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Fieldnotes by wideford

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Taversoe Tuick (Chambered Tomb)

Entering the enclosure the second thing I noticed after the cairn itself was a shallow trench all around the ege of the mound, and outside that a lot of stones of decent size. Canmore says "bounded by a wall-face of horizontally laid stones. Surrounding the cairn is a spread of loose flat stones forming a sort of platform. An alley, clear of stones, led through it up to the W edge of the cairn". Alley past tense. Before tackling the mound I investigated the other piece of the puzzle. This now has an angled metal door that swings out. This is where a fold-out screen comes in useful, sitting down on the horizontal stone and sticking the camera inside on wide angle. Then up to the main prize. I was very careful with the ladder in the cairn, starting face forward at the start, and the space between the rungs is over-large so that it would be all too easy for the whole leg to slip between them - I would have preferred to have someone with me just in case !

Knowe of Yarso (Chambered Cairn)

Just to emphasise it is a really steep climb, a very windy narrow path i places a foot wide. And when it levels out coming to the cairn there is a near vertical drop on the left, so not advisable if the wind is high

North Biggin (Broch)

Going north to Dounby the North Bigging Road is a sharp turn on your right with the broch clearly marked on the map, but I approached from the other end after going on to Dounby and turning off there so (hopefully) I could see other sites along the way. After the Holodyke Hunting Lodge (no mere gateway but a grand mansion) the road turns back down to the main road. On the left is a converted wartime building and the broch is in the next field. After I did my work the farmer came to find out why my interest in his "knowe", rather bemused. A very understanding chap and I would suggest speaking with him beforehand as we need more people like him and I enjoyed our brief chat. There are a few exposed parts of the nound but I'd say that from what I saw the "many stones of considerable size" have gone. It also looks to me as if the present SE edge was the border because the field over the dyke is so level, though the report says that the long pit there might be wall core. Near the top of the downhill side is a shallow bowl that could be a cell as a low ridge seems to cut it off, though from the side it does appear like part of a structure heading down to the base of the mound.

Knowe of Grugar (Broch)

In February coming down the Evie Road the field containg this was open, so I took the opportunity to see the greater portion close up. Climbing to the top I noticed several metres of what could have outer face of broch tower wall. Couldn't see if ever so slightly curved or straight but the stones at the edges could be the "stones, several of which, laid on edge, can be seen protruding through the turf" that the record mentions. Actually, going down the southern side, is a definite structure with three built sides visible to perhaps several inches deep by 18 across. I assume this has 'appeared' since the 2011 geofizz. Could be a small fish tank or the top of a toilet I guess.

Unyatuak (Artificial Mound)

Appears as Unyatank on the 1st 25" map, which sounds the more likely name. Even on 2nd 25" it is Unyatauk not Unyatuak. Only seen it from the road, but there appear to be two similar rises 'behind' this mound

Russel Howe (Cairn(s))

Just north of the Sandwick war memorial take the road going east through the Midstowe and Netherstove. Before reaching Netherstove take the diagonal track up to the minor road and turn right. The Rossel Howe wall is plain to see two fields east of the road. I didn't realise you can walk straight up to it (the fence is practically gone) and so came around the edge ofa field. Looking at the rise atop the hill the cairn sits on I woner if it isn't man-made. At the southern end is a pile of stones that could be the remains of the second cairn, badly robbed for stone. Rossel Howe cairn is a rectangle with well rounded corners, feeling almost oval to me. There is another pile of stones at the other end of the cairn, buth this is obviously leftovers and parts that have come off the wall. The stones are very different from the two slabs, which are mostly white. It doesn't come out well in my photos that the erect slab sticks out from the cairn material at an angle of, say, 45 degrees. It is said the two slabs could have been parts of a cell. But there must have been a reason why they are where they are, and given the angle of the slab it strikes me that whoever built the wall was surely marking for posterity the place where the entrance had been (in which case could it even be in its original position ?). Standing at Rossel Howe there is a grand view almost the whole way around, and the mound is easily seen coming up to Skail. Indeed, because this day the hill was distinctly multi-coloured I was ablt to see it as I walked several miles towards Twatt and retracing my steps several more going to Stromness. If you wish to avoid the roads the set of tracks going by the site of the 'Snusgar' excavations takes you to the Netherstove farm road.

Loch of Boardhouse (Standing Stone / Menhir)

On your left hand side going west to Kirbuster the Burn of Kirbuster which connects the Loch of Hundland to the Loch of Boardhouse is part of a long narrow field, look down the line of the fence and you can just make out the standing stone in the preceding field. Having seen it on visits to the Kirbuster Fsrm Museum it was good to finally visit the site. As CANMORE mentions, site HY22NE 10 is in a marshy area, don't go through the damp bits (I tried) but around. The depression in which it sits varies from 2.5m to 3m across. The stone as it stands now is at an angle, the longer side 1.1m the shorter 0.5m and the top 0.6m long with a thickness of 0.25m. Yes there are several big stones along with it in the water-filled depression, but rather than the stone looking 'modern' the feeling you get is that it is part of a larger whole (it is another matter as to if the stone be original or planted later). Looking to see if the stone could have been part of a 'standing stone fence' all I could find was a few metres away two large stones face down in the ground, one larger than the other. When I turned back to the stone it is evident that at least part of the depression is rimmed, stones peeking out from the side. I do know of the traditional Orkney connection between standing stones and wells/springs, but none appear here on the map

Mor Stein (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Take the south coastal road, not taking the Ness Road, go as far as the Frustigarth Road and take that. The stone is in the second field after Cot on the Hill, don't be tempted by the first field as it is rather boggy. I went to have a look at the wartime building on the other side and found what could have been an outlier. Didn't measure it but say a metre square with another stone underneath

Sandyhall (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

After Norseman Village take the Gorseness Road and at Grind turn onto the Hackland Road. On your left is a field with large wartime remains/ruins. In the next field a building perhaps of the same era marks Sandyhall barrow 3. There were others here but the only prominent one is near the farmroad junction. This mound of earth with a few stones is directly beside the Hackland Road and has several large scrapes.

St Mary's Kirk (Isbister) (Broch)

Take the bottom end of the Gorseness Road. North of the road is the Loch of Brockan, south of the road just before Grind is a steep-sided mound in the middle of a field. This is St Mary's Kirk in Isbister, Rendall, NMRS record no. HY31NE 2. On reading a 1941 newspaper account that the tenants were forbidden from clearing the field or removing stones I was happy to see from the road stones here and there, but once in the field it is obvious that this virtue has been undermined as cattle have started to trash it. The protection was not afforded to non-ecclesiastical monuments in the vicinity, as the 1880 Name Book reports that the farmer had demolished adjoining ruins, at which time this site showed the remains of two concentric structural walls. A 1941 newspaper report spoke of half-buried well-squared stones, and definitely by 1967 the O.S. saw neither walls nor structure. The approx 1.4m high mound had been squared off by ploughing to leave almost vertical sides - no way you can call them that now. But you can certainly see where some building has been on top of the mound, for at the northern end a slightly raised section of much darker grass covers a few remnants of Broch Age wall. Perhaps it's the kirk. What we have from St Mary's itself belong to the burial ground. The 1880 tenant excavated human bones and likely gravestones, and the 1967 O.S. mentions that nearby at HY39961870 the farmer at Grind found a pile of human bones between parallel stone walls topped by a flagstone. Sensibly he put things back where they were and again the O.S. could find no trace.

Ness of Woodwick (Broch)

Even taking photos along the way it took me under 50 minutes to reach the broch mound from the Evie Road, but you can get by car much of the way. Just north of Woodwick is the Ardwick Road, go up this to the top where there are several farms clustered together. Behind Arwick there is a half-snapped-off sign for the beach (wonderful how markers self-destruct in Orkney) and you continue down past Lower Bisgarth to where there is a parting of the ways. From Vishall Hill you can make out the broch because of the brightness of the later drywall enclosure stuck behind it. On the left a farmtrack goes to the sands by the northern side of the lochan (with its almost vestigial ayre) while on the right you take what is almost a farm road down to the shore and turn to your right for the Ness of Woodwick. I went at low tide but it seemed to me that you could walk the outside of the field with care if the tide were too high. Even though on the map the Craig of Ritten juts out it felt to me more as if the broch mound was tucked into the land. Though the 20' internal wall arc mentioned in the report is indeed hidden now there is another exposed at the bottom of the tower, not much above the shore so easily masked if you visit on an incoming tide. It struck me that the tower must survive under the mound almost complete. All over the mound you can find the odd stone. However the nature of a broch is that these being isolated I could not tell if these were simply part of the massively wide broch tower wall or parts of other structures. Clambering up to the top I could see several lumps and bumps inside the medaeval/'modern' enclosure and just beyond it. What with the surviving height of the broch tower and the topography I would deem it likely that the rest of the broch settlement survives under the turf. I wish I could find my Photoshopped version of the 'original' Google Earth image I found, as it clearly showed the tower outworks as a surviving plan despite the ground cover. On the composite image from two satellites you can still make out a figure-of-eight with one side a dark line of inner and outer broch tower arcs and connection (?entrance side). Also away from the main broch you can see the bumps I saw. Most obvious is a beetle shaped oval directly adjoining, almost entirely contained by one side of the 'modern' enclosure. Which makes the site extend inland like the other Evie brochs.

Redland South (Chambered Cairn)

In Evie village opposite the 'new' school is the Aikerness road with a sign for the Broch of Gurness (originally the Knowe of Aikerness). Going down the road where the farm on your right ends Redland South is in the second and third fields down - when I went three-and-a-half years ago, taking photos from the roadside bank, I didn't realise that the bulk of the cairn lies in the lower field because I went purely by the Pastmap marker. Certainly the 'upper' section is the most visibly man-made because of the large excavation pit around what had been known as the Redland standing stone, and looking across to Vishall Hill two long shapes look much more like burial mounds (they are above where Keek once stood). This is because the cairn sits on a the flat top of a natural mound rather like later cists were placed in false crests and rises. Indeed it feels as if the 'upper' section is a seperate entity as with the Head of Work. The lower field's remnant (entered by another gate) is rather unimpressive, especially as with a warming climate the protruding stones detailed in the record are hidden by grass. I came across then haphazardly, and it struck me that rather than ragged stumps these are original tops - I don't see why the standing stone alone would have survived levelling.

Seven Knowes (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

I decided to do the Hackland Road in Rendall from north to south, starting from the junction near Skiddy. This section's only purpose seems to be to separate the Seven Knowes from mounds formerly on the downhill side near the new housing where the road turns. Marked as tumuli on the map, though not prominent if you know they are there the two chief ones are quite easy to spot approaching uphill. The southern boundary of Seven Knowes is formed by a farmtrack that goes to Enyas Hill, and Gitterpitten on the road below is the Orcadian form of the term Picts Dyke. Along the track is the fieldgate by which I entered for a closer look at the two main mounds, it being open at the time. One of these seems completely intact, truly conical, whilst the other one has a large scrape in the south side and depressions on top from previous digging (best seen from uphill).

Millfield (Burnt Mound / Fulacht Fia)

Coming along the Seatter road and turning for Noltland, opposite the junction with the road passing Greentoft, the long axis of a field mound runs parallel to the road you're on. It is far larger than anything else this way, being over twice the size of all the other mounds, burnt or otherwise, in the area. The presently grass-covered slopes appear gentle to me. There is the faintest hint of a curve in the face towards the road, but rather than the vague crescent associated with burnt mounds the overall impression is that at some point it has had a huge chunk taken out. The rusty gate to the field stands between erect stones, the left one of which is atypical being so marvellously gnarled _ I have always found it strange that there are no standing stones recorded for Deerness, could this have been one ?

Chapel Knowe (Broch)

Coming from Finstown along the A966 turn right onto the Burness road and soon you can make out the distinctive broch profile right of the farm, I hadn't expected to see anything. Having come a long way I used my binoculars and saw that there were kie in the field. So I bethought to turn down to East Quatquoy and make my way along the shore instead, but a garden extension stopped me short and not expecting to go this way I didn't know the state of the tides so contented myself with distant shots. At high zoom I see a low scoop coming from the mound. I presume this is the assumed chapel enclosure, but it brings to my mind the stony areas landward of two of the Evie brochs. If coming along the coast another time I would try from further back. You can see the tidal islets called the Skerries of Coubister via which one very low tide a man in waders was able to reach Damsay. His idea was folk used this route to reach the island but perhaps it had been the islanders that went the other way to reach the Burness site. For from Chapel Point there is a pre-eminent view from Finstown through Kirkwall all the way around to Crookness, taking in most of the isles in too.

Howan Blo (Cist)

Walk west from the Deerness Stores and ooking up to the former United Free Church of Deerness a long natural mound called Howan Blo is easily seen. I have only seen it from the main road but there is a track goes by. I could see zooming in a slightly terraced slope, either from ploughing or perhaps to make inserting easier. The farm of Blow(e)s is said to be named after it.
In the excavation record I notice two similarities with George Petrie's 1861 dig at Greentoft/Milldam, no great distance away. First the use of loose stone to 'ground' the cists, and more importantly that if someone had removed the funerary urn Petrie found it would have left an urn-shaped cavity of virtually the same dimensions as that at Howan Blo. Which suggest co-evality at least, if not the same potter.

Twi Ness (Cairn(s))

Twi Ness rather than meaning twin-ness is said to be tongue-ness as there is no double headland, but the name Point of Dishan can only go as far back as The Douche so could well have been the other half of a Twi Ness (Doocot Point is shown seperately). The mound sits above the rocky headland. I wonder if the large stones in the cliff face part of a stoney outcrop on which the mound is placed or placed stone ? Because the upright slab being radial sounds like it might be more a divider than an encloser - wheelhouse maybe

Lochview (Standing Stones)

This year they investigated strong circular features shown by geophysics and thought to be revetments [IIRC] for a Wideford-like tomb under the mound, but abandoned this for the time being when their excavation failed to turn up anything substantial. I'm sure if they had followed the common practice of checking a previous antiquarian excavation or the area adjacent they would have had better results. Instead they were (mis)led to an area away on the periphery with less-well defined arcs. At least they seem to have found the edge of the tomb or whatever. However, being perverse, I found twa other things uncovered intriguing. Into/onto the slumped stone mass there is a small sub-circular structure not having the appearance of a chamber - hopefully this is not the planti-creugh shown near the mound on early diagrams, but if not what ? A few feet from this is a depression with some stone tumble - immediately uphill of these two features in the section is an area ?robbed of stone. If it were me I would want to go back and see if either of these two items represents post-monumental activity.

Russel Howe (Cairn(s))

Coming up towards West Bain in Sandwick (near the Bay of Skaill) and two fields to your left a wall made of oversized stones can be seen at the high point. The side facing the road there is still a rise, and I wonder if the cairn overlay something else or if this is the ONB's other tumulus.
It does seem strange that having bothered to clear the cairn they then undid their work by building this massive wall - perhaps they had thought the mound purely natural, and on discovering their error constructed a memorial over the cist ?

Hourston (Crannog)

Having started at the south end of the 'Swartland Drovers Road' trail when just past the present sewage station I chanced to see on my left a small unnamed holm at the top of the Loch of Harray. I think this is most likely a crannog like those in the Voyatown and Swannay districts - the present NMRS designation is quite recent, probably interim. A comparison with the Loch of Wasfale in Firth, going by large-scale maps, this islet is roughly the same length but only half the width, giving as very approximate dimensions 35m by 12m but nowhere near as high. Even unaided you can see that a level mound or platform occupies the central half, with its sides gradually going down to loch level. At high zoom my camera shows at least three large stones (one erect) and a couple more at the back (perimeter wall ?). The stepping stones run NNW from at or near the mound's edge. Following on in this direction the 1st 25" shows a circular stone arrangement offshore at at HY28881965, between the holm and the Wasum site (HY28841971). Ruling out an actual stone circle my guess would be that this had been a cairn, but it looks most rum on said map.
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Unemployed and so plenty of spare time for researching contributors' questions and queries and for making corrections. Antiquarian and naturalist. Mode of transport shanks's pony. Talent unnecessary endurance. I love brochs.

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