|Amazing the number of lumps and bumps that appear soon after the bend once past the Hatston junction, even at walking speed. And absolutely none of them down as anything other than natural. They occur both sides of the road until you reach the farmtrack to Quanterness, when they abruptly cease. The only one close enough to observe is betrayed by a scatter of stones across a rise on the LH of the road as you leave town (HY425133). To be more specific, this lies just the other side of the drystane wall. Though this could be the remains of a section of a previous wall the stones extend back up the hill a ways and there is a wide hollow at one place. On the same side but nearing Quanterness I was taken by a regular rectangular platform. And then a ridge of stony outcrop, which through my binoculars I saw ran straight to this feature. Alas, back home I found out that this is the remains of a camp (the ridge I take to be the concrete edge of the track to this) ! I feel on safer ground in my suspicion that the landscape features about Quanterness House seen from the road are from settlement associated with the roundhouse that was struck through the chambered tomb (that disappointing green dome you can see amongst the trees right of the house). Other bits attract my attention right of the farm, a smallish bump close by at one end of what appears to be a bush-lined ditch going up the hill (most likely modern) and triangular stretch of vegetation along the hillside (I guess mediaeval or underlying geology maybe).
Further along there is a small shrubby patch of land, still on the LH side, where a ditch comes to the road. Here a very large scale map shows a stone. Stone only, not standing stone. Wonder why these are put on the map if they aren't, my guess is these are locations of standing stones gone before they could be properly checked in modern times ?? Perhaps a thick wooden post here marks the spot of this particular one. Behind on one side of the fieldfence is a big patch of gorse, and a flint findspot was somewhere at the back amongst this. Looking up the hillside you can just about make out Wideford Hill chambered tomb.
Soon after you come to the Rennibister farmtrack on the other side of the road, going up to a headland. Look across at the next headland along and on the tip of this the big rise is what remains of Ingsshowe broch. The souterrain is amongst the farm buildings. Access is by a grille in the middle of a square railed enclosure. Like at Wideford Hill cairn this modern entrance is through the roof of the structure. Which here means that there is enough daylight filtering in to show the main features inside. My first time here the batteries on my digital camera ran out and I did not essay the original entrance passage because of the damp. This time I briefly thought to attempt this sliding on my back. Fortunately I found that after stepping up onto the ledge I was able to progress on all fours using fingertips and tippytoe to keep myself off the floor. Very briefly I considered turning around at the end to take a picture looking back, but considered the fact that if I became stuck I was alone. This was a good decision because the grille above this chamber is bolted down! The supports are lovely but I am more taken with the niches in the walls.
Sometime I must look at Ingshowe broch again to see if the unusually strong storms have damaged the superb cliff section. This will have to wait till a low tide when the land is also rather less boggy. So instead I took the junction to the Old Finstown Road, where a slightly misleading sign idicates you should go for the Wideford and Cuween Hill cairns - you feel they should both be a simple walk away but they are in opposite directions, overlooking Kirkwall and Finstown respectively (the Finns were famed as mighty magicians. The weather is often completely different either side of Finstown.).
I have been along this road several times going to Kirkwall and so was quite surprised to see a rectangular hole in the RH road verge (HY391118). Closer too it resembled more cist formed of thin slabs set against one of those broad patches of turf that cross ditches to let farmers onto their fields. When I came to this ?tank I saw that it actually lay in the midst of two such bridgings, each 5m across. Kinda weird. The feature appear sub-rectangular because the edge of one slab has moved forward slightly,it would have measured 0.9 by 0.8m and is 0.5m deep. As far as I could make out the 'tank' is a little forward of the ditch line but a pic doesn't appear to bear this out.
As the road went over the side of Wideford Hill there was another revelation on the downhill verge in the form of an arc of stones 2.9x1.2m I'd never noticed before (HY406108). This turned out to be the top of a bridge/culvert. My theory as to why I hadn't spotted it other times is that the farmer has been grubbing out the dykes (and it does look good, though in my estimation they are a little overenthusiastic nowadays and that isn't useful maintenance). The other side of the road is smaller through being uphill; a slab platform to the outside of that ditch 0.3m high by 0.4m with a stone either side taking that to 0.6m, then an 'entrance' 0.3m high with a 5cm lintel. By contrast the downhill end has an entrance 0.5m high by 0.4m with a lintel 0.75m across set in a observable drystane wall 1m high which extends 1.5m from it in the Finstown direction and an apparent 0.8m from it in the Kirkwall direction. As I say, the passage goes under the road. But a flash picture reveals signs of two different dates of construction because it shows a thick slab going across the passage (as if it has fallen) with soil in front of it and the passage floor this side covered by a layer of 'modern' conglomerate. Visual artistry apart the reason why I am struck by this site, if I can call it that, is that I have made many observations of such structures in Orkney and though many of them have a straight edge with drystane walls curving in front either side like horns this is the only one I have seen with a curved front and straight walls extending either side. A possibility is that when the road widening took place this had some loadbearing function ? Damn fine whatever.
Where Kirkwall really starts there is a field entrance just before. What looks like a stone gatepost (HY43881049) is functioning as a wallend but with its stone-setting is to my min more in the nature of a standing stone. Fanciful, eh. In March, the field being half-ploughed, I noticed three stones stood upright in the upturned soil 2-3' high. Shoudn't they have gone a long time ago ?
Note from March :- between the old and new routes to the Wideford Hill Tomb there is a quarry/dump (HY410108) beside the road. At the back is the rock-cut quarry, rectangular or sub-rectangular and easily accessible, then the rest is taken up by several dumps of slabs/rocks/s.s of all ages i.e. a big mess. I wondered if there couldn't be one of the Wideford mounds under all that. Very-large-scale CANMAP shows the quarry fence but not the thing itself. However the dump bit is shown as tri-lobed geology. If the mound/s were here till
Posted by wideford
14th March 2005ce
Edited 20th March 2005ce
wideford's TMA Blog
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