|Took the bus to Houton, which backs up opposite the lodge. Leaving the new ferry pier behind I decide to have another peek at the nausts down this side of the next pier. They still haul boats here and I see there is an exceedingly narrow path twisting down the bank a couple of metres high, so take myself down for more photos. The boat nousts are a mix of drystone walling and small and lengthy blocks. Don't know if this is handsome mishmash is the result of repairs or differing strengths needed. Certainly their origins lie before the old pier, as on the large-scale map the naust nearer to the pier shows as half lopped-off. Indeed though there may be more of it under the vegetation all you can see is a doubling of the wall with the remaining complete one. Close by the latter is a boatshed with two runners down to the sea, though it seems to be out of use as the doors' red paint is thoroughly fragmented.
Did think about taking the Scorradale road only to consider it a hill too far that day. So back up the ferry road and then left to the Clowally turn. Along the way I see two close steadings being demolished. If a replacement is being built I hope it will have suitably Orcadian features, not some wood monstosum that even on the mainland wouldna pass for traditional (come to that why do some drystane walls nowadays get Englished when re-built, this ain't The Peaks). At the rear of the large agricultural buildings Clowally has various lumps and bumps with stones sticking oot, including a big one, and even the O.S. shows no quaries this side. Perhaps a clue comes from its being named for a very old trackway going up to the ridge, according to Hugh Marwick's informant ("Orkney Farm Names" [sorely in need of a reprint and some sort of update, incomers would buy it in droves to name their new builds for instance]). Over from Clowally is the track I came up last time, likely part of said track (and possibly once going to Head Of Houton and the original kirk).
Continuing I came to an old dwelling on my left which I wrongly assumed to be Coubister as this was much further along the road. My error arises because I am terrible at gauging distances from maps- every time that I come this way my brain says Sower is just over the hill from Clowally [I am interested in the Castle, Hillock of Hoorse-ha (most likely not Broch Age but a smaller version of whatever lies beneath The Cairns in Eyrland, further towards Waithe)]. This site is Park Cottage at HY31140457, though it seems probable to me the cottage designation is late as it is evident that the present road has prevented its proper development. For what we have are three sections going diagonally up the hillside, each on its own level, though the furthest one has two windows and is the only one with chimneys too [a chimbley either end in fact] and behind it a wall is built back against the hill. The structure nearest the road has remained in use longest as it has a woodbeam and corrugated iron roof, whereas the other two stll have the remains of large slab roofing (small slab roofs are later). The middle section has been two features/structures as there is a vertical 'line' down the side - the first half has a stoop before the doorway and the second has a lintelled square/rectangular hole at the bottom next to the far end. Most of this is in the photos from roadside as I saw no near entry point for the field to proceed further this time. N.B. as elsewhere in Orkney "park" in the mediaeval sense, as in well parks or the parks of Scapa
At one point I fancied there were archaeologists up near the hill ridge looking fer summat as there were two or three big vehicles in what looked an out of the way place. Either that or perhaps a field studies group. Anyway they seemed to disperse sharpish as I watched so probably neither. Shortly after the northern end of the Scorradale road a gentleman who was trying a new way back fron a Renault dealer offered me a lift. I had refused an earlier offer (when the weather is fine a car interior can be fiercesome hot to the walker) and, realising higher powers were at work, got in. Went as far as the smithy junction before the Brig o' Waithe.
The tide being about to turn I did briefly consider that shore walk to Stromness again. Need to look at Quoyelsh again as last time what I thought to be a natural rock line at shore level showed up very artificial on the photo I took of something [probably] else. From the far end I then saw that at the very least this comprises a flat narrow rectilinear face from which the stone swept back in an arc and having rectangular forms at the other, which would mean this is the structure Marwick saw. Two options, that from this wall the building goes to the Point or that it comes to the shore - a very faint third possibily is that this is actually a collapsed vertical. Dave Lynn was wondering about the origins of the name Quoyelsh and my initial thought was the meaning for Elsness. Here the first element is thought to refer either to cramp (vitreous material, usually cinerary) or a cave. Of course with the Vikings this could be a kening i.e. it may have meant both. However, from my researches in The Orkney Room in this case the element appears to be the dialect word for an awl, thus referring to the Point itself. Still too close to high tide for a repeat walk. So I did something as it turned out equally daft.
Decided to attempt reaching the Cummi Ness sites from the north. So headed back towards Orphir, stopping a liittle short of Vasmire where on the west side of the road there is a [?track-turned-] drain runs to the shore by the side of the first fence I encountered. Made my way carefully as near the shore third 'burn' disappears below tallish vegetation. So continued down to the shore. This is composed of turf with watery channels running through and about, rather dodgy stuff. Almost the first thing that happened was my foot slipped in between. I fell forward, and whilst one hand sunk into the grass the other buried itself in one of the myriad potholes. A few metres further on my walking shoe went whoosh down a covered hole and the grungy water soaked onto my foot (fortunately not the one whose ankle I had twisted recently). From hereon in I went exceedingly careful. But after about 250m a real burn finally defeated me, so not even as far as Harbasue, let alone Dead Sand. At least from here I could see that the low mound where an aerial photo has the Cummi Ness cropmarks there is a similar one close to. I would say this is Gorrie's house as distinct from Gorrie's Knowe, though rather than being to do with a?Viking called Gorrie it strikes me as a variant of the placenaname Gyre/Gears (referring, then, to the triangular ness). From further photos the ness itself might not be so bad if you only approach it from the north by way of the broch as I originally thought. At least I tried. Decided not to risk going back via the drain but go to the bridge along the shore as much as possible. Only another 300m, so 850m in all ! At least there were small pieces of more pasture-like grass to my grand hopscotch now. Of that three hundred the first O.S. shows a path above high tide mark from where I had come down then turning back onto land after passing between an irregular tapering feature [? pond] about 20m long by roughly 3m wide and a much peedier version, from which another 100m to main road. There's probably some interesting stuff this side as from a very cursory inspection the tiny channels in one spot held fragments of a decorated dinner set [19thC perhaps] and in another a beer bottle, date unknown. Tide brought ?? Darn dodgy even with the right footwear. And then I had to climb up at the bridge as new fences stopped me going up any further from the shore.
Went to Unstan tomb again as I only have a slightly shaky picture of the bird on the lintel of the west chamber. Seem to be more graffiti than on the occasion I shot that. Though there is no mention of it in the 1884 papers there is plenty of evidence for such observational 'failures' of more famous sites even in recent times [and straightforward omissions]. If it weren't for the fact that this had been an unopened mound one would be thinking in terms of Pictish art. The neck seems short and the beak rather stubby for a loom (Great Northern Diver) or a scarf (cormorant). The neck might suit some geese, especially as there is a knob/Neb at the back of the beak. But the knobby beak aside a duck might be a better suit. Ah, skeldro 'sheldrake'. Evidence of its age is the wavy diagonal line that respects the bird instead of crossing it - perhap the lintel engraving had been intended as part of a larger scene.
I came to Brodgar the day before end of dig, as though they have made lovely discoveries on last days much will be be going back under black plastic early on the day. The 'shack' that is Bridgend had two workmen on top painting the roof brightly (but eventually abandoned the last corner for the day because of the rain later).
Past Bridgend went around the back of the Kokna-Cumming mound to come upon the Lesser Wall of Brodgar from behind by a gentler slope. Glad they have realised that this is a late feature as otherwise what would one make of the Brodgar standing stone pair straddling its view eastwards and the tomb outside its supposed remit. To me the point of it is to face the Staneyhill Tomb - I forget what they call it in political science but it is like gardeners "borrowing a view" by bringing a further vista into the visitor's eyeline. What does this mean for the hypothesis that the Greater Wall of Brodgar was meant to form a northern boundary to the whole Ness assemblage ? It doesn't seem to have any similar alignment [and perhaps too thick to find a statistically valid one anyhow] but is it equally late, performing a non-liminal function yet to be identified. At the bottom of the Lesser Wall's southern side there is now a pavement just under the level of the Wall base by the remains of what is to my eye another wall at a slight angle to the later Wall. Near the bottom of the Wall it looks to me as if there are what is left of two cruder walls parallel to one another over and at right angles to my putative earlier wall, and hence
the pavement below. To my dismay the area of trench behind the Wall has still not been dug below the level of its top. Probably a "health and safety" thing. Here there are two arcs of collapsed wall, perhaps an inner and outer section. Not that this necessarily means one or both had not been straight when still standing. Oh, I can barely wait for their investigation. And then maybe sometime they can go down to the Wall base here to see if the Lesser Wall might be part of some other structure yet.
On to the main Ness of Brodgar site a bit of height not only gains you perspective but also frees you of photographing beige stone against beige stone and having to decipher it later ! First up is the new to this season next-to-roadside observation platform with a long ramp for wheelchair access. Then there are the large spoil heaps by the northern and western sides, as long as you don't mind the shifting soil underfoot in places. The space between Lochview and the dig is too smaa for anything but a photographic tower for the bosses, and Joe Public can't use that. I thought that I hadn't been on the tower at the Howe of Howe but my memory plas me fause and I indeed took several shots from it. It amazes me that at first glance the site looks practically the same as last time. Up on the platform on this side of the site the bulk is taken up by Structure 10 on your left with its, ahem, standing stone. No work is ongoing in the 'cathedral' now. In front of the platform's near end Structure 8 is divine. Along the western edge are what I see as three sub-square interior cells but on plan I see are duplicated on the opposite side, forming two rectangular and one long oval sub-divisions of the whole. This is basically how it has looked since last year. But on my third visit of the season exterior to the northern wall at the trenches edge are (I think) three small strucures that make you think of mini-roundhouses. All this mixing of linear and circular or sub-circular forms throughout the site strike me as less a striving for a practical form [and/or effective ritual space] and more the search for an artistic vision, squaring the circle to put the art into architecture. Very nice, whatever. Next is the small Structure 7, pinned between 8 and the Structure 1+9 combo.
The latter can be seen from the first spoil heap. This is where I start. Today the weather lashed down from Lyde whilst I stood on top. Reminded me of the time when three seperate thunderstorms converged on Howe and I eventually went in to leave supervisor Stephen solitary like a tall lightning rod before he was finally ordered in. Up here the first thing you spot is a large circular wall arc [?9 - the structure plan on Orkneyjar is from the season's start] in front of which work has been going on in a linear structure apparently leading up and terminating before it with what I take to be either the wide facade of a forecourt or two flanking ?guard-cells. Looking left from this by the edge of the trench is a short length of low parallel orthostats that catch my eye but have been left behind for now.
From the top of the next spoil heap is a clear view of Structure 1, a large structure (oval or semi figure-of-eight) with rectangular niches or cells scattered along the interior edge. These are formed by the drystane walling (but multi-coloured) and tall thin orthostats. Near the trench edge to the right a double wall or pair of walls with pavement between them is nicely exposed. At the far end of the mound I look south to Structure 12, a large clean-looking oval with a couple of long cells. On my previous visit I only noticed the one nearest the spoil heap after I got back from an image taken near Lochview. That nearest the road looked as if someone had taken the Great Wall of Brodgar and removed the flesh to leave a rectangular skin.
The space between 12 and 10, or in 10, has three or four standing stones. I think they are roughly in a square. It is remarkable how many odd stones are scattered about the site, different in colour (red makes a change from beige) or shape (proper looking standing stones or blocky forms mostly). Not too much rhyme or reason for the most part, so I am thinking this is just a monumental version of picking up a pebble on a beach and taking it home.
All the above is only how I have this eclectic site in my mind's eye. Carefully as they excavate still there are different stages in any season's dig, structure's co-mingle and turn out to be part of other's. During an extended period of experimentation you can't even sort features out by materials used. And any single structure can be such a glorious mix of drystane walls, slabs, orthostats and standing stones, along with what I might call exhibition pieces.
By the time I am done with all three cameras there are still twenty minutes until the next tour and I give a moment's thought to tagging along for the display of new finds at its end. You are never sure what will be displayed or whether you will be able to take piccies, the latter depends on the group more than the presenter. When you're feeling faint walking is better than standing, for the former is merely a controlled fall biologically speaking. So straight on to Tormiston and the bus home.
Posted by wideford
1st September 2010ce
wideford's TMA Blog
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