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OLD HEDDLE QUARRIES for archaeos only

Having come from the quarry above the Cuween Hill tomb and crossed over to pass by the Torriedale quarries (where there is a 'folly' of the Buckle's Tower type with the flag steps used during its construction still protruding) I decided to approach Buckle's Tower in the most direct manner. Just N of Upper Springrose are the first 2 of three quarries on the SW side of Heddle Hill. The 1880 survey shows the two quarries with a more distinct seperation and a track splitting to reach the facing ends. Quarry A (at the east) is pointed towards the SE corner but straight at the W side, quarry B (at the W) simply rectangular. Taking the whole as 30 back then, A is 9 by 7 and B is 11 by just under 7. They are just generic representations of varying length now from HY35341287-35471282 with a slighter seperation, the start of B at HY35821234. From here you will need boots, or better yet wellingtons. Between Ouraquoy and Buckle's Tower on the modern map is a kidney-shaped quarry I shall call Oweraquoy. In 1880 this was an L-shape, on my scale 7 N-S by just over 11 E-W with a width varing 3-4. Pastmap shows the kidney HY35031305-HY35081305 by 35061303-35051307 and I'm not 100% certain the areas covered are the same. On the NW side of the Hill of Heddle is the quarry containing Buckle's Tower. This I call Buckle quarry, a long quarry, most of which unfortunately lies within the bounds of Heddle Quarry. Again the modern map again has more of a generic representation e.g. the hard corner I refer to later doesn't appear now. Buckle's Tower almost marks where this quarry from being relatively pinched broadens out in size and openness and turns southward, ending at HY34951813. On the old map it is even more apparent that the S tip of the Buckle quarry is directed towards the W end of what I call the Oweraquoy quarry, whether by accident or design. On to my observations.

As I came to the inner end of the Upper Springrose A I saw a length of drystane wall against the top, half-a-dozen courses or so. Which I thought nothing of until I climbed up and found a square structure of drystane walling sunk into the earth [structure 1]. Admittedly only two sides are completely exposed, roughly a dozen courses high. All over the 'mounds' at the edge of the quarries are a multitude of large slab-like stones, a few of which may be the remains of further structures. The piece between the two quarries shows remains of a drystane wall at the top, not so well preserved. Using the photos as an aide-memoire the second quarry itself is more clear-cut as the eastern end is a sudden drop and you would have to come in by the western end, which is now blocked by a drystone wall of relatively recent construction (having a top course of vertical stones). At another end a short drystane wall arc backs against the earth between two natural rocky streches, over twenty courses high but tapering noticeably to the bottom. I believe I have seen them in other places in Orkney where burns issue underneath but don't think that the case here. Close by the largest drystane wall is set over two-dozen courses high into the front of a ?mound. I wonder if it has been part of a structure [structure ?2] as two vertical lines in plain sight look like the result of blocking in and there are a few courses of smaller stones on a level with the top further back that could be either a side or another wall (with the ?mound's top a bit above that).

Oweraquoy resembles a prehistoric mound with a smaller and much slighter mound uphill. This latter would be the N end of the early survey's L-shape. Walking up to it there is an erect slab with a couple of feet visible and there seem to be at least a couple more barely protruding. These could form a boundary and if the sunken slabs are gone by it would be a very old quarry I feel. From the other quarries the mound positively gleams. Closer to there is evidence for collapse and in photos I see amongst the debris walling remains of a structure or structures (nearly a dozen courses standing at the top of the western end and up on the mound remains of another wall of similar height cutting across to the top of the quarry's eastern end where the walling survives best). Down inside are three contiguous stretches of walling that arouse the brochaholic in me, two complete and semi-circular and the third surviving less well but probably similarly shaped (or perhaps more of the second). I did initially think that they backed against the quarry as there is such a one in an Upper Springrose quarry (though tapered to the bottom, a design generally placed across a small burn), but above them only collapsed stones and turf. Rather small but ?roundhouse tradition or Pictish figure-of-eight. And if this didn't have the label quarry you might think two cultures seperated by time. Wouldn't surprise me as what are now seen as quarries can be places where prehistory has been quarried initially and then they just continued digging. At the far end is another straight section of drystane ?blocking wall set against the back. On the mound above there is perhaps the corner of another structure, though it could equally be one wall set against another as that against the mound (perhaps itself a corner) is about twice the height of the other and the stones seem thicker.

The Buckle quarry is high up on the S slope of Stennadale - follow the fence around Heddle Quarry. From the Kirkwall-Stromness road you can just about see two follies on this hillside, Buckle's Tower merely the larger. Maybe twice a man's height [roughly 70 courses compared to the other's almost 40], a tapering truncated cone of fine drystone construction (as they all are). Could they be related to the circular walling in the kidney-shaped quarry or else Viking Age round towers? Perched above the quarry beside it a small roofless rectangular shelter with a long flag slipping out of the back wall for a seat [structure1]. Had to stand on the top of the quarry slope for some pics, so watch your every step [and take someone with you for I am a hardy fool]. On the hillside below is a circular enclosure formed by a drystane wall several courses. This I believe from my limited knowledge to be a small pund for livestock. What looks like a short length of paving leading to it is probably part of the scatter about the enclosure wall as it is around from the well-formed entrance rather than up to it.

There are the remains of a few isolated walls down on the Buckle quarry floor. At the first place where the natural rock at the quarry back forms a hard corner a wall of maximum height nine courses runs across to form an acute angle with the corner, behind which is a very small (not quite equal in height) mound quadrant (likely a fall from above). To my eye it looks rather a modern piece put together in a hurry but in a very quiet place to be that casual surely. Can't really tell how straight it started out. By its western end an erect slab looks to be earlier as the turf has grown in front of it and there is a space behind where its angled top [?broken] leans against the quarry back. On the ground between it and the wall is a slight gap on which I see something black. Even though [or because] I doubt it is plastic I cannot bring myself to touch it to ascertain what it might be. Wussy. Coming to the western end of the quarry my pictures show a zigzag cut of right-angles [structure 2] defined by a drystane wall perhaps a dozen courses high - from R to L at least half-a-dozen (mostly obscured in the photo) stones wide at the near end [A-B] then about half-a-dozen stones to the next corner [C] then three or four stones to the far end [D]. Except for the near end there are stones scattered behind from collapse - you can see there has been an interior, the top courses clear in places. At the far end of the quarry there is another mess of walls, apparently a structure's corner [structure 3] with one wall half-a-dozen courses high (and about the same long) and the other across the quarry floor barely showing, then behind the latter (roughly half of the better wall's length distant) another partly buried wall [structure ?4] four stones long five or six courses maximum height with its top level with the former's bottom. So taken in all the clarity of the structures in this quarry compared to what can be made out atop the Upper Springrose quarries (not mentioned as so slight and muddled up) hasn't helped me to any conclusions as to either age or function. After publishing photos to orkneybuildings it suddeny struck me that I had been looking at structure 2 the wrong way around and instead I saw myself as looking at an entrance passage leading into a building under the ground I stood on, not a tomb as I distinguished no curve to walling C-D. Fortunately I had a second look at the near end and as well as the two fully exposed stones there were more alongside them just peeping above the grass.. Even so I am strongly drawn to the idea that this is only one end of a complicated building continuing N under the earth. There is quarrying and then again there is the quarried.

wideford Posted by wideford
8th June 2010ce

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