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WHITECLEAT TO MINEHOWE August 10-11th 2004

The first day I didn't expect to go beyond Inganess Bay. Which meant I didn't have my camera (for the Mine Howe structure) or, more importantly, tape measure and 1:25,000 map. So the next day I did the reverse journey, which had the benefit of firming up an alignment. It is this journey I shall recount.
Second day I took the bus to the airport, shaving an hour-and-a-half off my total journey (now all fares are being halved and a return fare is finally less than that of two singles, making even longer trips than this one affordable for me). The previous day I had arrived at Mine Howe as the diggers were coming back from lunch and finally saw the ovoid structure found at the end of last year's dig, the neat blocks of an arc of wall at the 'back' and a few upright slabs dividing the 'front'. A new area of the dig alongside being opened up is a long wedge, several metres long and several feet deep at its far end, in which there were only a few stones as yet. This day they were still having their lunch in front of the site huts. As I headed towards the diggings an officious woman strode out of the custodian's office and demanded to know what I was doing. Orcadian I thought, but definitely not a native or a blender. So I explained that I wasn't going onto the excavation, merely taking photos. Did I have permission she asked. Do I need it I said. This stumped her. Re-phrased my query twice and still no answer. So I turned to the diggers and asked them (bellowed rather, I must admit !). Either they couldn't understand me or they were simply flummoxed. From my two seasons on a dig I do know that there isn't usually a problem with taking photos except that sometimes technically copyright belongs with the excavators. Finished sites under ownership may have such a policy but it will be prominently displayed. Took my pictures but felt they would have been better the previous day, somehow an incorrect perspective to represent the structure's features fully.

On the road by Hawell I found my previous tee of stones HY51350657 complicated by more stones. Seven metres closer to the farm a very low wall ends and about a foot in there is a slab HY51340658 0.5x0.2m leaning at a 45-degree angle. On the opposite side of the road to this a stone HY51340658 1.3x0.5m ends a two metre section of drystane wall extending beyond a 'lawn' boundary wall.
Don't know how sure you can be of 8-figure NGRs derived from maps. You certainly can't from a 1:25,000. Even with the likes of CANMAP by the time you have 'drilled down' deeply enough lines have usually changed to broad pixellated dashes. For an instance the other day I was kind of surveying stones around the headland opposite the Brough of Birsay. For a fair distance I could obtain an NGR from mapping my amateurish coast outlines onto the screen. Then I came to a piece where the ins and outs I had placed my stones with didn't appear on CANMAP, which only showed a general curve where I had several. And even the coast outline of dashes were somewhat bigger than my ins and outs ! Either GPS equipment has to come severely down in price, and I do mean severely, or it has to be the kind of thing you can rent by the day cheaply from toolhire places. Fat chance !

From Hawell the next lot of standing stones starts about HY511068 just as you come up to the small loop of roads where the quarry and old schoolhouse/church are, but on the other side of the road. These roadside stones vary from 0.5-0.9m high by 0.2-0.3m wide. They appear irregularly spaced. However peeering over reveals more flat on the field below, the field floor being 0.6m below the standing stones' visible bases. So it would seem that these stones were all smack against the field bank. They may have been arranged 'male' 'female' as they are of two distinct shapes.
Opposite the far end of the loop, at the road turn HY51020690, the whole of a drystane wall shows and has leaning against the inside a mix of standing stones and large slabs. Is this how the previous section would look if the roadside bank were removed ?
Down at HY51080707 there is a two stone arrangement at the roadside field edge. One across the field corner barbwire 1.3x0.6m with a small bored hole near the top, and a second 4.6m away 0.9x0.6m at 90 degrees to it.

Next were several additions to my Mill Sands alignment of three saltwater-blackened stones. The associated straight barbwire fence begins at HY5120760. Over the road from Stenswick cottage there is a stone HY51310764. Down at the bottom of the hill is a triangular piece of ground bordered by road and fence and coastal track. Here there is a last standing stone (from my point of finding) at HY51080707 1.2x0.5m behind a drystane wall. In this small piece of land many stone items have been dumped. They are of several periods. A few are pieces from grand houses, ornate tops to walls or gateposts I seem to remember. Most have the appearance of standing stones. The one that stands out is 1.7x0.5x0.1m and has a total of four (equally spaced ?) small bored holes along its length. As the road straightens out and three metres from a field corner, on the left for a change, is a thickish standing stone HY51330782 1.5x0.55x0.16. Shortly after this is my best find of the previous day, a flatface-aligned pair from which you look up towards a church.The one on the left HY51300801 is a thick rectangular 1.2x0.5x0.5m block leaning a little to the outside. 3.2m away the other stone is 1.6x0.5x0.2m and utility-blade shaped.
At the place where next the road turns (to the left) a 1.1x0.2m stone stands diagonally at the field corner like the one near Rantan/Mittens.

The Whitecleat Well is now covered by an upturned pallet with a big bucket on top of that, whether to prevent further damage or to protect people from it I know not.. Nothing else has changed.

wideford Posted by wideford
17th August 2004ce

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