The White Cow of Mitchell's Fold

Updated on August 21, 2017
Corndon at Dusk, by Phil King
Corndon at Dusk, by Phil King | Source

Long, long ago there was a great famine in Shropshire. After a cold dry winter came a cold dry spring, and after a cold dry spring a hot dry summer. The rivers began to fall, and as their level sank the fish died and floated downstream, or lay rotting on the uncovered banks. The ground grew hard and dusty, and no crops would thrive. The wheat did not spring, and the roots did not swell. The fruit-trees were blighted and no blossom came; and the cattle, thin and bony, fell sick of strange diseases and died in their stalls. All men prayed for rain, but the skies remained cloudless and the pastures crumbled away.

Many died, and those who survived lived only by killing the dying cattle and eating them, by catching the hawks and owls that lived on, and by feeding on the hard dry berries and seedy fruits that grew in the woods. It was a time of great hardship, and greater despair, for all felt that God and his angels had abandoned them and that the end of the world was drawing near.

Slopes of Cefn Gunthly and Corndon Hill, by Derek Harper
Slopes of Cefn Gunthly and Corndon Hill, by Derek Harper | Source

However, among those who suffered, there was one who did not give up hope. Every morning and every evening he would climb to the top of Corndon Hill and then look out into the west for the raincloud which he knew would, in the end, appear. He was mocked for his pains, but no hard words could dissuade him from his faith; and one evening, in a strange and unexpected way, this faith was rewarded.

It was an evening in late summer. The air was still and hot and thick. As the sun dropped closer and closer to the horizon, it seemed, as sometimes it does in desert lands, to shrink from capture and to take on strange unnatural shapes; and it threw around it a red and baleful light. It shone upon no summer landscape, for the fields were bare and burnt and dusty and the pastures sere and scorched. Already all the little greenery of the year had gone, and from the brown boughs hung dried and withered leaves, like bats. No birds sang, no cattle lowed, no cockerel crowed from the village. It seemed as if the world were dying.

View of one of the standing stones in the neolithic monument
View of one of the standing stones in the neolithic monument | Source

The good farmer looked sadly at the wasted landscape, and for once his heart began to fail, for the sky was still cloudless and the air still thick and unstirring; but as he turned to go down the hill, there came to him from out of a copse, a beautiful white cow. Her black nose was glistening as if she had newly drunk, her horns polished and shining, her flanks fat and glossy with health, her udders full. She seemed no ordinary cow, but rather a fabled visitor, and such a beast as a goddess might have taken for her earthly shape. Yet she was no illusion, for she came and stood by the farmer, and licked him with her rough tongue, and he knew that she was asking to be milked.

Quickly he ran home, quickly he told the news to his neighbours, quickly and fearfully they climbed to the top of Corndon Hill, for they could scarce believe that the visionary cow would wait for them. Yet there she stood, and one by one the folk milked her, and took their share of her.

When they had done, one of the men suggested that they should drive her to the village and stall her there, but the farmer quickly forbade it.

‘”Friends,’ he said, ‘she is a gift from God, and a token that he has not forgotten us. Therefore we must not force her or impose upon her in any way. There is something that tells me that she will come again, if we do not restrain or compel her. Nor must we abuse her. Let no man take more than one vessel of milk from her, and she will not fail; but if any tries to get from her more than his due, then she will leave us as suddenly as she has come to us.’

English White Park Cow ("Englisches Parkrind am Waldrand im NSG Karower Teiche"), by Sinuhe20
English White Park Cow ("Englisches Parkrind am Waldrand im NSG Karower Teiche"), by Sinuhe20 | Source

The farmer was in the right. When the men had finished milking the cow, she wandered off to the copse, and all understood that she was not to be followed; but the next morning she came again and gave her milk again. No-one asked on what fairy food she fed, or at what fairy spring she found her water, but all venerated her and used her kindly like the gift from heaven that she was; and as long as no-one abused her, or drew from her more than his due, she let down her milk and gave freely.

So it was that the white cow saved the people of Corndon. For many months she came, morning and evening, to the milking-place on the hill, and had it not been for her there would scarce have been one man left alive there.

There lived near Corndon, however, and old witch whose name was Mitchell. When men begin to lose faith in God, they often turn to devils and witches, and when the great drought came, many, in bewilderment, had sought the advice of the old witch, for she had spells and charms, which although they did little good, yet gave the promise of doing good. However, when the white cow came, the witch began to lose favour. The cow was something that she had not foretold, and its milk was far better than all her spells and incantations. She grew jealous of it. Its meekness and its purity rebuked her. It was the agent of other and better powers than she served. It was her rival and stole away her clients, and she planned to drive it away.

Mitchell's Fold Stone Circle looking towards Corndon Hill, Shropshire, by originalpickaxe
Mitchell's Fold Stone Circle looking towards Corndon Hill, Shropshire, by originalpickaxe | Source

One day therefore when the milking was nearly over, she climbed to the top of the hill. In her hand she carried a small vessel, but under her cloak she had hidden a sieve. With a show of modesty she waited till all the other milkers had been served; then, being left alone, she drew out her sieve, and began to milk into it.

The white cow stood patiently for her, and the milk came freely, but as it fell through the sieve and made puddles on the ground, she began to grow uneasy. She swished her tail and began to move her head. The witch milked on and on, until at last the udders went slack, and the flow began to fail. The cow grew distressed, as if she knew that she had fallen into the hands of an enemy. She turned her head and looked reproachfully upon the old woman, and shook her head as if in pain. Triumphantly the witch began to strip her, and as the last drops came, the cow kicked the sieve away, and putting up her tail ran off towards the copse as if the fly had struck her.

Mitchell's Fold stone circle
Mitchell's Fold stone circle | Source

She never came back to Corndon. Some say that after this she lost her gentle nature and became wild, and ran like a beast possessed through Shropshire and Worcestershire until she was killed by Guy of Warwick. When she had gone, famine came again upon the people of Shropshire, and in the hungry days that followed, the witch Mitchell was among the first to die. They buried her on the top of Corndon Hill, and to keep her evil spirit in, built around her a strong wall, which is known to this day as Mitchell’s Fold. Not long after they buried her, the rains came and the famine ended; but none who survived ever forgot the gentle white cow that had succoured them in the hungry days.

How to Get There

Visiting Mitchell's Fold


How to Get There:

Corndon Hill itself is located a mere mile over the English border in Powys, Wales, yet this site is just about in the borders of the Marches.

Mitchell's Fold can be found on the moorland near Priest Weston, Montgomery, Shropshire, SY15 6DE. Following a track in a north easterly direction from the car park for approximately 300 metres, the stone circle is located over the brow of the hill.

Opening Hours:
Managed by English Heritage, this site is open all year round.

Admission Prices:
Free entry.

Facilities:

  • Car Park

Please note that vehicles are not allowed beyond the cattle grid. Dogs must be kept on leads due to livestock grazing in the area. There are no public conveniences on site, and those with limited mobility may find access challenging.

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Pollyanna Jones

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • James Slaven profile image

        James Slaven 

        11 months ago from Indiana, USA

        Love this tale! Similar to the Glas Ghoiibhneach of Ireland, but still quite English in character. Thank you!

      • RoadMonkey profile image

        RoadMonkey 

        15 months ago

        That was a good story. I have never heard it before. A very instructive tale, as they say.

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 

        15 months ago from Queensland Australia

        This was an enjoyable read. Thank you for sharing this tale, Pollyanna.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, letterpile.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://letterpile.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)