|Took the bus to Finstown, got off by the graveyard. Considered trying for the Snaba Hill cairn, even had that part of a large-scale map with me. It occupies the kind of hillside location where you can identify sites on the map from a distance but once you reach the hill itself you become lost, the landscape overpowers your senses through the added third dimension. Conserve my energies, leave it for a day in winter or spring when I am less liable to be disappointed by covering vegetation. Places like Cuween Hill that are in care are a wonder year-round by contrast. Up onto the Old Finstown Road past the burn side mounds and up the track to the chambered cairn once more.
The lantern at Cuween Hill is next to useless, the pinprick of light and its umbra good for picking out points but next to useless here, really need one of those dome lanterns to see much of anything (especially if you wish to take photos, for which it is necessary to know what is in the frame before the flash goes !). And my 1 lux videocamera proved useless too, once inside. Decided to take pics of the ceilings as I figured not many people would have done this. Simple technique, lay the digital camera on its back roughly central and press go. This works well here. (But when I tried it at Wideford Hill's chambers this Sunday I only got half of un in, so credit to whoever shot the 'beehive' chamber there). Bit of a hands and knees job but reasonably dry. Only one I put myself entirely inside for a good look was the double at the back, all the rest I basically laid out flat with arms in front to place the camera. If there had been more light and if I hadn't been alone ... The double was split by two thin slabs across the width, the chamber on the right has a thin slab acoss the end of the the entrance flag marking the chamber itself. You certainly have the feeling that all the cells are by different hands, finally unified by the covering mound. Apart from that at the left (which you can practically walk into therefore) all the chambers' entrances are raised above the floor of the main chamber, though at differing heights. A lost rough sandstone ball came from the s'ern half of the doublet. On this occasion I missed the chamber to the left of the main entrance (It actually showed in a photo, but being uncertain of the batteries I looked at none whilst there). I was looking for four spaces and found four, not thinking one main chamber plus four cells leading off !
Looking along the entrance to the outside it is possible to see Wideford Hill in the distance like the say. But on the diagonal - was this an accident, explaining the slight curve of the passage, or deliberate like the sightlines that 'pass' across the outside of a mound for instance. And rather than looking across to the other chambered cairn did it look down onto the various settlements (Crossiecrown at Quanter Ness and/or the Ramberry Cairn may have been visible too). Up on Wideford Hill and looking down
across the burn could those bumps be indications of a more extensive settlement than just the excavated Wideford Meadow ? The latter resulted from finds of flints but the earlier report of of a flint findspot along the burn relates to an area of gorse not far from the main Kirkwall-Finstown road (by the road end of the burn the 1882 map shows a stone, perhaps a boundary marker, gone now).
Back down to earth and along the road you come to a bend opposite the the Old Manse of Firth where it cuts across the end of a large mound on its right which is hemmed in by two tracks additionally. This is the Cot of Cursiter. Cot is taken to be 'common field', but as the only other such placename I know, Nevada Cott near Lingro and Work, is also dominated by a sizable mound also, I beg to differ. I take it to be a Celtic loan-word here, with a meaning of something along the lines of 'palace' instead.
Before I reached the small stretch of road that 'bridges' the two main ones from Finstown I chanced to look across to Ingshowe Broch. From here at last it looked like a proper broch ruin outline, though don't remember if this was a naked-eye observation. Peachy. Didn't take the cut to there.
Past the junction there is a nice farm called Rossmyre. The burn t'other side o't' road may have the scant remains of something along the upper east bank, a few stones sticking out of the bare earth. Next good bit of masonry is at Bridgend. A burn again. The bridge on the cottage side looks down on the burn several metres below, reminiscent of that near Millhouse in Holm. But the real goody is on the other side. Here the burn runs alongside the road on its way east. Not running quite so deep, but still impressively deep for Orkney and lined with stone banks for the whole depth of it. Definitely for a mill - the craftsmanship is superb (and hid from almost everyone). All the prehistoric stuff still standing and yet where now is the associated mill for this. And where the celebration for what does survive at this place ?
Now back up a bit or you'll do the same as me. Between Rossmyre and Bridgend is Nabban. A little past here I had previously found something resembling a cist in the wide
grass verge (HY391118). Went straight past before I thought on it. And despite being on foot and having been twice or thrice previously I still walked up and down two times before I found it again !! The water levels having dropped since the previous occasion the site looked more like a well now (a totally unmapped one in 1882 or now if so), with what at first glance looked like corbelling. The full depth being revealed as 0.9m (as far as I could find) what I had taken for the bottom were ledges on two sides. To the casual glance the ledges do indeed make you think of corbelling, however there's only one rough-edged ?slab on the left extending as a near triangular shape 0.25m along and 0.6m from the back left corner, with drystane walling above, and one on the right a slab 0.45m long and only 0.1m from the back right corner. Apart from the section of walling and the 'ledges' the structure is of slab construction (the slab at right back does feel like a standing stone re-used though). The base is hidden by a couple of short bits of wood and a thin layer of other rubbish. Almost feels like part of a souterrain, certainly something of at least that age.
Posted by wideford
2nd August 2005ce
wideford's TMA Blog
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