A giant whose marvelous cow gave unlimited amounts of milk used the circle until a malicious witch, named Mitchell, milked the cow using a sieve until it was drained dry, as a result of which it fled to Warwickshire where it became the Dun cow. As a punishment, the witch was turned into stone and surrounded by other stones to prevent her escaping. What became of the giant is unknown.
The story is carved into one of the stone arches of nearby Middleton Church, near Stapeley Hill. This legend has many variations – some say it was a fairy which gave the cow in a famine, others suggest the cow arrived by chance. Some talk of the stones as a pen for the cow, others tell how the stones were erected to contain the witch. The only consistent elements are the inexhaustible cow and the evil witch that milked her dry.
Local Folklore also suggests this is the actual place where King Arthur withdrew Excalibur from one of the stones in the circle and then became King of the Britains.
Can you see Mitchell the Witch? She was a bad witch.
Bronze Age Stone Circle built around 2000-1400BC. Sometimes called Medgel’s Fold or Madges Pinfold. The name of the circle may derive from ‘micel’ or ‘mycel’, Old English for ‘big’, referring to the size of this large circle.
Perched on a flat shelf between Corndon Hill to the south and Stapeley Hill to the north-east, Mitchells Fold offers panoramic views towards Wales to the west. Fifteen stones remain from a possible thirty. The tallest is just short of two meters high. The doleritic stones came from nearby Stapeley Hill. Many of them are now missing and others are fallen.
The survivors that still stand range in height from 10ins to 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m), and stand in an ellipse 89 ft (27 m) NW-SE by 82 ft (25 m) The tallest is at the south-east end of the major axis, standing, perhaps by coincidence or design, close to the line of the southern moonrise. This pillar and a companion have been taken to flank an entrance about 6 ft (1.8 m) wide.
Around 80 meters S of the circle, 40 meters to the left of the track, is a small Bronze Age standing stone, an outlier is between the circle and Corndon Hill, with a cairn to the NE.
Nearby to the east were recorded three standing stones – Druid’s Castle, and to the south, a ruined circle just within Powys – The Whetstones.
The area around Corndon Hill, on the Wales/England border, has been a focus for human activity from prehistoric times to the present day. There is evidence that the land was being cleared, presumably for agriculture, during the Neolithic period (around 4,400 – 2,300 BC) and during the Bronze Age (2,300 – 1,200 BC) a distinct cluster of burial mounds were constructed, occupying prominent hilltops and hill spurs in the Corndon Hill and Lan Fawr area. The stone-built burial cairns are typical landscape features of the Welsh uplands and would have been erected over inhumations (usually single skeletons), and sometimes cremations. These monuments are perhaps contemporary with the stone circle at Mitchell’s Fold, which lies further to the north on Stapeley Hill.
The underlying geology has played a major role in this area, not only in sculpting the landscape, but also influencing man’s exploitation of natural resources. The upland mass of Corndon Hill was formed by a volcanic intrusion of dolerite, while just to the south, near Hyssington, is a small outcrop of an even harder volcanic rock known as picrite. This was used to make stone axes at around the same time that the burial cairns and stone circle were constructed. To the north-east of Corndon, and around Snailbeach in particular, veins of lead were exploited for centuries, possibly from Roman times until the early 20th century.
In the centuries after the Norman conquest, Corndon Hill and the surrounding area formed a hunting estate, or ‘forest’, belonging to one of the neighbouring Marcher lordships. This was one of a number of forests, or chases, which once occupied the Welsh borderlands.
List of notable ancient sites from Cordon Hill (the panorama is looking due east).
912m NW 317° The Whetstones* Stone Circle (SO305976)
1.1km W 287° New House Long Barrow* Long Barrow (SO300973)
1.3km N 356° Druid’s Castle* Stone Circle (SO309981)
1.6km NW 328° Mitchell’s Fold* Stone Circle (SO304983)
1.9km S 201° Cwm Mawr Stone Axe Factory Ancient Mine, Quarry or other Industry (SO305950)
2.0km N 352° Cow Stone (Shropshire)* Standing Stone (Menhir) (SO308988)
2.0km N 11° Stapeley Hill Earthworks* Misc. Earthwork (SO312988)
2.0km NW 326° Middleton Hill Round Barrow(s) (SO302987)
2.2km N 10° Stapeley Hill Cairn* Cairn (SO312990)
2.4km SW 234° Roundton* Hillfort (SO29389498)
2.4km NW 315° Middleton Hall* Standing Stone (Menhir) (SO297989)
2.5km NE 23° Giant’s Grave (Shropshire)* Burial Chamber (Dolmen) (SO316992)
3.4km SE 120° Heath Mynd Bronze Age Homestead* Misc. Earthwork (SO33369447)
3.4km NE 37° Hoarstones* Stone Circle (SO324999)
3.5km N 16° Holywell Brook (Rorrington)* Holy Well or Sacred Spring (SJ316002)
3.6km E 81° Ritton Castle* Hillfort (SO34449765)
3.7km W 261° Calcot Camp* Hillfort (SO273959)
3.7km N 13° Castle Ring (Rorrington)* Hillfort (SJ315005)
Cwm Mawr Stone Axe Factory
To the south of Corndon Hill on Brithdir Farm Hill is Cwm Mawr, the site of a prehistoric stone axe factory, utilising the outcrop of a hard, igneous rock known as picrite. Numerous picrite battle axes and axe hammers have been found across southern Britain, although their main concentration is in the West Midlands and Welsh Marches.
The unexpected discovery of a number of stone carvings in close proximity to areas of extraction has given new significance to the site. The decoration, which consists of numerous parallel and crossing lines, is similar to examples found in Neolithic contexts in Scotland and Ireland. Although none of the discoveries were from well-stratified contexts, and cannot, therefore, be confidently associated with quarrying activities, their presence does confirm significant prehistoric activity on the south-east side of the hill.
An irregular hilltop enclosure approx 160 by 100meters, defined by a single bank except where it rests on precipitous slopes to the east.
The vantage point offers great viewing across the surrounding countryside. In later years miners worked the hill for lead and barites. Today, the geological and industrial landscapes of Roundton Hill have created a variety of habitats where specialist plants have taken hold. Perhaps the most significant of these are the ‘spring ephemerals’ – tiny ground-hugging plants that thrive on areas of thin, dry soil. At one time bats may have played a part in ancient rituals but today Horseshoe and Daubenton’s bats are protected in roosts within the old mine adits.
Having avoided the plough, the hill’s steep rocky slopes still support plants such as the mountain pansy which has long since disappeared from most of the hills in mid-Wales. The reserve was made a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 1986.
Shepherd’s Cress (Teesdalia nudicaulis)
Upright Chickweed (Moenchia erecta)
Common Dog Violets (Viola riviniana)
Wild Thyme (Thymus polytrichus),
Tormentil (Potentilla erecta)
Rock Stonecrop (Sedum forsterianum)
Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum)
Heath Bedstraw (Galium saxatile)
Sheep’s Sorrel (Rumex acetosella)
Mountain pansy (Viola lutea)
Late summer and early autumn the hill sometimes harbours rare and interesting fungi:
Date Waxcap (Hygrocybe spadicea)
Pink Waxcap (Hygrocybe calyptriformis)
Olive Earthtongue (Microglossum olivaceum)
Violet Coral(Clavaria zollingeri) also referred to as the Amethyst Fairy Club.