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St.Peter's Bay

Once again I had to wonder about the fact that almost all of the lumps and hollows alongside the Deerness road (mostly on the RH side strangely enough) are not indicated on CANMAP. It is difficult to think that none of those bowls of slabs/stones (including modern dumped material admittedly), no unremarked mounds nor any of the raised tracks and geometric ridges, are of any consequence. Instate a few and you could make a case for a distinct region all the way from, say, Craw Howe and The Five Hillocks to the three howes (Round,Long,Mine) and Breck Farm. So it felt to me anyway.
My first 'new' site is actually near Mine Howe and strictly temporary because it comes in the nature of soilmarks. On the right-hand side of the road as you come from Kirkwall up to the turnoff for Mine Howe is a small derelict building. In the field to its right several mounds (HY503600) were surveyed in the 1960s and a few excavated, producing little of note. Recently the field has been ploughed up. By the left-hand fence there is now an area of blackened soil for about 13m (HY504059). About the same distance from where this ends along the bottom fence is a rough ploughed-up region that resembles nothing so much as the distraught remnant of some brick-built house (HY503058). It is about 13m wide along the fence and goes up the hill for approximately 37m. Unfortunately the red soil does not appear to be brick. Both soilmarks are of distinctly regular shape. I later took a bare minimum of photos in order not to feel elitist towards what were most likely to have been mediaeval remains.
If I had gone down the farmtrack past Campston I could have crossed fields to my intended sites. From here St.Peter's Kirk resembles the rectangular floor of a WWII structure grassed over and the settlement mound a small hill not much of anything. But I wished to avoid any over-zealous farmer and along the coast was nearer to them. Also I saw that beween the Comely farmtrack and a carpark at the bottom of the hill I'd marked from NMRS map a mound with possible cist slabs (HY540037). Couldn't spot it from the roadside. Figured it might be closer to the cliff. Never did find it by either route. Briefly considered popping over again to Dingieshowe Broch but wanted to make the most of the light in case it faded early.
Went behind the car park and along the shore. First bit of interest provided by what looks like an antediluvian wall of black stone. Usually this kind of object heads off straight into the sea, mostly underwater, but this arcs shorebound around the coastline for several metres before turning sharply landwards. The base is most likely natural, close to ground and well heeled into the surface. But it appears co-opted for man's use in some prior time, topped with rhomboid slabs of the same rock close packed on end (those that survive) like the armouring of some antediluvian beastie but at right-angles to the line of the 'wall'. Where the Comely track first skirts the shoreline a very short earthen ramp comes down. To the right of this are some thin slabs under the track (HY54010382). Looks at first like a wall of a cist. Not a wall because the walls along the coast here are even drystane courses. Indeed the slabs were backed up to one such. Against the bottom of their RH end I saw a rusty waterpipe of several inches diameter. Here the 1:25,000 shows a well. So could it be the remains of a tank ?
Passing Comely I saw some stones together at a field edge (HY54040403). At first I thought it was a small pile dumped there. On closer inspection they are all part of of a short earthen mound and not one of modern appearance. At the cliff edge behind it is a standing stone. Looking into the bay there is very close to shore a shallow area in front of which is a line of stones that isn't fieldwall.
Now I could clearly see three targets. The best one I took to be one of my targets (though at the wrong end of the field) except it was only an outcrop of very large boulders. Turned out that the actual "indeterminate mound" (HY537042) was an insignificant lump in the nearer corner of the field that also holds St.Peter's Kirk, to the right of a field boundary drain. Didn't see any protruding slabs atop it but many more stones than just the slumped fieldwall alongside down the 'cliff' .
The remains of St.Peter's Kirk are much more obvious (HY536042) at the top of the hill. Even from the shore the visible stones look uncharacteristically large for a parish church. Taking the "masonry composed of massive squared blocks" with the "build up of settlement debris" you feel the trapezoidal enclosure must surely pre-date any church.
Equally prominent on the hill, a little further along, is my last target (HY537045). Most of it is grass-covered but (at least now) higher up is bare and there are some stones on its top. Even with binoculars there is no definite shape to them. It is probably a settlement mound and there is apparently suggestion of a level platform to the south. Down at the uppermost shoreline there is at the land's edge levels like those I noted in the cliff's edge to the right of the Scapa Distillery outlet (Broch of Lingro). There is hereabouts an angle of drystane wall jutting out that may be something more than that.
Unfortunately a very taut barbwire fence along this coastline inhibits further progress to these sights from here, so it would seem that the Campston route could be the better option. Turning back I saw a couple of seals nosing the water for a looksee.

wideford Posted by wideford
12th May 2004ce
Edited 12th May 2004ce

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