Last Updated on 25th July 2022 by Mike@bitaboutbritain
Mitchell’s Fold Stone Circle is one of those places you think you should have arrived at much sooner than you do. “We must have passed it. Maybe I should turn round”. Surely, supernatural forces were at work, discombobulating me as I (unsuccessfully) navigated the car along narrow border lanes between England and Wales. In fact, all I needed was a good scale map – and to have taken a shorter route. It was very pleasant anyway, as we skipped (not easy to do whilst driving) bewilderingly in and out of Shropshire and Powys. Eventually, we arrived at a rough trackway and parked up. Boots were donned; you can never tell what you’ll find at a stone circle.
It was late afternoon and the light was just about breaking through low cloud as we made our way up a slight slope toward the monument. It sits at around 1,000 feet above sea level, with soft, green, valleys below. Great views appeared through gaps in the hedge and then we were on open moorland. On our left, to the west, a fabulous, moody, panorama opened up, with the backdrop of distant Welsh hills. There wasn’t another soul in sight.
Seekers of stone circles know that these places are rarely on a grand scale. They are very old and have often been vandalised. Mitchell’s Fold Stone Circle was built during the Bronze Age, about 3,000 years ago and, to be fair, it is fairly modest. There are 15 dolerite stones taken from Stapeley Hill nearby. The stones are arranged in a rough, low, circle with a couple of them standing higher than the rest. Experts believe there were originally 30 stones, that the tallest had a twin, making a doorway, and that there was a central stone inside the circle. As ever, I wondered about the people that built these things, all those years ago. What were they like? What did they talk about? Think of the effort, organisation and commitment going into a project like this – and we still do not know for sure why they did it. Sacred site? Meeting place? Whatever it was, the motivation was astonishing.
Who was Mitchell, I wondered? Whoever he was, his fold is sometimes known as Medgel’s Fold. Trackways criss-cross the circle. Animals or man? I didn’t know. It is, so I have read, a good place to celebrate the summer and winter solstices and I can imagine that would be right. Very atmospheric. Several other prehistoric sites are nearby, including another circle, Hoarstones, and a Bronze Age axe factory at Cwm Mawr. A lone walker came into view and I watched him stride up the hill with stick and backpack. He nodded a greeting as he passed on his way to who knows where. There was what looked like a slated roof not far away; surely, no one lives up here, I thought.
A legend says that King Arthur drew Excalibur from a stone at Mitchell’s Fold. A more common story tells of a benevolent fairy who, during a time of famine, conjured up a magic cow that produced an unlimited supply of milk. But an evil witch appeared one night and managed to milk the cow dry, at which point the poor, drained, creature disappeared. The witch, however, was turned to stone and imprisoned inside a circle of stones that grew up around her. Serves her right.