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JUNE 11TH 2009

Taking advantage of the O.A.S. AGM this night to take a few days off in Stromness. Took the road up to the Co-op and then followed it on till I came where the road turns left. Here I carried on instead past the road ends sign and into the field containing the Mill of Cairston [this tunship seems to have been about as large as Stromness as the main Cairston/Garson area is on the opposites side of Hamnavoe to town] as I have only seen it from the main Stromness-Kirkwall road previously. Not as scenic round the back. Though very little altered it still looks somehow clean and 'modern' from the back. Looking up the burn I am attracted to some tall erect stones by the western bank of Mill Burn. Two adjacent ones are at right-angles, and this I have come to associate with boundaries. Unable to approach the burn as it passes between fields to obtain a picture of the bridge/culvert through which it passes, obviously part of the mill system - the present Stairwaddy used to be Upper Millhouse, the millpond having filled the area down to the milldam wall at HY25601076. The dam is much broader than at Tormiston (either because turned into a track or having been a tall dyke) and seemingly older and/or more primitive. The dam is a couple of metres high and the upper side alongside the barbwire fence has a fieldwall that goes on for several courses above this. To tell you the truth it feels downright defensive. The lower part gives the impression of an old quarry throughout a good portion west of the burn, with tumbled-down blocks, then becoming an ordinary wall again to block off a hollow short of the burnside. I think that at least the quarried looking bit has been an open-ended structure/s or a series of orthagonal walls. Next day I took photos from the road which show a row of 'blocks' above the grass at the southern end of the dam then a rectangular depression with an outer face of blocks against the turf. It's possible more such walls are hidden under one or both of the 'banks' before the burn. Climbed up on the dam and it felt like being on a Roman frontier wall considering following the header track north, which I didn't do as I wasn't sure of the stabilty where it crossed over the burn. So back onto the road. There is a 'standing stone fence' along the western edge of this particular section of road, though the stones smaller than the burnside ones. Terribly excited when I worked out that Stair(a)waday could be like the plural of Stenaday as there is a Steiro broch in Shapinsay and the other name for the Redland broch that is in Firth is Steeringlo. Alas the library reveals that steiro means 'confusion'. And the second half is actually wadi 'ford'. So ford of or at a stony confusion. I think it likely that the milldam is the site of the ford [Stairwaddy probably a fieldname]. At Stairwaddy itself peeking over the wall you can see going up to the burnside structures like stalls. Possibly they are stalls but they feel like water furniture, perhaps something to do with the millhouse, formed of very large flags (even bigger than those used to roof the oldest farm buildings) with modern breeze block additions to the original structures. Yet again unable to get the full view for a photo, so sue me if it turns out I misrepresent somewhat ;-) Definitely nice features and rare ones at that [in the open leastways], whatever they are.

Coming to a T-junction I decide against continuing up the hill before me and turned left. This road is part of a rough quadrilateral of roads enclosing The Loons. This is named for the Great Northern Diver. There are plenty places of this name. And even more called Loch of Loomashun, and variants, after the same bird. Though this diver formerly more common you can't help but wonder if either this name was thought up on the spot for the demanding mapmaker or else refers to some less physical creature, as with the cat-like Kithuntling (a site later euhemerised to Kate Huntlin's). Tried my darnedest to video some small birds (brambling?) but every time the intention to do so focussed off they went. I hope the twa folk who were near that piece with binoculars twa days later had mair luck, though I hae me doots squire ! On the Glenfield stretch of road I photograph a field of sheep set in lovely tea-reading shapes amongst the pasture. You can see where a stretch of a tall drystane wall has had part repaired in a different fashion [an English one ?] - the new book "Orkney Dykes" (£13 from local man Allan Taylor, Aranish, Wellington Street, Kirkwall, Orkney) should help me give better descriptions in future. Looking into The Loons my eyes see a few tall erect stones that are likely remnants of a 'standing stone fence setup', though what took my fancy were some very complete Agricultural Improvement slab fences (second and third quarters of the 19th century according to a Farmer's Almanac obit). Up in front of you rise the boulder-strewn spine outcrop at the back of Brinkie's Brae, like Gruf Hill in Orphir without the folklore. Approaching where the road splits up and joins I could see two pairs of large round drystone gateposts from an earlier time, the pair uphill in rather better nick than the ones near me.

The road turns east for a very short distance before the junction and at this little zig's south side the ghost of a channel curves uphill with near the zig end a mixed-up collection of rocks and slabs around a stone-lined drain/streambed. Try as I might couldn't make out what it did from any road about here, would need to be in the field to see what it does as it approaches the road. Going uphill saw a man and his dog walking among the rocks of the brae and paranoia almost set in ! Not headed that way this time [so yah-boo sucks to him], instead opting for the minor road uphill, not taking the junction either way. On my right there is quite a deep throated quarry/outcrop on the slope of Mewie Hill marked on the map. Its a weird mother' like some giant banged into the side of it or punched it. From a first look this is a quarry but other perspectives say something quarried as the sides seem raised as if from being part of a mound - another of my fancies of course. On the brow of the hill with the 'waterway' there is a cottage and alongside an outcrop with some stones in a straight line.Then I continued on and down the windy Sandy Hill farmroad to the Outertown road. Where I thought of going over to the Castle road but was plumb tuckered out. It's not an actual castle but a hillock with
stony outcrops. However there is an air about it.

wideford Posted by wideford
4th July 2009ce

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