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Time to seek out the find-spot for the Whins Wifie so taking the bus to Tormiston then up by Maes Howe onto the Stoneyhill/Grimeston road. Also a good time to get some more inclusive shots of the mound's ditch. Not only from roadside but also from along the northern field boundary. Which is marked by a ditch alongside. So had to inch carefully along, holding on to the not always firm fence as the vegetation hid the bank contours. I guessed the ditch might be dry but you can't tell under all that growth. Think last time I stood on the opposite bank but needed to make sure I caught everything unobscured. Wonder what the groups coming up to Maes Howe made of the teetering fool ! Shortly after regaining the road Andrew Appleby happened to pop by in his car. Had a little chat about matters still pending and he said he would show me the find-spot, then remembered he had an interviewer coming shortly -fingers in so many pies going this year. And unfortunately my route later ran over to the Wasdale road and Berstane rather than by him.

Coming up to the area of the Vola Mound and you could barely make out a thing beneath a dense layer of vegetation, not it or the mound opposite or the WWII foundations opposite that. Instead decided to visit what I call the Viewpoint Hill or Mound, further lochward han the hillock with the viewpoint carpark. Today the Stenness Loch was the lowest I have seen it and I venture to the water's edge to take photos of all the stones in the loch arm before the mound. Over by one of the holms there was a group of three swans, two white and one black. Thought all the black swans had left Orkney as it is several years since there were ones on the Peerie Sea [called Bignold Boating Lake or Pond, I forget which, by the council when Ayre Road first built early 20thC but returned to original name in a matter of months] in Kirkwall. Initially thought I had a family group but then the black left the others behind. Though a lot are lochbed stones many others strike off in lines, especially from the edges of the various holms. It would be nice to think of these latter features as being the remains of an early field-system if it weren't for the fact that even the most organised, and I use that term loosely, comprise pairs of parallel lines several meters long, the most open-ended of structures. On the other hand there are too many linear features to be fishing related, and they appear on several lochs.

Making my way up a very narrow track to the walk only to find I was hobbling along the bed of a narrow streamlet. Not the first time I have made that mistake, nor the last. From the road you can see a low hillock left of the mound and a moundlet between the two. At least that is what it looked like. It is actually the termination of a feature, the moundlet having an erect stone by the other side (not precisely in situ as it is no longer bedded into anything) where the ground becomes more of a bump. Walking along the bump you come to an area about a couple of metres long occupied by variously sized stones. This has the feeling of a pit. But on an early map a bank is shown around here and I think this is its exposed interior, possibly a steeth dyke. I'd love it to be part of the old Stenness-Harray parish boundary but the Burn of Rickla is to the north.

Then I turned and tramped carefull over and up the mound. Its most obvious feature is the excavation (off-centre viewed across the long axis) appearing as a shallow crater on the top of the mound with, from most direction, three bumps. Once on top I could see rabbit holes but not the tiny bit of exposed stonework I saw my first time - vegetation again ? Only one of the islets is recorded as having a structure on it but at least one other looks as if it might, though of course one doesn't know how long ago the various holms seperated by erosion, the process could have accelerated in fairly recent times. The reduced water level had exposed all but the bottom few inches of the twin arm feature coming out lochside by the base of the mound. Working carefully found my way down to it through the reeds at the base. Definitely man-made, definitely open-ended. Went along a few stones to place my tape measure. The best arm spread out in places to two metres and six metres long in a straight line. Climbing back up again I found myself almost stumbling into a hidden hollow. So I clambered out of it. And promptly found myself in another, then another. So I make that three hollows going lengthways above the loch. Ah more excavations, I thought, too circular for boat nausts and much too far up. Then I remembered the nousts halfway up the cliff near the Point of Buttquoy on the way to the Brough of Birsay. So I shall leave these holllows literally up in the air.

After that I carried on to the Staneyhill turnoff. There's a layby on the short E-W section of road. South of this bit I saw the land suddenly dip down, meaning I was stood near a broad suspiciously circular lip [though I should say the map contours are no support for my sighting]. At HY31781541 was a Buckquoy mound and above Feolquoy [below the lip it looks] another Buckquoy mound at HY31881530 survives as a low spread. North of this bit of road the disused quarries where the standing stone is must have been 20thC and short-lived as they don't appear on the 1882 25" O.S. Now up the hill, and the layby at HY32171567 before you come to Newark is Andrew's point of reference for where he found the idol in fresh ploughsoil. Yes there is a slight bank near here, but what most pleases me is that near the western side of the road is that teeny mound I had noted before as marking the highest part of Staney Hill. Coming up to the beehives I see the Woodwyn Mound is as overgrown as every other place.

At the junction with the Harray road looking north over the other side the tiny square on the map is Bimbister after which the next district of the parish is named. The day continued awfully bright with a strong gale. Having left the Grimeston district behind I continued on to the old Wasdale road. Where this meets the Slap of Setter (opposite a boundary stone - there is another at the underdyke) time was spent looking along the Dyke of Setter for the burnt mound and cairns, and in the end couldn't even be sure of the mound - darn you maps and your bird's eye view. The unnamed building foundation beside the start of the farmroad to Setter now have an NMRS, being HY31NW 82 at HY34221528. Even the first O.S. have no name for this and all I can think of is that this might be connected t the market that used to be held somewhere in Wasdale. Peering up at Setter and slightly to its right I can see one of the Setter cairns on a false crest. A lozenge-shaped arrowhead found when this land was brought into cultivation is the only clue to the age of the barrows.

Using my binoculars I am disappointed to find out that the Loch of Wasdale is presently deeper than that of Stenness seen earlier, so no causeway crossing for me. Anyway there are far more intriguing sight this end of the lochan. What I see in the waters as the wind blows my way are swirls of agitated vegetation that must reflect underlying archaeology. Not until I see the photos back home do I finally realise this is not agitated grass but myriads of small stones, the thing itself revealed by the harsh midday sun. Nearest me are two circles of differing sizes with a ?junction (remindind me of a double BA house) and behind them, nearer to the supposed mediaeval graveyard, a possible long oval. Apparently submerged cranogs can be occasionally revealed this way before disappearing again. However when I talk to Andrew my find calls to his mind the fish traps in the Loch of Bosquoy even though those are made from vegetation not stone. Near the south end of the lochan in really bad weather I have seen a circular feature picked out with a small pool, and I have seen similar above a farm on the road through Rendall and Evie. Caroline says she will keep a lookout on the waters during her occasional walks beside them.

Walk on below the Howe Harper Cairn and into the Binscarth plantation, Binscarth Wood. Nice to be there when it is dry for a change. Not all the walls down in the wood are landscaping as the long curve sitting back from the bank of the burn is surely more to do with the millstream, I don't see a recreational use even though between the wall and the burn is flat. As I come out cattle are gathered about the stream. Which is a shame as I wanted to investigate a bump on the northern bank and a wall crossing the stream then doing a very short ninety-degree turn. This I thought to be a modern track until I researched maps. What it is is the weir belonging to the mill, with the milldam behind this. The bump is marked as a well, so I must go have another look. I already have photos of the mill itself at Millquoy cottages.

From the stream the trail went up past the old quarry to where a new wooden gate lets you out onto the main road. I am literally a few metres from the road when the bus passes heading for Kirkwall. Blow me ! So I go on to the other side of Finstown. Still ages to go before the next bus, so I jolly well keep on keeping on. Almost reach as far as the [ha ha] Sand of Fidgeon, where I mean to take a photo of the stone steps in the low cliff going down to the old landing place for [I assume] folk travelling to/from the Holm of Grimbister, when a friendly older couple offer me a lift. Better safe than sorry, I accept. Even better they are headed for the library, where I photocopy an article for Andrew. Job done. Home

wideford Posted by wideford
4th October 2010ce

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