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JUNE 13TH 2009

When I lived at Garson the circular walk over the Howe road onto the main Kirkwall-Finstown road around to Stromness and back often took my fancy (once in the small hours after three days without sleep. Ah, bliss), so for my last day it would make light of two or three hours taking in the Deepdale standing stone. Fat chance - 3, 4½, 6 hours as the pisgies led me on way past the peri-phaery. Back to start. Coming to the enlarged Garson road as I hadn't used it in the present form considered a side exploration, but even though this looks to re-join the Howe road higher up I passed this chance up. Another temptation a little further along a track on the left (where you see a mast) that goes over Bruna Fea to the main road. Never been there, probably nowt to see and I didn't want to short-circuit my tour. Next by-road on t'other side goes to Braehead and, nowadays, down to the coast [where I think it joins the new road through Cairston]. Roadside I stop at the piece where a teeny bit of the old road remains (what is it about Orkney and triangles of land cut off - sometimes the place seems all Gyre and gimbal) and offers brilliant views over to Orphir and around through Stenness and Firth up towards Sandwick. Momentarily considered following the road down to Bu Point [Bu= head farm] to see if anything remained at the site of Bu Broch's compressed period of rescue excavation. Too long down so maybe another time. Looking at the beckoning finger of Bu Point I wondered too if there might be something there, however Dave Lynn doesn't remember anything (surviving) but mentioned that further towards Stromness "There were a couple of small bits on the headland below Garson @ W tip of Bay of Navershaw which NMRS doesn't show - a building corner [Quoyelsh] with rest of structure gone to the sea (shows how intense erosion has been) which I found and then discovered Marwick had spotted in the 1930s and a small mound of unknown origin slightly back from the edge which may or may not be related to a Marwick report of some cholera sailor burials in the 1830s". There is a castle close by the point, and The Castle is the genuine article, being attacked in 1154. My next stop on the Howe road for views was the farm of Howe where the excavations I took part in ranged from late Viking houses all the way back to the Neolithic tomb used to create a later souterrain and serve as the basis for successive roundhouses [Stromness itself may have had one of these at Graham Place, or so I'm told]. The whole area from here through Congesquoy, Kettlun and Cairston to Garson Farm has a seemingly continuous history, perhaps even sanctity - a cist being found at Konizquoy [aka Congesquoy, which had a manse and attached glebe lands] and one of the earliest kirks having been at Bu of Cairston. After the dig finished the tomb had earth piled over it to level the site. Could there have been something earlier yet preserved thereby ??

At the bottom of the Howe road, in pursuit of [faintly] possibly informative distant views of Cummi Howe and Corn Hillock, I turned left to follow the coast this side of the Brig o' Waithe. Couldn't really get far enough even to do that, let alone look for Konizquoy flints above the Sands of Congesquoy as I fancied. On the other side of the road I noticed a finger of green extending out into the loch with small stones and longer than other bits there. And viewing along it on the other shore a continuance lay revealed as a straight bank like a low upturned vee a couple of feet or more high, a few wall courses running along its northern edge. A few yards south of this is a drystone wall set back against the slightly higher land where the garden wall starts, composed of stones set on 'edge' topped by stones lying horizontal and slabs. This carries on, peeking out here and there, below and parallel to the garden wall. Partway along a similar wall set against a bank strikes out perpendicular to it to the water's edge. I imagine that this is what they used before the present bridge, maybe a modified natural ford, or (much less likely) relating to the millstream by the crossroads. Most of this appears on the 1st O.S., where the perpendicular arm looks to be the SW continuation of the northern side of a building at ground level. The fact that the cottage is called Bridge End is an obvious clue. Doh !

Retraced my steps then passed the Howe road junction onto my intended route once more. When I visited the surviving Deepdale standing stone before I took a direct route through the quarry then through a fence (then got caught in a downpour for my troubles, so surprised the images came out as well as they did). This time I did the clever thing and went to the other end of the quarry and through an open field-gate into the field next door, which is the one with the stones - just follow the field edge over from the quarry tightly uphill if there are crops in it. Despite the crop able to do all the photography I wanted, circling as I had at the Staney Hill one, because this part of the field is rather patchy so that long steps and careful placement of the feet avoids damage. Does this patchiness imply something underlying this, possibly even archaeology ? Looking at the loose and loosened stones directly around the stone I wonder whether s.s. sockets are always contemporary - I can imagine standing stones being, as it were, bare rooted and then someone later noting a Pisa effect and then taking remedial action. Over in the next field towards Howe half-way along the field edge used to be a well (and small building but not a wellhouse), reached by a straight track from the Howe road, and it is likely that other stones noted in the vicinity are from its being filled in in like manner to that at Crossiecrown in St.Ola. Three abutting buildings in a line at Deepdale Farm took my fancy though, as is often the case, had to compose carefully so as not to let more modern structures interfere with my 'artistic' vision. At Deepdale Cottage all the stones are gone. Doesn't matter if they were antient, a folly or modern garden ornament, a tidy mind deconstructs everything. A choice to follow straight through to Stromness or as far as the mast road then back onto the Howe road. No, just past Deepdale I'll take the Works road that crosses the Burn of Deepdale because I don't remember tackling it from this end and I can come back into Stromness on the Birsay route. Loike I said, pixie-led. Where this road angles left I found myself looking for something but not knowing what or why. Only when I came back home did I find out RCAHMS lists two metre-high burnt mounds near the LH side of this bend. Probably obscured by vegetation at high summer anyways. Confusingly they are named after the Burn of Quholmslie rather than that of Deepdale, right district wrong burn.

At the junction turned right for the Cauldhame road (Cauldhame had a mill-dam I see now) to try investigate a larger burnt mound, also called Burn of Quholmslie but on the Burn of Una ! With all the bends and junctions and small farm roads you have to be very careful not to become lost once you leave the Birsay road. Near Garth there are fine views of the burn area between Hill of Miffia and Peerie Hill (definitely little hill rather than one with small fry, formerly The Hillock explaining why the variant of peedie more common in the North Isles used) dotted with a old dwellings and a farmyard girt with same (Greenhead) and the now abandoned Burnside. Though the last has only two buildings it is (at least from where I stood) more imposing than Greenhead with many more - most likely because one of the structures built later with other materials and a walled garden still sporting rhubub. Now that I look at the first O.S. I see between Garth and Lee there are the sites of St.Mary's kirk (HY21SE 30 now an irregular scattering of edgeset stones at HY25071300) and Castle Bloody (aka Castle Bloody HY21SE 31 formerly at HY 25141286, sans structure and cists now only a knoll to show so the kirk has the last laugh for an attack from here). Is it relevant that folk of Stromness parish had the eek name of "bluidy puddings" ?? Alongside Garth there's a road going up Peerie Hill and I determined to have me a grandstand view looking back across the "sacred monuments" bowl to Firth. I found the widest view to be from about half-way up. As awe- inspiring as the Whyteford view even if not quite 180 degrees too-jay. You can see north at least as far as Lingafjold above the Lyking road, then east across Stenness and Harray lochs to (at the very least) the ridge that runs from the Foot of Aglath to Snaba Hill and Binscarth, and south from Hill of Heddle across much of the Orphir hills (where a Johnsmas fire used to be lit above Bigswell) before the Hill of Quholm leaves you with views of only the tops of the rest. Brilliant. Then I took it in my head to go even further uphill. Started raining severely, so I considered striking for Miffia, no longer a dwelling. Too many curious kie in the way.

So struck off for Mousland in hopes of reaching the cliffs somehow. Rain stopped. At top of this hillslope good farm road becomes rough farm track. And there is a cattle gride even my size 10s made heavy weather of. Reminded me strongly of the Lyde road. Expecting golden plover any minute but the hill bereft of life and between me and the burn only a few sheep and the odd oystercatcher. A long and winding track. Unfortunately any idea of passing Mousland [Mossland] to seek a way to the coast is ruled out because the relevant land about the farm has become part of it, domestic rather then field fences in its vicinity. Short of this bit a track across the hilltop over Eskishold and Merranblo to Hill of Quholm and the Cauldhame road past Newtonhill, and Pastmap showed a tumulus by a field corner (possibly the Knowe of Heliacow [sic] ) with Helliaclov to the SE - being RCAHMS record no. HY21SW 6 at HY23091264. Couldn't follow my desire as the sheep would be in the way. Anyway I found out later that this barrow has been levelled by a 1990 excavation. It started life with just the EBA/MBA cremation cist in the centre surrounded by a kerb outside which a polished steatite axe had been placed at some stage. Then later layers of earth and turf were placed inside the kerb to form a mound. Further down the track there appears on the 1:25,000 2nd series a rather intriguing legend Pile of Stones appears at ~HY24141191 just south of a multiple field junction. This feature is not shown on the 1882 O.S., is still on PASTMAP at HY24161196 but absent again on the present 1:25,000. What the 1882 O.S. shows is E of the track linear quarries either side of HY23991207 (on the other side of it from the Merranblo enclosure HY21SW 19 at HY24021208 NNW of the junction opposite a bend in the track). These are simply delineations when this appears on the 1903 map (almost directly east of said junction) without ever having so much as "disused" appended. Certainly sounds worth exploring even though the legend indicates the need for greater interpretative powers than I possess - another possibility for the Knowe of Heliacow ?? Or, surely not, even once The Hillock itself. Ah, mystery.

Made my way back to Garth, then on to Una.via Cauldhame. The burnt mound RCAHMS record no. HY21SW 3 at HY24841254 is downstream of Una where a fieldfence stops near the burn's southern edge. In the flesh it presents more the appearance of an islet in the stream, a small water-carved eyot, as on the other side of it from the burn space is low between the mound and the nearest fieldbank (as if ?) by occasional flooding. The burnt material is on the one slope unseen by me, everywhere else exposing bare yellow earth au naturel with 'terraces' around the streamward side. At some time someone's excavated a whacking 1.3m deep cut in the blighter, though nothing is known of by whom or if owt found. I suspect that this archaeology started out as a natural feature and that apart from the burning anything owing to the hand of man came out with the scoop. Alas the way in from the road that I saw consisted of an exceedingly tight 'Orkney gate'. Being as I'd been desperate to spend a penny for an hour or two, and seeing I knew not what further obstacles might lie athwart my route, common sense left physical investigation for some other time. Anyways, got slide shots and digital and mini-DV anyways from above the burn either side as well as along it. Old Hall presents some nice non-prehistoric archaeology to the walker who appreciates slab work and the like. Along the Hill of Quholm, then down to Stairwaddy (for pics of the milldam piece) and last the rich-looking road going by the Co-op into town

wideford Posted by wideford
27th July 2009ce

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