|Alighted at Finstown and headed off down to Binscarth Wood, a plantation like every Orcadian wood except Berriedale on Hoy. You cross into the trees where the millstream exits the wood (having started life from the southern end of the Loch of Wasdale then taken a circuitous route) but can then take a farmtrack above them if in a grand hurry - this has a copse strip running alongside for interest. Fortunately this area was dry, as it does hold a lot of moisture that somtimed turns the track to mud. In times past this wood has been turned ito an ornament by the use of wall-lined paths wending their way hither and thither, and you can still follow these in parts. Right near the beginning in a clear space next the burn a tree stump played host to several large pale mottled toadstools. These are about a handspan and I think they might be beefsteak fungus. Some were turning an inky black as they themselves decomposed after these fruiting bodies had given their all for the great mother below. Next to the stump were further fungi, the yellow of chanterelles but not stuck together, flat-capped and utterly dwarfed by an ash key beside them. Bairns and the child-like enjoy a curve in the burn you can often cross, and where there is water furniture relating to its former use as a millstream. Down here the wood is well wooded and tree limbs can make you scramble. But as I head away from the burn and uphill the top corner is almost regimented, light and airy with trees well-spaced and straight trunked. This almost ornamental stand goes back to the mansion house heyday (there was a seperate greenhouse area east of Binscarth House) as the plants are not native - on the ground beneath there are long soft cones like the tip of a pangolin's tail. Coming out of this wood there is a walled 'garden' set back below the house. When NoSAS were based at Binscarth we would chop wood gathered here, but I'm fairly sure this piece isn't open to the public so I don't go there now - I wonder if the naturalists still rent it from the guv. The track now goes between hedgerows, and since the trail became official this has become rather churned up, forming big muddy puddles after bad weather (not quite as bad as the Seatter track though).
This brings you out into Wasdale, which once hosted a market of sorts. Down in the loch the islet is enchanting as ever, softly curved with an off-centre pimple and having a penumbra of water-loving grass fanned about it like the rings around Saturn. Just relised the profile is like a shield-boss, I knew there was something niggling at me. As I see it there are two ways of looking at this site's watery ring, that the vegetation-less channel about the land is due to suppression by buried stonework or that it represents a stoneless gap between the islet and buried stonework (not wide enough to be outbuildings I feel). This day the causeway is underwater as per usual. It seems to me that the farm has been better in the past - as well as the market there is a disused quarry stretched across the hillside above. I have still been unable to find a name for the steading remains sitting above the Wasdale track at the junction with that going up to Setter. The Dyke of Setter marks the boundary between Firth and Harray, the Slap of Setter being where there was a gap (in Harray only Winksetter tunship lacks slaps).
My next turning point is just beyond Rosebank (which has no age to it). At the junction with the Howe road a ruin on a slight rise is is down on the NMRS as Woodwyn- it isn't named on the 25", so I would place it with Boardhouse ? What isn't on NMRS is a longer building of several parts. further east at HY32931635. I would have thought it had once beem important because rather than drystone places such as the wall corners use carefully carved stone. Possibly the stone came from somewhere else though, or an earlier structure, as its use is a little random in parts. Only one small section of roof remains in place. At the southern end is what seems to have been a kiln - a kiln barn perhaps, or another walkerhouse. I imagine the ruin I believe to be Stoneywoo would have looked like this. This ruin is seperated from Tufta by a field called Bruntquina. IIRC quina is a variant of quoys, which would give Bruntquina as 'burnt enclosure'. Tufta is (I gather) the plural of toft and meant a collection of ancient buildings. Would be nice if the ruin had been the original Tufta but it is equally close to Appiehouse. When I saw stones eposed in a mound south of it in the same field I thought I had found that Howe was named after, only a year later do I know I confused Tufta with Howe, though it is the only mound before reaching Winksetter to show likely evidence for being other than a grass-covered earthen hillock it ain't much.
The level (well, kind of level) piece of my walk ended just beyond Winksetter a little further on from where you start north for the Knowes of Trotty (the seperate mounds of the barrow cemetery almost visible to the unaided eye). At this part you are several metres above the valley floor. I go to the edge of a big bend and below me see another unmarked little ruin, perhaps a shieling for a seasonal farm labourer. This bit of the farmtrack has been cut into the hillside more laterally than vertically. Coming around the corner of the bump/hillock I could see something behind and climbed up over it to investigate. There is a long mound with a stepped profile like a low-backed settee viewed from the front and a bump by one end. Unlike the nearby heathery slopes it has a covering of bright green grass. There are large stones scattered liberally on and in it, a few with square corners. When I went back nearly a year later going by the fences and walls I made it out to be roughly at HY343167 (it lies between one of each). The sceptic in me said it might be an old quarry, but though the area is peppered with disused quarries on the maps it is well away from all the quarries shown on the 1st O.S. and subsequently.
Coming back I decide to extend my walk by going up the Howe road to the Lyde Road, a lovely rolling farmroad, a dark ribbon. Past Manse I turn left over to the main road. That is when my body announced my exhaustion ! The track on the other side goes around the top of the hill and can be used to avoid a tricky corner. Going down the main road there is a single-storey stone building with a slight L-shape, 18th/19thC I would guess by the small roof slabs the size of tiles. This is down as Brough smithy, HY31NW 65 at HY3197917216, described as rubble-built. The L bit at the left has a piece blocked off by red bricks. This was the access to the hearth within this gable end, which has two peedie windows and a broad chimney (this now with a strong-ish lean) as if the ground floor had been taken off of your average two-storey house. What I myself find cute is small rubble-built enclosure abutting the north end, built of stones of much more variable sizes than the smithy - and no mortar either IIRC.
Must have gone down the Stoneyhill Road and across to the north leg of the Grimeston road as I took another picture of the summit (HY323157) of Grimeston tunship. This is in the same field as the standing stone. I have a feeling that what I picked out at the summit relates to the Henge site in the field across the road (now on record as HY31NW 114 at HY32201565). Still looks like a tiny tump from the road, but in April 2013 discovered this to be highly deceptive as well as it's having an even closer association with the henge (rather than simply being up high overlooking the site). Once more back onto the main road, and down the final straight to the junction, I saw again two wartime remains in the corner of a field on the east side of the road. Surely I will have snapped them from roadside before and no energy left to enter for more now. Coming to the junction there are lovely views of Bincarth's wood and hedgerows, strung out with Wideford Hill visible in the far distance. Took a couple of pics of the Bincarth Farm complex and one of the buildings I could see had a strange piece on one side with two parallel lines of horizontal slabs leaving a space as if some long large billlboard had been taken away. So a year later I made a point of examining the farm more closely and thoroughly. And then I took the bus home.
Posted by wideford
18th July 2013ce
wideford's TMA Blog
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