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TINGWALL-WOODWICK November 16th 2010

This time around I took the bus all the way to Tingwall. It was a brilliantly sunny day, clear as far as the eye could see - going around the Gorseness Road a few days before I'd meant to take a lot of views of Gairsay but rain and dark clouds hunkered down over the island practically the whole time. I saw a heron some way south of the pier and later the same or another just to the north. Noticed that below the farm buildings a stone hut is built back into the cliff, putting me in mind of another behind the Mid Taing fishing pier in St Ola. Decided I might as well shoot the whole of the space before me and so went out onto the pier. Took in everything from the far end of Gairsay through Rousay and up over to Evie, only stopping short of the farm buildings. Spent an hour stood there doing consecutive sweeps of the horizon with camcorder, digital camera and SLR. Time now for the main event, the Thing itself. As I turned towards the farm a raven came down on a house wall and another sat on a line, however my attempt at a shot failed miserably (which is why SLR is preferable, none of that wait for a digital camera to fire up and than the high beep to surprise the birds away before you snap).

The Tingwall mound is in the form of a figure-of-eight or else two mounds of disparate sizes have been joined together, the larger and more mutilated at the west end and the smaller at the east by the farm. Using the 1st O.S. to look at the brochs from Dishero to Burgar you find the broch depicted as not quite circular but the east end of this mound has a geometric circle. Which seemed strange. Afterwards I had reason to ponder whether the sluice behind had been made using stones from the broch and the light went on - the sluice makes the burn behind a millstream and so this is a strong candidate for being a mill mound. Which isn't to say that it had no prior use [unless the mound had been constructed specifically for the mill]. The early map isn't as detailed as that for Dishero, showing a bank occupying the inside of the west circle's western half and orthostats on the south periphery (seven shown). On a modern-day aerial view [ IIRC] this is generally confirmed, with little appearing at the east quadrant and the stones part of the plant-covered ditch obscuring it from a roadside view. The view from above shows the large irregular pit seen roadside as coming from the south edge of the circle, a little right of centre, up to the broch tower marks with a small circle where it contacts. There are several pits inside the broch tower area. These are probably from antiquarian investigations. To my mind these would post-date the 1880 survey or more detail would be shown on the 1st O.S. (like Dishero). The photo shows a circular ditch on the west side and inside this the broch tower wall in the W-N quadrant with what appears to be an out-turning at the north end, perhaps a gateway or the east side of an external cell. I imagine the ditch to be is connected to the substantial rampart fragment referred to in the NMRS. Virtually nothing can be seen at the east side of the broch circle over or from there to the mill-mound [though if the mill is east of the mound I would settle for a corn kiln instead].

All of the foregoing I learned after this particular visit. Not knowing whether I would find myself able to access the site I decided to skirt it roadside and use the long zoom to see where I might not have a chance to. Coming from the harbour I first came to the eastern end by pressing up the ground by the east fieldwall.. Looked across this end from the east it is the south side that has been touched by man, at the base on the left what appears to be a low bank across this end, then an apparently manufactured curve to the top and an equally low rise or foundation from whose north side the mound slopes gradually down seemingly naturally. To the right of the 'foundation' you can see the top of the broch in the distance. Along the side facing the road a few stones of different sizes are exposed, though truth to tell if they have a pattern it is a line rather than a curve. Even in winter the gouge of a ditch cutting in front of the west end and up into this end of the mound like a stairway to heaven is heavily fringed with dock. Exposed in the cut above are a mix of small thin slabs and blocks. All are still where placed by man, but only in one spot are you priveleged to see a tiny section of plain to see walling. This horizontal block with a slab coming onto it I had previously believed to be part of a small passage entrance but later close inspection reveals a vertical surface behind and below the slab, probably one block and part of another - it feels different from the rest and I would like to think this is the outer face of the broch tower wall. Whilst I slowly worked along the Curator of Social History passed by me both ways - good to see some landowners report suspicious persons at sites.

Up at the crossroads the west end presents the multiple levels now familiar from Dishero. The metal gate in the west fieldwall is kept closed by a simple rope knot. However I am no good at knots and so followed the accepted paractice of climbing carefully over the hinged end. After entering the field I am about halfway to the mound when to my surprise I see a deep ditch cut into the ground by this end just beyond a sharp bend in the burn, and the broch sits on the other side. Up on the mound the bank/s on this end are easier to see. From the top it is more obvious how regular the east end is and there may be another bank between. Spot another interesting thing to my left as I look past a pit to the mound (or top of the mound)'s edge, a broad but very shallow concave curve and what might be slight bumps at either end. Could this be an entranceway ? And if so to the broch or something else ?? I was also surprised by how far back the big 'hole' at the south side was from the central broch tump. Beneath the plants at the bottom are some larger stones/slabs. Not sure if these are in situ or whether part of flooring if so. On the west side are fewer stones but there is that 'wall'. On the east side there is more of a continuity though after several metres it does broaden out suddenly, might be another chamber or whatever. Further down near the lip of the 'hole' on this side is something definitely different, a saw-edged orthostat (just visible from the road with magnification) with its face towards me. More like a tomb than broch - though it is considered that this is not a 'greenfield site', however the arrow is considered to run forward to Viking times rather from the IA back. Lastly I walked over the the other end down a shallow slope, still above ground level, then up more steeply. Nothing to add to my first observation about the seaward end.

Another hour-and-a-half gone and still loads of time until the bus so continued along this side road as it goes towards Woodwick before joining the main road. At one point I see large white stones either side of a straight burn coming down from the main road. Can't quite make out what they are in the oh so bright sunshine so take a photo. To my chagrin when I pass by the top these turn out to be not so grey wethers ! By Midland looking to the near shore there is a long mound with a much smaller one a distance to its left. These are the Knowe of Midgarth (and cairn) and the Midland tumulus. There's only a field or two between shore and road but I was on a tight schedule because of the time of year and having already spent ages at Tingwall. Also all I saw through binoculars was sere grass and turf - if I had seen the prominent stonework the camera saw and this had been summer I would have been in like a shot. A bone pin and several probable potlids have been found at the Knowe of Midgarth. Though it has been partly explored this could have been simply 'mining' for stones to use on farms rather than owt antiquarian in nature.

As I say there are two sites at the Knowe of Midgarth, a long hillock adjacent to a circular mound [vaguely reminiscent of the 'Viking' mound and broch at the Howe of Hoxa]. Raymond Lamb says these two comprise a single settlement. Davidson and Henshall believe the former to be a "variant souterrain" like Castle Bloody (presumably the 'gallery grave' that used to be in Stromness parish, a term once used to describe the likes of Rennibister and Grain earthhouses) whilst P.O.A.S. VI in speaking of a grassy mound containing "sailor's graves" is surely referring to the latter [ so ? like the "West Broch of Burgar"]. All we know about the cairn (NMRS record no. HY32SE 1 at HY39872360) is that it is 100 yards SE of the hillock and has suffered a lot of plough damage but survives roughly four feet high and fifty across. We are better served by the records for the probable [multi-period?] settlement, HY32SE 6 at HY39812361. A five metre long passageway at the west end leads to two sub-rectangular corbelled cells, the size only given as small.. The first is two steps down from the passage, and though probably entry had been gained by antiquarians through its roof this had been repaired. Slightly beyond the chamber a short south-east passage leads to a larger cell through a narrow access, now blocked. Since before 1967 entry from the SE has blocked up and the two cells are filling up with debris. On the north side is the entry point for another passage that curves for at least ten metres before it is blocked. The shore nearby has a likely hearth consisting of four edgeset slabs that has produced charcoal. A trial excavation near the eastern top of the hillock has revealed yet another possible passage with maybe more cells, though this walling (way above the level of the north passage) consists of very overgrown stonework jumbled about. On this side of the mound facing the beach fragmentary masonry could represent a related drystane wall and there is kitchen midden along the eastern shoreline. To the north of the knowe the irregular Midland earth tumulus with small stones is thought to cover a prehistoric structure, though only one large-ish stone protrudes. HY32SE 7 at HY39732368 was slighly over half the size of the Midgarth tumulus (25~30m) but farming has removed a good deal. It strikes me that it too may have played a part in the extended settlement - perhaps the Blessed Raymond meant this mound anyways ?

An open gate beckoned me to a diagonal walk to shore. No gate unfortunately. Would have left it at that except I could see regular stonework at the other side of the burn. So gingerly over the fence, down onto the shore and then a small jump across the shallow stream. Just my look the stonework with its near regular lines is the handiwork of Mother Nature. Thought about walking down to shoreline to the sites but didn't know the state of the tides or whether they would be enclosed, and time pressed the no button. A couple of shots of them from distance before resuming my journey. Woodwick is a nature reserve and presents a fine line of trees to the viewer. Woodwick House is used to hold concerts and other cultural stuff, but no buses when they are on alas.

Now the turn and final stretch up to the main road. By the noth side of this stretch a field contains a big level piece of land, centred HY386238, that once held the Dam of Cott, the sluice lying at the north end (HY38642394). The 1882 map shows two corn mills along the Burn of Woodwick, one to the south of it (HY38822407) and a disused one on its north(I make this HY39062402), the former virtually due north of Walkerhouse and the latter a little north of east. It strikes me that originally the Dam of Cott flowed out along past Walkerhouse to join the Burn of Woodwick where the disused mill still stood [nothing shows on CANMAP]. JUst now looking at a corn kiln in the area (HY32SE 22 at HY38922401) this is probably what the Rendall Doocot started life as (unlike that at Woodwick House).

Now made my way to the Tingwall junction. At one point along this stretch of round there is a lovely domestic stone wall almost smack against the road, with a bijou stone house set back from this very slightly uphill so that its ground come to just below the wall top. It is very tidy, but oh that location almost on the road itself. Post the 1st O.S. map. Finally come to the home stretch, as it were. On the south side of the road, between but to the side of Upper and Lower Crowrar [IIRC], some pools are visible from the junction. I keep meaning to photograph them but they are invisible from the road going down to Tingwall. They are not on the 1882 map whatever they are. Back at the pier this time I simply awaited the bus.

wideford Posted by wideford
3rd January 2011ce

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