|Took the bus to the start of the first Churchill Barrier. The driver was good enough to set me down quite close. As this counted as a Lamb Holm return I thought about crossing over the barrier. Not for the Italian Chapel, where I've been a few times with others, but for the Orkney Winery shop. Even then the draw for me isn't the wine itself, it is the like of chutneys, preserves and sweets that are made from them. A little too rich, in the monetary meaning, for my tastes alas.
My reason for going to East Holm was twofold; firstly that I had taken good views of it from Burray and wanted to return the compliment, secondly that having seen the recent storm-damage to the sea-wall I wanted to see if the nearest cliffs had given up anything (I had chosen low tide at St Mary's). In the bright light the coastal batteries opposite me resembled a landscape-sized art installation, surely intended as more than form following function. Too good not to photograph several times along the way. By the road are the Graemeshall properties. Here a 15th century dwelling was replaced in 1615 by Meil House, which after being sold on became Graham's Hall then Graemeshall (for what it's worth there is a Graemshall, one 'e', in Evie). And I imagine that the name Meil is an early designation for this whole area as we have the Muir of Meil between Hamly Hill and the B9052. A nice quiet road runs up between house and farm by Graemeshall Loch, which is well known to birders. However my attention was caught by the site to my right , two swans on the waters of Scapa Flow - obviously this near the burn outlet the sea is only slightly brackish. Loved the way they practically surfed the waves close inshore. A gentleman in a long motorhome was parked up with a huge camera pointed to the loch, but I still had the best of the deal from my view I think.
No damage looks to have been done to the cliff-section below Mass Howe, certainly the body of the mound must be accounted natural. Because of the name it is said that the structural remains on top are from a church, allegedly a local tradition, especially given the nearby Mass Road track. But it seems more likely to me that Mass=moss and refers to the once extensive Muir of Meil heath. Besides which Mass Road bypasses the mound - if anything the road goes up towards the nearer of the mounds below Hestakelda(y) 'horse well', now Hestimuir, and most likely went to the well as with the Tieve Well Road above St Nicholas Church. Took more photos of the coastal batteries. At the far edge of the nearer and larger one a roughly triangular piece of ground normally rather damp strucki me as positively parched this day. Here what is now marked as a burnt mound is below a wellspring (one of five Wells shown on this length of hillside on the 1882 O.S.). Not wishing to disturb the kie I moved on. Beyond and left of the burnt mound the long ruin roughly parallel to the coast is labelled Old School on the same very large scale map. Which is strange as at the roadside end of the trail the buildings to the left are also named Old School. Perhaps seperate schools for boys and girls (or children and sub-adults maybe). Alternatively as East Schoolhouse [in 1882 labelled as School (Boys & Girls)] lies over from Hurtiso they might be for the three Christian denomination hereabouts. Or more simply the lived-in Old School is named after the ruin. Does anyone know ? Still intrigued by an outpost of the wartime stuff. A narrow piece of land not many metres long sticks out of the body of the cliffs, with a rather precipitous neck at the end of which is a structure resembling the top of a pillarbox. In shape it is an hexagon with a hexagonal plug. There are two holes set close together, and my guess is that this had been a machine-gun post.
At the east side of the neck is what I take for a section of wall or walling composed of slabs. Eventually the coastal path section ends. Just beyond this point there is a long second wall, below the present fieldwall, that is either set into the cliff or hanging on grimly, made of the same material. Now the path runs straight up to the main road, running past Newark (wonder where the old Wirk had been). This is another usually sodden track. Which is hardly surprising as it is bordered by three of the wellsprings mentioned earlier ! If you can, use the Orkney Gate at the top of the track as the trail's style is a monster that is liable to swing you off. Across the road is Manse, which had been a manse for the Free Church. It is safe to assume that both mounds were used by the church but the Flagstaff Mound right of the building has no traces. On the other hand I have actually been on the Sundial Mound and there is a big scatter of stones on its top, though my theory is that some come from a previous structure re-used as I have seen no such remains on any other sundial sites and nor did they surmount big mounds.
Where the road turns to go to St Andrew's is the farm of Hurtiso. It is on Hurtiso land that the famous headgear came to light during peat digging. This appears to have been an antient heirloom, as what had started off life as a piece of neckwear was by stages transformed into a cozytrot, a kind of hooded shawl (except this item has half-metre long tassels on it. The Hurtiso Hood 'moved' into a Kirkwall collection, hence the next newspaper account gives it a St Ola origin instead of Holm. Someone must have pointed out it came from the next parish, because the third newspaper article places its finding in Tankerness, part of St Andrew's ! And so a tentative association with finds on Groatster/Grotsetter land has entered the record. Now that the truth is out the name has been changed to the Orkney Hood (to spare blushes I assume). I used to be puzzled by a niche in the roadside wall until I realised this space had been left by an old postbox ! There is a bench and viewpoint here. One day nearing sunset I photographed a beam of sunlight that from here ran straight across the Italian Chapel, truly wondrous to behold. Continuing over the green and going by East Schoolhouse and Vigga, the Cornquoy and Greenwall roads part just before the hill descends. From here I had distant views of the Burray brochs strongly illumined by the sun. A little too strongly for clarity but enough to show the proper distance between them (other views I'd had of them they had always appeared so close together I had imagined them in a much tighter framing of the chambered tomb that had lain just behind behind them on Northfield farm). Tried to make out St Lawrence's Church on Burray then and later to no avail. But my thinking at this vantage point was that whether brochs were for defence or lookout Laurenskirk plugged a gap that the East and West Brochs didn't cover, the other side of Burray having the Iron Age settlement on Hunda. Turned left onto the Greenwall Road and then down the Tieve Well Road to the Cornquoy Road. There are two mounds either end of the Howes Wick shoreline. Closest is the broch mound under the older section of St Nicholas' burial ground (there was also a well/wellspring beyond the northern well. formerly bounded by a ring of stones). In the late 50's a farmer took 40 trailers of stone from a drystone wall, including a cup-marked stone, and emptied them onto the shore. Near the eastern end of the wick is Castle Howe, where a small Viking wirk has been built over a D-shaped chamber. There are no reports of a circular structure here, but one could make a case for the lower chamber being [part of] one of those controversial IA structures labelled 'semi-broch' by some [no longer ??]. Perhaps I might compare it with North Taing on the Head of Holland that shows at the cliff edge as a dee-shaped bank with stones. There I have noted clumps of large stone coming up in the nearer side of a field during deep ploughing, indicating that the centre of a larger structure could have been removed. And this or an incomplete build are generally accepted as the origin of those 'semi-brochs'.
Turning left I continued all the way to the crossroads near the old St Nicholas Manse. Turned right here. Seems a long way from the church it serves, but the same is true of the Tankerness manse next to Northwood House and the North Church (that church now hosts the material worshippers of Sheila Fleet Jewellery). I felt fairly sure a track runs by the west side of the manse enclosure, but being uncertain from this end carried on to The Cottage. Alas the lawn seems to have taken over much of the track since my previous visit (when I walked the Sand of Cornquoy undisturbed) so I'll leave that for a weekday when I disturb none. Back up to the crossroads and decided to continue over to the Roseness trail. Before you reach the tiny car park Ducrow along the way is a perfectly lovely house and garden. My only intention had been to merely have a peek, but cresting the hill before Upper Cornquoy found me stunned by the clarity of Copinsay and the other Deerness on the distant horizon. A well-kept track runs between fields to a signpost marked for Stembister and Roseness paths. Take the right and it is a long way to Stembister in St Andrew's, with its standing stone moved slightly back from the cliffs edge to a drying green. Along the way the path sweeps down a steep decline before climbing equally steeply back up. From Stembister the road to the Deerness Road is only short by comparison, simpler the other way as you would need a lift ftom St Andrew's or know the few buses that way very very well ! Turn right at the signpost for Rose Ness. No, of course I didn't. Headed straight for the nearest cliffs to snap those islands. This is the Bay of Semolie. Nice place for a picnic. The cliffs are stupendous, the views likewise. Don't think you can get down to the beach at all. Here stands the King of Semolie. Sadly the Queen of Semolie passed about the midpoint of the last century. A rather bigger rock stack further along Rose Ness is nameless, so you wonder why they both had names - maybe some lost event took place in the vicinity involving a rig [or perhaps a tale like the "Queen of Morocco" relates]. Walked along the cliffs until I came upon a fence ending right at the cliff edge. Definitely low enough to swing over, but even I didn't risk it. Watched the waves down below crashing up and over the rocks of a small geo. Followed the fence up to the trail proper. The gate there is rather fiddly and most folk would find it quicker to climb the gate rather than open it. Be careful as this is not standing vertical.
Instead of going back to what I think is Tur Geo (whereabouts lies a Bruce's Hole) my feet took me a little further along to where there are rocky plates between the heath and the cliff edge, good for a bit of a clamber. Came upon Rosalind, one of the Orkney Blide Trust support workers. She had come here with a group of youths to do some actual rock-climbing. The day being very blustery they had had no look and contented themselves with scampering amongst the rocks in hope of a climb somewhere not dashed by the high spray. From there I went to the Hole of The Ness, simply The Gloup on the 25" maps. Imagine the gloup in Derrness turned ino a circle form. To my dismay this feature is now fenced in. And not narrowly at that, and in fact the fence struck me as more distant from the rim at its safest point. You can hear the the sea still rushing in and out, and walk over the arch at the cliff, but the most you can see sttod on tippy-toes is the top couple of metres of exposed rock. Didn't complete the walk as it became too overcast for the pictures I wanted. Anyway, the forecast had been for rain later, and fearing it earlier now went back to the start of the trail. Down on the main Cornquoy Road the climbing party soon approached behind me. Even though I had a return ticket I was only too happy to accept a lift back in the circumstances - seemed to take me half the way to Kirkwall before I had the safety belt gone, so I was obviously near the end of my endurance. Fortunately the Out and About planning of Orkney Blide Trust's trip gave me the opportunity to do the headland full justice a short time later. After leaving the gloup some of us kept closer than the others to the land's edge, and treated ourselves to peering down the sheer sides of long and narrow Pantie Geo. We reached the angular monument that I have seen from miles away at various places, a tall truncated pyramid topped by a cross. It sits on the site of one of two Rose Ness beacons. They both dated to the modern era, but at this one there is a large level mound of stones that speaks of an earlier vardr. Or something more, as during its construction in 1867 the men found a well-preserved skeleton and re-buried most of this under the stones dug up. Down near the far end of the ness the slightly later light beacon (1905) still stands. It is where we all finally fetched up.Long ago a neighbour took me here and, by prmission, let me up inside. These beacons are low affairs. Meant only to be seen in daylight they don't 'shout' at you like lighthouses, their human scale most appealing. By it are two concrete foundations that have to be wartime remains. Two of our party sat on the smaller one, about two metres square. A quick glance saw possible earlier stuff there too. The trail ends at The Riff, so there must be an obstacle between there and Roy [brief speculation - roy/roi. is the King of Semolie the Row/Roo 'rock' of Semolie]. Didn't go that far but returned by way of North Cairn. In the hollowed top of this cairn are a number of large stones and a single orthostat, a survivor. Further on we met a member who had arrived late on her own. We were all lucky enough to see a wader up omn the headland barely a small room's length away. The bird ran along the straight edge of a shallow ? peat cutting. Must have had a nest nearby we guessed as it made several passes. Lovely little thing. Jeff and I thought it could be a dotterel. Put rwa photos on the Facebook page of the Orkney Nature Festival and had it identified as a dunlin
Posted by wideford
31st May 2014ce
wideford's TMA Blog
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