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CISTMET 2 - Bay watch May 26th 2006

May 26th,28th CISTMET 2 - Bay watch

A couple of things out of the way :- 1) The chambered tomb Petrie excavated in July 1870 at a mound to the south of Lingrow house differed from the Orquil site of July 1971 in having a roof composed of large heavy flagstones supported by undressed stone pillars rather than drystone piers. And though Orquil resembled Taversoe Tuick in having two storeys and the use of upright slabs it does sound more like the Rennibister 'gallery grave' in design (alas there were no small finds from Orquil Farm). Having said which, the Rousay site itself seems a mix of tomb and earthhouse geometries. 2) The Crantit tomb site had two BA cists, one each north and south of the tomb.

Along the St.Olaf's cemetery road I passed the modern houses until I reached where the development ends and the field starts. Look straight up to the top corner of the development and by there is where one of the Crantit cists was found. Been there before and nothing to see. So instead walked up the other field edge, a metre or so of very green damp grass with a couple of small ruts. Violets plentiful and bigger than those elsewhere. And delighted to see heartsease pansy face amongst them. The place of the other cist is abouthands of the bend in the track, but from up here the location is less strikingly obvious. What I was actually after was something left of the earthwork the 1882 map showed partway along the fields uphill side at HY429100. Not even a sniff unfortunately. However if the Newbigging cists (with "a commanding view of both bays") really came from here, as I suggested, it is good to note as well as Scapa Bay I could see at least the cathedral - add a 5-6' mound and Kirkwall Bay was definitely included. To the group containing the Crantit and Newbigging double cists one can perhaps add one excavated by Petrie earlier in 1855 "near the shore of Scapa" (the barrow's upper levels had later depositions too, of burnt bone). The Newbigging cists Petrie later compared to ones he excavated at Isbister in Rendall [and Hundatown in Harray after his time I should mention to be truthful], and it may be no coincidence that the 'Crantit tomb cists' are compared to ones found in recent times at Ferndale and Kewing, also in Rendall.
As for the placement of the Newbigging cists according to the NMRS, between the cemetery and what is now Braehead (the Newbigging lands were taken over by Crantit - perhaps these included the Crantit cist field), on the second day I went along the track down the east side of Walliwall Quarry and carried straight on over the disused section over a gate into the reputed field. It looks just the same as the other field above the cemetery, a few undulations in the topography and definitely no intervisibilty, from any part, of the waters either side of Kirkwall. Though I observed no possible sites of archaeology this is as true of the Warbister/Warbuster property (most likely the original main farm of the area, hence its name being lent to the broch when Borwick croft was no more) as it is of barrow remains. So if 22 chains from the Crantit cists is of a site perhaps it relates to the earlier cist with skeleton "in the same neighbourhood" as the double Newbigging cist ?? This position (or 11 chains on the recorded compass direction) may be that of whatever pre-Norse site is indicated by the name Tofts (>Tofts Cottage >Glenair). It is certainly adjoining both possible fields for the Newbigging cists (I shall come to the second one later, it being in the same location indicated for the other Newbigging site) but lacks remains of even one barrow, let alone several, that would permit of its being that site for me.
Back to the first day. Back to the Orquil road at the further end of the cemetery I passed up the side gingerly over a couple of dodgy wooden gates (cracked bars) to try and approach the supposed Newbigging double cist side. I struck out and so continued into the top end of the field with the large natural feature. From the elevation at this end I could see only one body of water - Scapa Flow. But I could definitely see this as being one of the places the farmer looked for more cists, several likely excavation dotted on and around it. Lush grass obscured previously seen items (reducing contrast) apart from the bared sections. I looked closer at one of the latter along the slope near the lower end and could see the tip a small stone of rectangular section, but this could easily be natural. The heat had dried out pools further. I must confess I had these mixed up, as the reedy one is along the relict streambanks. That by the long hillock's uphill side showed nothing centrally as the damp-loving grasses had already hidden it. So no more loose stones. Still uncertain whether the pool is completely natural. By the eastern end is where I saw my miniature tump with sloping stone. Now it looked as if it might be the remains of something larger as the grass appeared to show something in the pond indicated there (the pre-1855 cist was re-covered, so I dream...).
Out of the field and along the relict banks to Walliwall. Noticed a hump over at ? the far end of the feature but neglected to take a photo. At the quarry heard a raven calling. Flying over my head, perching on the quarry fence. Then there were two of them, I guessed a breeding pair disturbed by my presence. I used to see a raven or two in the marshy copse opposite the Great War airfield of Caldale Camp (I presumed it to be waterlogged. Actually it is over-run by drains and much over-grown with tall flowering plants and low willows etc.) which my have been them. Now I saw three, finally four, fully-grown birds cawing wildly wheeling about the quarry. Occasionally one would perch and allow me tantalisingly close. Thus far but no further was the message.
On the second day I started from the quarry. Where the metalled track corners this I continued along an older track virtually buried in grass, once the way to Newbigging and Warbuster. The first field boundary on the left used to be alongside a track to a well (with a 'quarry' at the end of the field back then too). A few fenceposts short of this on the opposite side of the track I saw another probable excavation pit in the form of a depression at HY43371016 that is perhap 6m on its longer axis. Near this field's SE boundary another likely candidate at ~HY43371022 is more of a cropmark. Nevertheless once I had looked for Warbuster it seemed sensible to look into this field as a more likely candidate for the cist barrows than the natural feature, as I'm certain the latter would have been mentioned otherwise. The topography may be a lesser area of relict streambanks, certainly several short-ish curvilinear features. The greater height is near the centre of the field as presently bound, roughly in the area of HY43261014. Approaching it from the north and saw on the slope facing me a single sinuous curve that had once been exposed, perhaps by a small plough or some erratic digging. From the top there is finally that commanding view of both bays that was reported for the Newbigging cists.But this view disappears as one approaches the track. Up on the main road there are several spots where you can see the much-reduced tumps imposed either end of the ridge. The ridge appears as a double hump from the Walliwall fieldNot only on but also around are several candidates for shallow excavations of former mounds. The 1882 map shows a single long triangular field extending from the track past the west end of the ridge (~HY42861005) to end at a point HY42350983 alongside the Halmyre field (a place now gone), but west of the ridge all looks pristine.
Decided I might as well do the reverse journey down to Orquil Farm. Still the only possible sign of the earthhouse might be a slightly different shade of grass on a bit of a slope. Prefer to think of it as a 'gallery grave' in case it once held remains (like the souterrain at Rennibister, also two-storey). There was once a Ferrowell a furlong north of the "new steading of Orquil" (taking over from what is now Peedie Orquil) was later, but that Orquil might have been Orquil Cottage. No remains anyway.
At some time the Orquil stream was straightened out, though the loop still continues in its own right. This presumably was for the sawmill that existed for a little while about the turn of the 19th century into the 20th, and now the millstream goes along in front of what is now Orquil Farm. Nice bridge and lovely stonework along the bank by the plantation. Heard a ? bank vole plopping into the water, sight unseen. Went into the field opposite the farm, to investigate stones there (this field takes in all the dwellings on the uphill section of the track). First a low bank beyond which is a large rectangular depression I take for the sawmill. Looking back the way I see the bank is what is left of a stone wall, with a slight swoop in the line likely indicating the entrance. A fine upstanding length of wall several times the bank's height marks the edge of modern property through which the old stream loop passes and surely marks the sawmill's south side. I can get no real sense of the north side or west end though sure their stones are amongst those scattered about. Some of this may be down to the wind-pump of much later date that used to be at the back of the property from where the old stream line appears again. Never thought I would find myself looking for industrial archaeology - must be going senile ;-)
Back down westward along the modern water-course is a bridge that must date to when the waters were strengthened. Even though made of older materials its faces are flat, no bowing out and no nave-type pier construction. The next bridge up is more of an age, sitting slantwise athwart the original course of the stream. Once more into the presence of gorse swamped field boundaries. I wonder if the gorse is an incomer brought in on some foreign soil. But oh that heady scent is to dive in, no for perfumiers, too rich for man or woman, simply taken au naturel.


before 1855 HY40NW 4 cist with skeleton in same neghbourhood as later finds (archive GB241/D21/2/8 notes later turned into PSAS VI)
1855 HY41SW 8 and HY40NW 4 sites in same field (July 7th 1855 "The Orcadian" and archive GB241/D21/2/8 notes later turned into PSAS VI)
HY40NW 4 double cist from south-easterly declivity of hill, and commanded a view of both bays (archive GB241/D21/2/8 notes later turned into PSAS VI)
1909 HY40NW 3 Crantit double cist ESE of HY40NW 4 by ~22 chains (PSAS. XLIV & P.O.A.S. 2) or ~11chains (October 23rd 1909 "The Orcadian")

wideford Posted by wideford
8th June 2006ce

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