How handy it would be, in times of austerity, to rely on a visit from a Fairy Godmother who could appear at precisely the moment she was needed to wave her magic wand and make everything better.

Diss Mercury: The village of South Lopham was once home to a magical cow. Picture: Angela SharpeThe village of South Lopham was once home to a magical cow. Picture: Angela Sharpe (Image: Archant � 2007)

South Lopham in Norfolk may not be able to boast a Fairy Godmother but it does lay claim to a Fairy Cow who apparently magically appeared during times of great hardship in the village and then disappeared when things improved.

Legend tells of a cow that came to South Lopham when drought threatened the wellbeing of villagers and offered her milk freely to all that needed it.

When the drought ended, the magical beast would stamp down on a slab of sandstone, burning the imprint of her hoof into it, before vanishing back to where she came from.

A somewhat less cheerful tale tells of a perfectly ordinary cow who was milked by a man 'who had drunk too deeply of the Norfolk nut-brown ale' and was using a sieve rather than a bucket. He persevered until she gave blood, and as she bellowed with pain, she kicked the stone so hard that her hoof-print was left behind.

Variants of this story involve the cow being milked by an evil witch or a passing juggler but sadly none involve the milker, rather than the stone, being given a kick.

The final explanation for the magical stone is that an ox with a large thorn in its foot went on a rampage through the village before furiously stamping its foot on the stone

The so-called Ox-foot Stone stood in a meadow called Oxfootpiece but was then moved to several places in the parish before finally ending up in the conservatory of a private house. Today it is back outdoors, albeit on private land.

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