Now Mitchell was a wicked woman, no one could deny it; some even called her a witch. She could never bear to see anyone happy without trying to mar their good fortune.

Let me tell you the tale of how she met her end.

The people of Priest Weston had gone through hard years and a famine threatened to finish them all. Providence could not let the good suffer through and sent them a magic cow. The cow would give them all the milk they could ever need and never run dry. The villagers danced and sang to celebrate their deliverance. But Mitchell stood close by with a sneer in her eye.

Late one night while everyone slept Mitchell slipped quietly into the byre and untethered that cow of plenty. Silently she stole away, tugging the cow behind her, to her fold in the nearby hills. Up amongst the stones she took an old bucket full of holes and sat to milk the cow. How much milk would she take? She wanted to milk that cow until it dried, and died.

Into the bucket flowed the milk. Out of the holes and onto the marshy ground gushed the milk. The bucket was never full, the cow could not stop giving milk. Mitchell would have her way.

But no, the cow kicked out in its anger and knocked Mitchell clean off her stool. Mitchell fell straight into the milky bog that the fold had become. She was swallowed up and never seen again. The cow jumped over the hills and returned to that place from which it had originally came.

Luckily the people of Priest Weston had been wise. They had made cheese and butter from the milk of the cow. This would last them all winter long until they could gather food again from the surrounding hills.

en français

L’Antre de Mitchell

Mitchell était une méchante femme, personne ne peut dire le contraire ; certains l’appelaient même sorcière. Elle ne pouvait jamais s’empêcher de voir quelqu’un heureux sans essayer de gâcher son bonheur.

Les gens de Priest Weston avaient connu des années difficiles et une famine menaçait leur vie à tous. La Providence ne pouvait laisser les justes souffrir plus longtemps et leur envoya une vache magique. Cette vache pouvait leur fournir tout le lait dont ils pouvaient avoir besoin sans jamais se tarir. Les villageois dansèrent et chantèrent pour fêter leur délivrance. Mais Mitchell n’était pas loin, avec du mépris dans les yeux.

Tard dans la nuit, alors que tout le monde dormait, Mitchell se glissa sans bruit dans l’étable et détacha cette vache d’abondance. Silencieusement, elle se faufila à l’extérieur, tirant la vache derrière elle, jusque dans son antre, dans les collines proches. Là-haut, parmi les pierres, elle prit un vieux seau plein de trous et s’assit pour traire la vache. Combien de lait prendrait-elle? Elle voulait traire cette vache jusqu’à ce qu’elle se tarisse et meure.

Le lait coulait dans le seau. Il coulait à flots par les trous, sur le sol marécageux. Le seau n’était jamais plein, la vache ne pouvait s’arrêter de donner du lait. Mitchell voulait réussir.

Mais non, la vache rua de colère et renversa Mitchell du tabouret. Mitchell tomba tout droit dans le marais lacté que l’antre était devenue. Elle y fut engloutie et on ne la revit jamais. La vache sauta par-dessus les collines et retourna à l’endroit d’où elle venait en premier lieu.

Heureusement, les gens de Priest Weston avaient fait preuve de sagesse. Avec le lait de la vache, ils avaient fabriqué du fromage et du beurre. Cela leur durerait tout l’hiver, jusqu’à ce qu’ils puissent retourner chercher de la nourriture dans les collines environnantes.

Translation: Euro Langues Assistance & Tradufrance

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Background facts

Mitchell’s Fold

On the windy South-western sloped of Stapeley Hill, Mitchell’s Fold is an ancient bronze-age stone circle.

Around Stapeley Hill there are other stone circles called Whetstones and Marsh Pool Stone Circle.

copyright Gordon Dickins

No-one is quite sure of the reasons bronze-age man built these circles. It is thought they probably had some religious significance and could be a way of pointing out star alignments at important times in the peoples’ lives.

Mitchell’s Fold stone circle is roughly 27m in diameter and 14 stones remain. They are not regularly spaced, so there may have been more originally. Off to the South West is a lone stone by a cairn (or pile of rocks). This stone is known as “the altar”.

On Stapeley Hill you are standing in England but your view is dominated by the nearby dark mass of Corndon Hill, which is in Wales. On a clear day you can get beautiful views across some of the wildest areas of Wales.

The Legend

A version of the story can be found in the Middleton-in-Chirbury church. It was carved around a sandstone pillar by the church’s vicar, Reverend Brewster, in 1879., There are many different versions of the story – generations upon generations of local people have told and embellished the story in their own way.

Priest Weston

The tiny village of Priest Weston straddles the English / Welsh border about a mile to the South West of Mitchell’s Fold. I haven’t visited recently but on my last visit I was much taken by the hospitality of the village pub.

en français

L’Antre de Mitchell

Sur le versant venteux du sud-ouest de Stapeley Hill, l’Antre de Mitchell est un antique cromlech de l’Age de Bronze.

Autour de Stapeley Hill, il y a d’autres cromlechs appelés Whetstones (Pierres à aiguiser) et le Marsh Pool Stone Circle.

The witches stone at Mitchells Fold
copyright Gordon Dickins

Personne n’est vraiment sûr de ce qui a motivé les hommes de l’Age de Bronze à construire ces cercles. On pense qu’ils avaient probablement une signification religieuse et pouvaient être une manière de désigner l’alignement des étoiles à des moments importants dans la vie des gens.

Le cromlech de l’Antre de Mitchell a un diamètre d’environ 27m. Il en reste 14 pierres. Elles ne sont pas espacées régulièrement, alors il devait y en avoir plus à l’origine. Plus loin, vers le sud-ouest, se trouve une pierre seule près d’un tumulus (ou tas de rochers). Cette pierre est connue sous le nom de ‘the altar’ (l’Autel).

Sur la colline de Stapeley, vous vous trouvez en Angleterre mais votre vue est dominée par la masse sombre toute proche de la colline de Corndon, qui est au Pays de Galles. Par une journée claire, vous pouvez voir les beaux paysages d’une des régions les plus sauvages du Pays de Galles.

La Légende

On peut trouver une version de l’histoire dans l’église de Middleton-in-Chirbury. Elle fut gravée autour d’une colonne de grès, par le pasteur de l’église, le Révérend Brewster, en 1879. Il existe de nombreuses versions différentes de l’histoire – génération après génération, les gens du cru ont raconté et embelli l’histoire à leur manière.

Priest Weston

Le petit village de Priest Weston chevauche la frontière anglaise / galloise un peu plus d’un kilomètre au sud-ouest de l’Antre de Mitchell. Je ne l’ai pas visité récemment mais, lors de ma dernière visite, j’ai été très frappé par l’hospitalité du pub du village.

Translation: Euro Langues Assistance & Tradufrance

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Key Stage 2 Activities

It All Comes From Milk

The people of Priest Weston were saved from starvation by the magic cow’s milk. How many items can you list that are made from milk?

To Cut A Long Story Short

Mitchell’s Fold isn’t really a long story, but I had two reasons to make it shorter. Shropshire Radio wanted me to read a 30-second version on air. Also I wanted a version for a postcard, big enough to read but only covering half the back of the card so as to leave room for the stamp and address. I cut the story from 307 words to 93, then it worked for both uses. You try editing the story before reading my shorter version below.

Stone Circles

There are many stone circles around the country. Why do you think they were built? Do you know the name of the most famous stone circle? Try to find out more about them.

Draining Away

Water (or milk for that matter) drains into the ground at different speeds depending on the composition of the soil. This is called the Infiltration Rate.

Experiment around the garden to find where the Infiltration Rate is quickest. Take some plastic lemonade bottles, remove the lids and cut the bottles in half. Discard the bottoms and sink the upside-down top halves into the ground at various points, to make funnels. Fill these funnels with water and time how long it takes to drain away.

What Does A Witch Look Like?

The witch in my picture looks like a startled old lady. In some stories, like ‘Hansel and Gretel’, the witch looks really ugly. In other stories, like ‘the Worst Witch’ by Jill Murphy, witches can look quite nice.

What would your witch look like? Draw or paint a picture of her or write a poem about how she looks.

The postcard friendly version of the Mitchell’s Fold story

The people of Priest Weston were starving when providence brought them a magic cow. It could go on milking and never run dry. Alas, the wicked witch Mitchell stole it and took it to her fold. She milked that cow into a bucket full of holes. She’d milk it until it dried or died. The cow had other ideas. It kicked Mitchell off her stool and into the milky bog the fold had become. The cow jumped the hills and never came back, but no-one starved with all that milk and cheese.

The Old Cow Died

A Song About A Different Cow… Look at the lyric of The Old Cow Died, an old North American folk song. See if you can sing along.

See lyric…

The Old Cow Died

The old cow died, sail around. The old cow died, sail around
The old cow died, sail around. The old cow died, sail around

Did you give her hot water?
Yes ma’am
Did you give her any soda?
Yes ma’am

The old cow died, sail around. The old cow died, sail around
The old cow died, sail around. The old cow died, sail around

Did you send for the Doctor?
Yes ma’am
Then did the Doctor get here?
Yes ma’am

The old cow died, sail around. The old cow died, sail around
The old cow died, sail around. The old cow died, sail around

Did he tell you what ailed her?
Yes ma’am
Did she die of the cholera?
Yes ma’am

The old cow died, sail around. The old cow died, sail around
The old cow died, sail around. The old cow died, sail around

Did the buzzards fly over?
Yes ma’am
Did the buzzards try to eat her?
Yes ma’am

The old cow died, sail around. The old cow died, sail around
The old cow died, sail around. The old cow died, sail around

Did the buzzards sail up high?
Yes ma’am
Did the buzzards swoop down low?
Yes ma’am

The old cow died, sail around. The old cow died, sail around
The old cow died, sail around. The old cow died, sail around

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