|Another trip left to the Fates, giving myself only enough time to reach the top of Palace Road before the Deerness bus did. As it was I had several minutes to spare. The BBC said there would be infrequent showers in the afternoon instead of which this morning there had been barely a break in the weather since I got up. Still raining when I reached the Stembister junction and for some time after. This part of St.Andrew's is called Upper Sanday (Sandi Sands are Sanday Sands originally) with Sanday here meaning south [as with ? Sandy Howes in Tankerness inland]. At least the moody atmospherics gave a few decent landscape shots when I timed them right. A lady offered me a lift but despite the rain I explained I wanted to continue walking to the stone. Saw a lovely bird on the wall of a concrete holding pen but even with one decent photo I am not sure if a warbler or a bunting, thought I had it when Springwatch showed a hen stonechat less sure when I compared with a coffee-table bird book. Basically a D-shape with long tail and fairly stubby beak, light grey head and shoulders, folded wings upper half light chestnut (top edge white) and lower half darker with some black and white, underside light sand in colour, tail white from side view, legs red. There were a few others flying in the drizzle. After I passed a farmtrack junction I looked back and saw a bloke with binoculars, presumably an ornithologist. Think I saw him again later as I waited for the bus back so not a 'twitcher'.
On reaching Stembister/Stembuster Farm you cross a millstream. A track goes to the right and looking up on the horizon there is a long metre high mound simply called the Cairn. Today bright grass hairily covers its flanks. The silhouette resembles two mounds of different heights lodged together, which shape is thought to be from its being quarried for stone. In 1964 the OS called it a mound of earth with burnt stones, though Mr Skea in 1979 told RCAHMS he had never seen any burnt material and neither did the Royal Commission when they looked. Certainly an unusual placing for a burnt mound. Having looked for myself previously and found none either I am inclined to call this a mound that had burning, possibly crematory, as distinct from a burnt mound proper.
Left the the farmtrack runs between the burn and a likely millpond. The farmyard is surprisingly small, and though I walk tight to the side the ducks and geese still run in front of me. You don't expect that of geese either, not very Roman ! There is cottagey farmhouse facing the sea. In front of that is a drying green with the standing stone over to one corner. Safety concerns in the 60's led to its being moved slightly from its former cliff-edge site with the packing stones lost during the move or a little before - fortunately the NMRS photographed the orignal placing before that time. This north-south aligned stone sits, facing the sea, a tad over six feet high and varies in width from 28" to just under half that. The best views are looking along the sides at the cliffs fore and aft. Delightful. Not having bought a return ticket I could have gone south into Holm for another look at North Cairn near Roseness ('ware the muckle Hole of The Ness going there, a mighty inland gloup). However between here and there is a steep funnel of a cliff where the path above unfairly invites you to rush down and up the other side, and it had been raining.
Decided to do photoessay on the mill (HY50SW 18) for Orkney Live. As I returned to the milldam I suddenly noticed for the first time a long thin depression running along the top of the burn bank parallel to the modern fence, and then a straight edged ridge alongside like trunking. This must be a lade like those at Tormiston and Tankerness mills. Even though the upper side of the dam is much higher than the downstream side I can't see these waters having fed the lade, more likely from the pond surviving on the opposite side of the farmtrack. The stream being low enabled me to see that on the downhill side it passed through a small built passage with lintel. Near the top of the dam is a rectangular hole two courses high on the downstream side a block high on the other (I do not know its purpose but there is one in the Sand of Wideford bridge at the height of the [present] track over it). About mid-height there is a tall passage running through the dam at the south side, also lintelled. Downstream it emerges in an unroofed channel with built walls from which the water issues onto the burn. There is the remains of a stone construction on the north side upstream. Leaned on the wall for a photo and received an electric shock (delish) from a fence I failed to spot, my ain fault. There are two large horizontal slabs that may overlie a wall (though these too big for a fieldwall) and a few more slabs and several stones in front of them - perhaps an earlier mill feature.
Fortune favoured me in that the fieldgate of the field opposite the mill itself lay open, allowing me to progress along the edge for a closer view of that. From here I could not see the concrete channel in which the iron-framed breast-shot waterwheel with its small buckets sits, only the drystone structure supporting the exposed shaft and the passage in the main building (now a storehouse) into which the shaft goes. If it weren't for the narrow grassy gap between that structure (or should I say wall ?) and the larger one uphill I would have said that they were of a piece. This structure has a staggered appearance on the downhill side, though that could be put down to deterioration. In it is a narrow lintelled rectangular opening with an angled slab floor. From the main building above a large timber projects out of the bottom of a narrower opening (the timber only occupying the bottom) in the same position. The structure is continued back until the side against the building is level with the top of the bank, which is why I think this version of the mill fed from the pond on other side of farm road. There do seem to be differing alignments in what I saw.
Thought about walking up to the mound. Rather too overgrown to video at this time. Also I saw the farmer having bother that way herding animals and didn't choose to risk making his work even harder. Just upstream of the dam twa ducks played on an islet a few metres across, though I'll wager it has been a long time since this split the burn's waters even at full spate as they're high and dry now. Perhaps this was the burnt mound, unlikely though I think it. At the top of the hill a side-branch strikes off for the isthmus seperating St.Andrew's fro Deerness. I had forgot this at the time but still went along it as the track further along that does the same would be a little damp mebbe. This is the Biggings road. On my right I noticed a farm with the intriguing name Rubiquoy - my first guess that it might be from roeberry 'red rock', my second that it might be the equivalent of Bloody Quoy, but from research in the Orkney Room rubi means simply 'depression'. Not often places in Orkney have the name dispayed where you can see it - have always pitied the poor posties. Further down greeted by a young woman coming from the buildings at Greens. Felt like saying hello, but only waved back. Here in December 1923 a Pictish symbol-stone was uncovered whilst drain-digging, by M.D. Laughton, about a foot underground a mere six yards from an outhouse corner at the north side of house. Perhaps this came from Dingy's Howe or even Castle. Greens has the same meaning as Gears down by the road, both presumably referring to the same triangle of land [that between Stembister road and the isthmus methinks].
Before this road heads to the isthmus you look down on a hammocky shaped mound, just what you expect of a broch. This 25' high circular mound is Dingyshowe (with naming variations. Also called Duncan's Height until at least 1842), first excavated in August 1860. It proved to be a broch that only stood six foot high, though with an external diameter of 57' and walls twelve foot thick that had been built directly onto a grass covered sandy hillock. Debris filled this Burg - potsherds, animal bones, a human skull, and between an edgeset slab and the wall a heap of water-worn stones like a celt workshop - and on the floor was a layer of red clay with an ash and charcoal deposit containing more animal bone. A mix of unburnt and burnt bones came from under parts of the wall. Beneath the floor evidence of a strong fire came in the form of clay and semi-vitrified sand, possibly cremation cramp. Sometime in the 1920's an amateur excavation in the south side revealed a short length of simple drystone wall/walling and a small kitchen midden, from which latter in 1929 the Royal Commission retrieved hammerstones (Petrie's celts) and degraded potsherds. The O.S. in 1964 saw several small trenches and noted shell deposits on the mound's south and west slopes. Other shell middens can be found at the remains of Peerie Howe close by and near the cliff base close to the Sandaiken site in Taracliff Bay next door (just before you reach the seps up to the new trail). In 1986 the Royal Commission paid another visit, finding a possible bank and ditch at the north and north-west but noting that this could be the result of quarrying for sand. It has been asserted that there are further levels of the broch unexcavated but six foot is all that was found. This is not a greenfield site. Beneath the floor they found clay, vitrified sand and Neolithic potsherds (Grooved Ware and rough Rinyo-Clacton), and the Royal Commision found similar pottery in the kitchen midden [Grooved Ware has been found at Evie Sands by the Broch of Gurness]. The description of a tumulus
somewhere back on a hill south of the Toab road, HY50NW 9, excavated by George Petrie in March 1850 (a 2m cutting from the east edge to the centre) might give us some idea of what preceded the broch. This conical barrow stood five feet high and thirty feet across inside a three foot wide shallow ditch. A ring of large burnt stones ran about the periphery of this clay mound. Halfway in the clay darkened and hardened. In the centre Petrie found a "considerable heap" of burnt bones and charcoal bits embedded in the clay in a three inch thick layer. He found no stones there and no tools in the barrow. Perhaps the five vanished Howies of Bossack (at the quarry that is now a tip) were similar. Petrie also dug one of the low flat-topped mounds a few feet away, of mostly large stones and measuring 22' diameter and 2' high. A foot down found a NNE/SSW short cist (2' by 18" by 1' deep) containing earth and clay with some burnt bone at the bottom, with a ?whetstone deposited outside the NNE end. Could this be the nature of the presumed dwellings between Dingishow and the Deerness shore - they have been dismissed as the results of sand quarrying but the 1798 Statistical Account specifically refers to them as "hillocks of stones".
A pity there is no suitably near high spot to look down from the other side. The top left of the 'hammock'[?N] is a peedie bit higher than the right [?S]. A linear trench comes from partway up the left [?S] diagonally up into the depressed centre. I go onto the main road to start my videoing from the northern side deosil. On the east side there is a large gouge that seems to have been done in a one-er, a likely candidate for any sand quarrying there may have been. With a magnifying glass I can make it out on the 1:25,000 eating into the outer broch area ! There are at least two tracks up the side of the mound, one of which I assume the excavators took. From the Taing of Beeman (with its double Bronze Age house) at high enough zoom you can see clear over to this broch. The broch's tower is now a big bowl providing shelter from the winds. Near the bottom of the bowl there are some stones exposed in what I think is the SE corner. Going down and coming round to the west side away from the mound there are still bumps, including a gently curved broad one alongside with that could cover an outer broch wall [in my estimation]. That diagonal trench may skirt the outer wallface of the broch tower or even be the space between it and outworks, though I would have thought Petrie would have looked for an associated settlement after being disappointed by the tower's lack of height.
Near the west side a modern track cuts deep into the earth. On the 'platform' betwen this and the mound varied stones have been made into stool sized garden features. Going up onto the older track to Turnpike a garden on the clifftop has been sub-divided by low drystane walls. If not for the colour I would have believed they came from the much reduced burnt mound showing in the cliff below. All that is left can be seen below a tyre and beneath a corrugated iron sheet - a short line of shells in red earth and a few flat stone fragments. This is known as Peerie Howe. Further along the beach there is a rough line of flat and rounded boulders in the cliff-face barely above the shore.
Now I betook me along the road towards Toab. In Sandi Sands three lines of concrete work go out into Peter's Pool, staggered half way along. These are WWII defences, HY50SW 26, made up of anti-tank blocks/pimples. They are a mix of cylinders, probably metal encased, and truncated pyramids. Beside the road there are few of the latter sitting in a grassy depression to prevent access to the road if those lines were breached. I considered wandering the shore for an easterly view of the broch settlement above St Peter's Bay, passing by Comely (cuml 'mound', the low coastal cairn directly ahint the farm perhaps) and the St Peter's Kirk Burnt Mound, but was wary of the seaweed and kept to the road. HY50SW 8 at HY53680422 lies above the shore and is a roughly circular turf-covered mound, barely reaching eighteen inches in height, with a few large stones sticking out. What it is exactly is uncertain because though RCAMS reported this as a mound of burnt stone Corrie in the same year mentions no such material.
As I continued to the Campston junction I kept taking photos and shooting videos of the two sites in the distance. There is a third, which is now supposedly a prominent grassy knoll (with a black earth patch) though I've never spotted it. Campston Burnt Mound, HY50SW 5 on the 1:25,000 at HY53420428, was only 0.8m high anyway. However this N/S aligned mound did, and presumably still does, cover an area 11 by 9 metres. The nearer site is St Peter's Kirk (Campston), showing as foot high grass-covered footings on an 18" high trapezoidal mound some 35 by 25 yards across. A 1798 reference to a roofless St Peter's Church in Deerness is actually for its parish church of St Ninian. I would suggest that this kirk was actually a private chapel attached to a Viking hall - RCAHMS put it atop a steep rise with a maximum two metre height on the north that they put down to probable settlement debris at that part. The Royal Commission in 1985 noted massive square blocks exposed along the edge in various places around the 21 by 25m enclosure edge, I could see masonry but spotted seperate blocks along or next to the furthest uphill and downhill corners. They did not find the 10 by 5m foundations to be definitively the kirk remains.
A little further away is a site not shown even on the latest map. A collection of sites under the umbrella of St Peter's Bay, record HY50SW 21 to be exact; mound, ditch, ?settlement. It was as late as 1979 that RCAHMS found a five foot high turf-covered mound measuring 16m by 18m from the top of which slab stumps protruded. Level platform traces to the south were investigated in 2001 when a section of ditch (with a likely SE entrance or other break) about the mound estimated at 6-8m wide gave an estimate for the site, likely a broch, being some 55m across. Geophysics also found anomalies outside of this area. More detailed geophysics on the mound and platform in 2006 confirmed the ditch and suggested associated banks as well as further settlement, this especially beyond the putative entrance. The resistance survey found several concentric rings, with the innermost believed to be a broch tower and the rest ditch revetment, and radar indicated a 3m deep ditch 8m wide. In between the survey dates the farmer had managed to uncover passages and walls in which he found saddle querns and decorated stones. If not for this I would have minded on that when geofizz found concentric rings on investigating the supposed broch at the end of the Ness of Brodgar this had been used to change its designation to chambered cairn.
The road to Ness of Campston is part of a crossroads, with the Stembister junction on the other side of the main road. There is an intriguing dyke on the farmroad's west side as you come up to Campston, not aligned to the fieldwalls. Moments after I passed the farmhouse a mannie came out and asked what I was doing. On explaining about photographing the two sites he found it strange to take pictures from the road, being sure that I must be about going into the fields to do so. After several repeatings he finally believed me to be content merely using the zoom to compensate, and I left this bemused landowner behind. Last time on this piece I had noticed you could only go so far before the broch mound dipped finally out of site, but somehow failed to spot the kirk. In fact the kirk stays in view for a few minutes more. Only from the farmroad can you see the uppermost corner too.
From the Ness road junction I could see all the way over past the Campston mound (along the track to Venikelday, a broch in a ringwork saith the blessed Raymond) to the Bay of Suckquoy 'muddy quoy' between Tolhop (hop=hope 'sheltered harbour') and
Sebay. On the Toab coastline before you reach the pow of Grandag ('beach above water at ebbtide' perhaps the Norn for ouse/oyce) there is a large mound covered in bushes that remains a mystery to me, unless it be connected to the extensive old saltings
hereabouts, as I have found no mention or depiction anywhere. Southwest of Holiday Cottage a larger map than the 1:25,000 (i.e. drilling down on CANMAP) shows stepping stones at HY,525,0418. Considered going to Campston Broch again. Much better to go back to Dingieshowe and its loos though. Having gained the bay again almost thought to go on to Newark [and the Mussaquoy 'burnt mound' - another that isnae] and catch the last bus back, but health took precedence - having started off with a couple of hours of rain (predicted for the late afternoon of course) I had caught the rough end of the day had become a bit of a roaster. Back to Kirkwall in time to visit the jobshop. Phew !
--- Though it would be useful to find Petrie's 'Tob' sites his Toab road seems likely to include as far east as the Twiness junction. An 1880 find of a foot-carved block (HY50NW 22) near various mounds including Stoney Howe (Mine Howe) refers to this locale as [within the] region of Toab [analogy with the Ladykirk Stone would connect the sandstone carving to St.Ninian's Chapel]. In similar manner we now refer to his Toab road as 'the Deerness road' past 'the airport road'.
Posted by wideford
27th June 2011ce
wideford's TMA Blog
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