makes him a ‘professional crop circle maker’. We guess Dan’s never previously been able to hold down a job for as long as the few hours he spent in that field under Hackpen Hill. Maybe he won’t get any more business given he described farmers as ‘peasants‘. Still, at least he’s loyal to the person that puts food in his bowl…

We’re guessing Dan’s trying to say his ‘mentor’ is the most prolifiic crop circle maker of all time? In what universe? How embarrassing. His father must be so proud. On a point of order, we can think of a good few circle makers who have been more prolific than dear ol’ Dene, including some who reside rent free in D&D’s heads.

We were delighted to see a crushing rebuke issued to Davies’ nonsense by Miles Challett, which you can read here, though it’s well worth repeating the last paragraph:

[Davies,] You’re one of the worst makers in the long history of the subject. Please return forthwith to hiding the locations of your Dorset entry-level shit so the rest of us don’t have to look at it. The fields of Wiltshire won’t miss you.

Miles had been away from the scene for a long few years and it is wonderful to see him return with his hilariously caustic, but level headed and completely realistic commentary. Davies’s circle making CV is truly one disastrous mess. 

Elsewhere, we personally witnessed a paid tour group being led by a croppie who once made his name raging against anyone making a pound or two from the phenomenon. We will not name the person under discussion, but what we saw in a field does indeed confirm a 180 degree turn on their behalf. Good luck to them … but the hypocrisy is stunning. One individual who totally deserves to be named is farmer Sam Wilson. We don’t normally say anything negative about the agricultural community as we understand their upset and frustration. At the same time, Wilson really didn’t need to be making thinly veiled threats to an innocent croppie who had done nothing more than share a photograph! 

One more … someone deliberately saved to the end of the long list. After a year doing very little, entrenched believer Paul Jacobs used 2023 to return to the croppie scene. There was no helping farmers and his beliefs are more extreme than ever, but we are not displeased to see him back. We’ve not shied from jabbing at Paul’s fundamentalism in the past, but we have long made our point and moved on. This year we have been astonished by the humourless venom, unfounded allegations of theft and outright nastiness levelled at him. And for what? Being boring and holding some unshakeable, often flawed views about crop circles. But, really? Why all the hate? At least go after someone more challenging.

Now, onto the real movers and shakers. Here are your final three contenders…

CONTENDER No.3: Francesco Grassi

Let’s be straight here. The Croppie doesn’t find Italian skeptic Francesco Grassi grossly offensive. Just righteous in the way that so many skeptics are. In addition, Francesco is a land artist. (We don’t call him a circle maker in these parts as he isn’t. Crop circle have no authors, whereas he is all too happy to claim his work in the interests of education.) He makes some good pieces of art in paid-for fields, in darkness, with half of the population of Naples helping him. He shows what is possible in an organised, large unit in one night, albeit in remote locations well away from the stresses that accompany real circle making. Let’s remember that covert circle makers don’t possess the luxury of being able to work ‘from dawn to dusk’, they can’t pile into the side of a field with torches blazing. Neither can they relax without having to keep an eye on who else is around at night.

Francesco, you’re saying you’ve been insulted by Red Collie. He’s long gone … and, besides, anyone who said humans can make decent crop circles were on the wrong end of his ire. Have you ever thought that some people are just not going to believe what you say because they desperately want it to be aliens? 

Grassi is a little too proud of his achievements. Similarly, he seems far too happy to jump on the nonsense bandwagon. We’ve watched as he’s regurgitated false accusations at certain photographers, suggesting they ‘commission’ circle makers. Yes, this old piece of disinformation. You’d think a skeptic so eager to be correct would want to get his facts straight. Then again, he might want to look at the criminal records and addiction habits of his sources and consider if he’s receiving reliable information. 

Top dog also has big news. Humans can make crop circles! Eager to share this revelation, Francesco goes straight for the head of the snake, banging on about whack-a-moles Paul Jacobs and the long disappeared Horace ‘Red Collie’ Drew. Still, there is no better way to further alienate yourself from the congregation than by going after the figures they look up to. Souls holding such devout beliefs are seldom going to change their minds, especially when they understand full well that they’re the fish in a barrel. Next, Francesco will be telling us that Zeus doesn’t really live at the top of a mountain in Greece. We can see how that will go … he’ll be getting his harnesses and ropes on, surveying every inch of land up to the top and proudly proclaiming there’s no sign of the chief deity. It’ll take him eight years but eventually he’ll stand on the summit of Olympus with a phone, camera focussed solely on his face as he calls out the mighty god for an interview. Then it’ll be back down to the bottom with a video of his exploits to follow on social media. Once this has been suitably milked, we will see him posture by getting into pointless, completely one sided arguments with hardcore believers. You know the type. They’ll be claiming Zeus was on holiday in the Maldives at the time Francesco made his trip. Cue the response mentioning the burden of proof, as if the hardliners will take it on board … blah de blah de blah de blah. 

CONTENDER No.2: Enzo Brabazon

Repeatedly hanging around Top of the Crappies like mildew in a wellington boot, loopy Enzo Brabazon once again makes it onto The Crappie’s list for all of the wrong reasons. He began the year hooting to all and sundry that he required help with his impending six week cropwatch atop Hackpen Hill. Perhaps fearing he could well let down those people kind and foolish enough to donate to him, Enzo went on to message one particular circle maker, asking for assistance with the creation of a formation containing his own name:

Despite being busted, Enzo still embarked on a trimmed down cropwatch, splitting his time between Hackpen and Silbury hills. Given how widely advertised the entire affair was, it was no surprise that the circle makers stayed well away. However, we did hear a report of one rambler stumbling across a drunk, half-starved man wearing nothing but briefs and socks, slumped over a green camping table at the edge of a Hackpen Hill clump. His hands were inside his underwear. 

In the flames of one car-wreck came another, with Croppie Coffee podcast releasing their interview with Brabazon as the season finale. We can see why they held onto it for so long. Enzo gave us nothing but nonsense, coughing his way through allegations his online shop had been shut down for no reason (nothing to do with those copyright breaches, then?), Facebook was out to silence him and croppies had been spreading rumours that he flashed at an old lady. Paranoia. He even repeated a claim he’d made before but subsequently denied, namely that he’d died of AIDS related illnesses and had somehow been reborn. At least this year The Crappie didn’t receive any unsolicited photographs of him!

If there’s a potentially happy ending to have come from this insanity it’s that Enzo now has his own Facebook group inherited from former Top of the Crappies champion Richard Skerman. Wait, didn’t Facebook want to silence Brabazon? Yes, this is the type of nonsense he thrives on. Nonetheless, his own group is his own safe area and we can easily ignore it. 

CONTENDER No.1: Connor Skerman

It is good to be able to speak of a member of Dorset’s Skerman clan in a positive tone. Son of former top croppie Richard, Connor tried to make his contribution towards the crop circle scene in 2023 with a podcast titled Croppie Coffee. Battling through inexperience, numerous technical problems, some slightly mocking background music and a few uncomfortable moments with guests of varying quality, Connor managed to put out nine episodes of the show alongside co-host Simon Mumford.

At times we had to put our hands over our eyes: a local radio DJ having no real idea what he was on about; Mumford having no reference point beyond one circle (he’s in good company there, Frank Smithland!) and Polly Carson being barely able to hide her feelings towards her ex-husband. Yet there were some good to golden moments along the way: Kathy Mingo sharing her disdain for one particular crop circle photographer, Paul Stillwell’s appreciation of crop circle symbolism and an endless stream of hilarious verbal squirts from Enzo ‘cough cough’ Brabazon. How we laughed when Mumford made Brabazon squirm by asking about the latter’s circle making exploits.

All told, Croppie Coffee was a crazy, wild mess that eventually won us over.

It remains to be seen if Croppie Coffee will return for a second season, but think about it like this: 2023 is an era where bitter, disgruntled manbabies are doing all they can to destroy the circles. Their attitude can be summarised as if I can’t take part then I don’t want anybody doing it. In such a climate there are very few people with any kind of profile who are looking to contribute something of genuine worth towards the circles. After all, it’s easier to snipe from the sidelines, cry that the world owes you a living and wet the bed rather than contribute anything positive. Maybe the podcast was a flash in the pan because the number of potentially interesting and good guests isn’t great, but Connor Skerman has at least tried to make a difference. Kudos to him for that. 

Well, sorry. You’re just going to have to wait a bit longer to see who our winner is. Check back tomorrow, 25 December 2023 to see who is going to receive the ultimate accolade!