Eddie and Bob were regulars, down at The Boatman. At the same time every year, the influx of new-agers looking for crop-circles would drive them to get tanked up and then walk along the canal to fetch the plank and string off Bob's boat, before heading up the Grimsdyke to do their thing. Their 'thing' was nothing too creative - Alan at The White Horse made up for that with his great line in flower buds. No, Bob and Eddie stuck to fractals in the corn; hence the string.
Often as not, their mathematical efforts might make the February or March images in some crop-circle photo calendar. More often, they'd be the talk of The Boatman for a week or two after their sojourn, and none more so than 'the night of the ball-lightning'.
Eddie was just finishing the 'seed' circle from which they'd planned to spiral outwards with other successively larger ones, and he felt like having a quick cigarette while Bob moved the peg. His roll-ups were none too tidy at the best of times, but after dark and with their maker the worse for beer they were very hit-and-miss affairs, with wads of tobacco sticking out at all angles. This night, lighting up, the loose tobacco flared and set light to his mop of wild red hair. Since he'd had seven or eight pints of 6X, his thinking was like his roll-ups - none too straight - and so he ran amok in panic.
High up on the Grimsdyke of course was one of the new-age protagonists to whom Eddie and Bob had dedicated their work, a Dutch holidaymaker hoping for a sign of some alien activity. What he saw instead was a ball of fire moving at speed across the floor of the valley below.
Next day, as you might imagine, the Dutchman ruled at the bar as he regaled everyone with the strange tale of his previous night's experiences. The ball of flame grew larger in the telling and its speed across the crops, which now miraculously sported a large circle looking like a kitten's unwinding ball of string, increased in similar proportions. What the Dutchman did not notice was that grasping a pint in a dark corner of the pub was a regular, sporting a 'threadbare' look with the clumped remaining tufts of his auburn thatch edged with charcoal.
What neither the Dutchman, Bob, or Eddie noticed was that all their efforts of the night before had been watched avidly by a dark silhouette hovering just above the horizon between Polaris and the dark escarpment of the Grimsdyke.