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Underwhelmed, Yet Intrigued

Only Here For The Beer . . . And Bronze Age

After spending a delightful weekend with friends in deepest Powys, we decided to wend our way home along a gloriously scenic route, taking in Clun, Bishops Castle, and, most importantly, Mitchell's Fold stone circle. However, the first stop was to be the Three Tuns in Bishops Castle, a pub with the happy privilege of having its own brewery adjoining the premises.

Four pumps of cracking real ale were on offer, and things got even better when we learnt they did carry-outs into the bargain. There was nothing for it but to leave with a pop bottle full of the Three Tun's seasonal Solstice bitter, the intention being to quaff it in the centre of the circle whilst watching a late August sunset over Wales.

Unfortunately, despite the beautiful afternoon weather, a hefty cloud bank had been steadily moving in towards us, and by the time we parked up at the bottom of the track leading to the site, everything was becoming a tad murky.

We walked up the track, which led onto a close-cropped, sheep-filled moor, the only noises being the warm wind and the constant bleating of lambs on the opposite hill. Swathes of bracken lined each side of the track, and after about a five minute walk, the arresting Kate spotted the first of the fifteen-odd stones, a fairly stumpy one, just past the information plaque.

Is That It?

I had heard several accounts of visits to this circle, and had wanted to explore it for sometime, especially as it seems to be the most significant site in the region. Sadly, I was totally underwhelmed when actually arriving after an anticipation-filled journey. It was at least half the size I had expected; I imagined it would be on the same scale as either the Druid's Circle, Castlerigg, Gors Fawr, Moel ty Uchaf or The Rollright Stones. It seemed fairly sparse in comparison, and therefore, quite disappointing when matched against these other hilly circles.

Of course, this may have been in no considerable part because of the awful gloaming, which was sucking the light and colour out of the entire landscape. The whole of the countryside was smothered in an oppressive, cheerless grey, more reminiscent of November than August. Matters weren't improved when I realised the beer was back down the track in the car. Still, there was no spectacular sunset with which to enjoy such quality ale.

Shropshire's Goddess

What was outstanding – and nothing but a pitch-black, moonless night would obscure this – was the landscape of Corndon Hill and surrounding hills. Mitchell's Fold lies in the shadow of the Godddess, in the shape of Corndon Hill. The impact of this vast landscape deity rising above the diminutive circle is quite something. I was immediately put in mind of the 'Sleeping Beauty' near Callanish, and wondered if a similar phenomena of a full moon travelling along the swelling, fertile body occurred at this site. Although I didn't have any accurate method of determining east, I figured the likelihood of this happening was very strong indeed.

Magnetic as the Goddess of Corndon Hill was, the hill directly below the circle to the south also suggested a powerful part to play in the cycle of life and death, for it appeared to be nothing more than a gigantic, natural, long barrow. Additionally, the views from this direction are utterly stunning. The country rolls gently into the distance for miles and miles, and even the lowering skies couldn't diminish the spectacular nature of this vista; what it would be to see it at dawn on a clear day!


Kate made a couple of circuits round the circle before walking back to the car, equally as disappointed in the circle as I had been. I wandered round a few of times, taking in the location, and trying to work out whether some of the recumbent stones were intentionally so, as the plaque suggested. I'm sure the tall one to the east and its fallen sister were some kind of gateway for the views to the west. Interestingly, the 'long barrow' hill almost disappears when seen from this position; it's only when one crosses to the western edge of the circle that its shape becomes clear.

After a bit more tramping about, sitting in the chair-like stone (which was nice), and stroking the two tallest stones while admiring their lovely sharp edges, the rock smooth and warm from the day's sun, the dark grey night began to close in with a sombre melancholy that I could bear no longer. Striding out with purpose, I joined Kate on the journey back to the car, wanting home and a warm bed.

I would like to return to this site on a clear evening, though, with a picnic and a planisphere for later – and next time, I won't forget the beer!

treaclechops Posted by treaclechops
24th August 2005ce
Edited 24th August 2005ce

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