Like many rural places Durham and Northumberland have there myths and legends, none more so than the tales of the mischievous Bogles. Creatures of folklore who, either ghost or goblin sprite, would pray upon any poor unsuspecting person who crossed their paths. The most famous of these for us in this area would be that of the Hedley Kow.
The Kow itself was never said to have been dangerous as in all the encounters no one was ever harmed. The legends of the Kow were first put to pen in early 1800’s, although the tales of its exploits are said to have been around for centuries before. A shape-shifting bogle it would appear in numerous forms, sometimes as a twig on the road, sometimes as a person or a beast of burden.
One old woman who was out collecting twigs and such for kindling found a lovely dry twig laying in the road. She picked it up and placed it in her basket and then walked on. Before long the basket became heavier and heavier till she could no longer carry it and it dropped to the ground spilling out across the road. The stick then jumped up and began to dance away in the style of a folk dance swaying side to side and when some distance from the old women it gave out a hoarse laugh before fading away.
In around 1800, two young men from Newlands, Ebchester were dressed up in their Sunday best having arranged to meet their girlfriends down by the river Derwent. They set off, as all young men on dates did, with excitement and joy. On reaching the banks they saw their girlfriends ahead walking in the opposite direction, they shouted but the pair arm and arm continued walking. The lads followed but no matter how much they tried the girls stayed ahead of them. This continued for sometime until the lads found themselves knee deep in a mire. Suddenly with a wisp of smoke the girls disappeared with a deep laugh that no women could ever make came booming out of the smoke. Realising that they had been tricked by the Kow the two ran for home. The Kow pursued them laughing and taunting them all the way. The first stumbled into the Derwent between Ebchester and Hamsterley Hall, tumbling head over heels followed closely by his friend who collided with him. The two tussled in terror thinking each was the Kow on top of them. Realising what had happened they both got up found their footing and ran to the safety of home. With the hoarse laugh of the Kow still ringing in their ears they each recounted their story.
The Kow was also said to have had some heart. It never appeared to anyone during a time of great sadness or mourning, but the same could not be said of births at which it was seemed to have always showed itself in some form or another. Whether it was spooking the horse of the man riding for the midwife, or knocking on the door of the residence and disappearing. Why it appeared at these times more often is unsure. The Kow also liked to mimic voices, appearing at windows of the servant girls in the manor houses of the area pretending to be their lovers or shouting down the hallways in their masters voices. He also liked to appear as a dairy cow who would continuously escape the milkmaids attempt to catch it before disappearing with its familiar laugh.
Last century a new story of the Kow became more used for children. The story simply goes that an old woman walking came across a pot full of gold on the road. Looking around and seeing no one near she decided to take it home.
When arriving back at her cottage the gold had turned to silver, but she is still happy as it was something she had never had before. Previously she had made the decision to hand the gold over to the local constabulary as that much gold must have been stolen.
But now being silver she is not so certain and decides to keep it. However, the silver then turns to a lump of Iron. Great thinks the old lady as a nice lump of Iron would be so much easier to sell and at the end of the day she started with nothing anything is better than that.
So she reached into the pot and as she pulls out the iron it turns to a stone which wriggles in her hand. She drops it to the floor and the rock dances away laughing. But the old women did not get upset, instead she chuckles to herself thinking how lucky it was for to finally have met the Kow in person.