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Lyde Road to Harray Junction

Took the Evie bus to what is now called Norseman Village. Not absolutely sure whether to go all the way west to Harray by the Lyde Road or branch onto the Redland road that runs beside hill bases back south into Finstown. Leaving the junction near a modern house on the right a large bank of gorse faces you roadside, bright and dashing with that heavy nougat scent. The landscape glows and the grasses bordering the burn on my left almost overpower the camera with their hazy golden aura. Just off the Redland Road a thin sliver of mixed plantation is very out of place - IIRC it contains the remains of a long-lost building, perhaps one shown on the first 25" O.S. but gone a scant 20 years later. This day I decided to continue on the Lyde Road. Before me Netherhouse peered from behind the small wood bordering the cornering road creeping up the hill. Far away up on the hillside left of the road there's a small unroofed square building in splendid isolation set into (I think) a false crest. On the outside of the bend an old stone buil cottage has a for sale sign by the front wall but I don't think it is. Though the pitched flag roof is in disrepair the lichened top to the roadside end wall shines bright white. There is a cogged six-spoke wheel leaning against the door and coming almost half-way up the doorway. This is dwarfed by a large wheel to its left almost the height of the door having only four spokes but with a wide rim having raised unequal angles racing around it. At its feet visible behind is the top half of another its equal. All these painted red. Makes a colourful change from stacked flagstones.

Managed a photograph of a greenfinch at the tippy top of a conifer. High up over what I now know is the Cottascarth RSPB reserve two birds of prey soar and glide in what must have been a mating display as at one point they hold claws and wheel about one
another as they fall. I hoped they might be eagles or one of the larger hawks. Though I failed to capture the initial moment when they were nearest to me in the images I have I can tell, just, that they are harriers. This is why if such things as sea serpents and
yeti exist you will never have a really good picture, lost in awe I simply watched until I came back to myself a little ! Had a slightly closer view of the hillside ruin - perhaps a quarryhouse ?? In the valley north of the road I also had several views of a ruinous
single-storey house that once had pretensions, or so it seems to me. I don't remember seeing its like before. Of mostly traditional stone build but not centuries old, as evinced by the substantial chimney stacks at either end of the main building. Against both of these end walls abut stone lean-tos with their flag roofs intact (unlike the roofless house to the top of whose walls they come). In Kirkwall these all look to have had slate roofs. Posh I guess. This house's roof sprang from long horizontal slabs that still sit atop the walls. They aren't much wider than the walls but the longest covers almost half of one, being about 4m long ! Also on my photos I see in front of the house a stone ?hut with a similarly sprung slanted roof whose middle flags only remain (perhaps a partition supports these). Shame the farm remains nameless as I didn't note where it is on the modern map. At Fiold I found myself pleasantly surprised to see a gentlewoman outside the house at this time of day.

After Hindera Fiold and Rowamo the land levels out somewhat, an arena played out between two barrow cemeteries. To the north of the road at the foot of Hindera Fiold the 1:25,000 names only the Knowes of Trinnawin, but the tumulus to their north is a remnant of the Knowes of Stankieth, and surely they belong together as counterpoint to the famous Knowes of Trotty below Trundigar Hill. In terms of watery boundaries this area lies between the Burn of Corrigal to the north and the Burn of Nettleton to the south [springing from Muckle Eskadale, hinting at an earlier name for there are no ash here], with Lyde Burn seperating ?territories. I would like to include the Winksetter mounds but these seem to face a different region. There is definitely an axis though. The Trottie tumuli have been found to date to the transition from Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age because they were dug not long ago, whereas Trinwaan and Stankieth were dug when most of Harray's mounds were deemed Viking. But from the reports they are probably of comparative date. From the road the Knowes of Trotty in the distance present the form of a saddleback hill with a mound at either end, though this is more than likely owing to perspective. In the images I can see a sharp cut like a bow wave in front of the mound nearest me - another trick of perspective or perhaps either raised natural on which the knowes perch or some monumental ditch about them or that mound.

From later times I see London up from the road sitting on a low farm mound or platform, another scenic ruin. It looks to be two houses of slightly differing length joined by a wall at the back, though that at the right's front wall might have extended across somewhat (the left's end wall is by contrast complete). Every one a gem. In this direction I saw to London's left, except in the background, a long mound. At first I took this for one described as near London. However the line from me to London didn't sight that
way and I realised this mound is the more prominent of the Knowes of Trinnawin. Told you before I am useless at directions, so it is good that the mound HY31NW 39 at HY33031821 is a mere 70m from the road and appears on the map. It is a 9m diameter ?barrow, mostly of earth, on a slight rise. As it is only 70cm high I can excuse myself for not seeing it. A fellow TMAer seeing it in July wasn't impressed by it. However I have known many a mound that I had to climb on to before features could be made out, though I suspect that is not the case here. The small field it is in is called King's Moss. Over the way a large irregular field between the road and Trattlaquoy to the south has the name The Bu recorded for it though, there is no Bu now. To my mind this is part of an old practice, because in Orphir the King's Ferry Road runs past the Bu and in Stromness parish the Bu of Cairston is close to Congesquoy ' King's enclosure '. In The Bu field is a much more impressive mound (HY329180) than that recorded across the road. Strange there is no record of this that I can find on a map or anywhere else, even if only to assert it a natural feature. Aligned E-W as far as I can tell, standing as high as a man where it peaks towards the western end. I would hazard it as a long trapezoid in plan - the National Library of Scotland' mosaic viewer can't aid me [a circle on a long stem anybody !!!]. Could it be a farm mound, maybe even Bu, or is it prehistoric in origin. From the road and the Trattlaquoy farmroad you can see large stones on top of the mound and in the exposed earth of the western end which might be from a rocky outcrop below.

There is another area heavy with archaeological discoveries as you come to Garth, in my vision going down to Howe Farm (the howe itself is natural) and bounded on the west by the base of the hill on which St Michael's Kirk sits. In 1894 roadworks just west of Garth uncovered two long cists and, a little distance away, a [?cinerary] urn. Only the larger of the two cists remained complete, measuring 4'6" long by about a yard square. Unfortunately no reference is given as to contents. Next along the road is Werne
(HY32171800), where in 1981 Andrew Appleby (now more famous as the Harray Potter) spent his evenings one fortnight recording three (? Bronze Age) cist, uncovered during the leveling of ground for a house. The following year Rankine Firth, the owner made another find on the same line as the others, though this time the cremated bone lay in a small shallow cut. This last does not appear in the record for HY31NW 56. The first cist had been dug into sometime in the age of cans but still contained cremated bone at the bottom as well as potsherds and textile. It sat in a 2.5m by 1.83m by ~1m pit, measured 1.18m by 0.75m by 0.8m had an ENE/WSW orientation and probably sat under a mound originally. The second cist, aligned E/W, came in at 1m by 0.63/0.54m by 0.8m and sat in a pit 2.5m by 2.65m by 1m ! Far less bone came from this. The south side slab had former use, most likely to hold a doorpost. The second cist had also been dug into previously. Alas a mechanical digger trashed the smallest of the cists, only 0.4m by 0.2m by 0.5m, sitting in a 0.8m by 0.9m by 0.64m oval pit. No finds were found in it. We have one calibrated radiocarbon date for the site, 2400-1960 BC, and this isn't that far off the two dates of 1880-1690 & 1740-1530 recorded for HY31NW 102.
Found in the side of knoll (HY32881751) on Geroin farmland north of Howe Farm, an emergency dig of this 1.03m by 0.66-0.78m by 0.71-0.76m cist discovered burnt bone, potsherd and copper alloy over horizontal slabs in the centre. Where the Burn of Nettleton crosses the Harray Road near the old Post Office you will find the Bridge of Brennanea, a.k.a. the Brig of Brinnanea/Brenaniar. Shortly before 1921 the Knowe of Huanan nearby having been explored turned up cremated burials, though nothing else ["nothing of great importance" that is]. Unless the mound had been entirely removed I would equate this with the triangular island in the burn shown on the 1st O.S. at this place, what is visible being by the east side of the road.

Of course one mustn't forget the Nettletar broch. In collating the descriptions of this and taking a direction from the outside in it seemed to me that this hadn't been a greenfield site, there had been earlier features, possibly including the subterranean passages. But I chose to go down the manse road to Howe for yet another fruitless chase for the site of a standing stone. There are/were the remains of turf-walls encircling the triple tunships of Mirbister-Corston-Corrigall and Bimbister+Winksetter+Grimeston. The Faalstone/Fallstone was a large prostate stone on the lands of Geroin & Peerie Howe (presumably the northern half of Howe Farm) and Gregor Lamb thought that the Faal Stone o' Howe might have been at the boundary of the latter, though this would surely need Grimeston replaced by Nettletar (aka Overhouse) which is where a survey of field names placed it. It was broken up and removed back in the early 1800s. Over in Grimeston is the Stone o'Hindatuin, but the Faal Stone may have had a nearer neighbour. I say this because in December 1928 a standing stone stump (originally "a somewhat flat flagstone") was found south of the Burn of Nettleton on Glebe farm "not far from the site of the Faen Stone of How".

The glebe lands belonging to the manse are quartered by staggered tracks like Gyre. Nettletar on the east side of the Manse Road originally had no name and so presumably took this from the broch (just as Glebe at a bend in the Burn of Nettleton, one of whose grieves/tenants lost a cock below the floor of his house, took its from the church lands above). On the other side from this Nettletar the 1st O.S. shows a dam and a sluice to control it. Coming down this road before Nettletar I noticed some rum looking stuff by the east side of the road. Decided not to take photos as no NMRS records for there. But just possibly (only just I admit), I saw the remains of a 'lost' site. Because in 1893 a pair of underground chambers, aligned roughly N/S, were found some 300 yards NE of the broch of 'Netletar' at a place once called Stead-in-groe [?Steading-ros 'stone-farm'], This would put them abouthands of the east quarter of the Glebe or just outside it, presumably the latter as it was found on Garth farm's land. The twin 6'D chambers were connected by a two foot wide passage three foot long and 3-3'6" deep. Large stones on upright stoness formed the roof of the passage. A large slab on the W side of the southern chamber just covered an area of soil 39" square, the bottom foot of which consisted of pale sticky ashes. A sooty opening from the recess so made ended towards the west 4' up, just below ground level, with an edgeset stone. At this spot there had been earth and stones. The other chamber had less evidence of burning, but the evidence pointed to one or more bodies having been in each chamber. Microscope examination at the time revealed the soot as vegetable growth and in 1894 laboratory work on the 'clay' gave clear indication that the bodies had been interred rather than burned. In 1892 what was considered a similar site had been found less than 2km northwards at Trettigar (the farm north of the start of the side road that eventually leads you to Corrigal Farm Museum).

In the end I didn't go as far as Howe because on coming level with the burn and looking across to the Harray Road finally using the map I found the broch in my eyeline. Dimly I made out a mound a smidgin over twice the height of the fieldwalls with a curve at the northern end and a slightly lower bank north of that. In it I could see large white blocks, some of which came together as nice wall sections. So I retraced my steps and continued on to the main main road. I'd been managing OK going down the Manse road, but now I felt absolutely shattered. Amazing I had never spotted the broch from here before - perhaps I thought it continued a fieldwall - long sections of wall an almost blinding white and taller than the nearby field boundaries, with bigger and longer blocks. Took as many different photos as I could and from several places along the road - in some views it looks almost intact.

I had promised Andrew another visit but simply not up to it by now. Leaving the Harray Potter behind, across from the larger Overhouse a broad farmtrack going to nowhere looked a good bet for further observations of the broch, but from the south. Exhausted though I was I simply had to try it. The track leads straight into a field without any hindrance, too wide for a fieldgate and yet with no fence to bar it, though it does narrow within to form the southern border. In this end field a large rectangular area of grass is left untouched even though it is partway up the field, inhabited only by a few large irregular stones (though no structure or remains occur here even on the first 25" map). I can't shake the feeling this must once have enclosed something other than crops or livestock, that maybe if the big gap was old there would have been a pair of stone gatepillars for a quietly impressive entrance to some long gone hoose [Nearhouse??]. But they do not look like house stones from where I stood. Anyways I did get my distant views of the broch to complete the set.

A lady that I glimpsed earlier from a distance met and greeted me as, IIRC, I reached the juntion of the Howe and Stoneyhill Roads. Must have done the Manse road as I had planned on doing, I think. Last push to the Harray junction now. Thought I say the Orkney Blide Trust chairman (now ex-) Jeremy pass me in his car, very astonied to see me out this way whoever they were. The Wasdale road beckoned me as probably the shorter route. Then I thought to myself that going through the wood and up the hill to Finstown would offset that, plus taking longer to reach the bus route. Coming near to the Kirkwall-Finstown Road there are some WWII foundations in a field at the east side of the road. On reaching the junction I knew I had arrived at the right time because a young woman already occupied the bus shelter there. Five minutes later my transport arrived - good job I hadna stopped for a chat with anyone !!


APPENDIX Disovered In 1892 on Trettigar farm (about HY317188). Several coverstones roofed an E/W aligned chamber 6' wide, about 5'6" and 17' long. Three irregular slabs formed the main part of the roof, extending well beyond the earth walls, the largest being 6" thick and going over two-thirds of the length whilst the other two met in the centre, all three being capped at their common junction where an E/W aligned erect stone with a broad base supported them. Small stones filling in other roof gaps were secured by edgeset stones. Where there were gaps in the rock-cut floor stones levelled this. A foot of uniform black ashy material overlay another two foot of uniform material, yellowish and very sticky. Other indications of fire came from blackened stones and the undersides of the four coverstones, though with the latter it was determined that the ingress of water had followed the slope to N and W of the ground and formed 'stalactites' and 'stalagmites' covered in fine black ash. The roof lay a foot below ground level. Amidst coverstone fragments on the surface was more ash and what they believed to be a crude hammer/maul/?whetstone broken in two.

wideford Posted by wideford
29th July 2012ce

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