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To save a little time, and perform last August's journey with several reversals, I took the bus to the Harray Road junction. Today's walk I undertook in order to confirm my memory of a couple of things I saw walking the farmroad to Winksetter back then as well as place them more firmly on my map [good job because I had confused two completely different ruins !]. The bog cotton has put on a magnificent display this year. Starting at the Harray junction I could have happily spent several hours simply photographing all the clumps and swathes whitening the countryside with their glossy heads. And then there were the other blooms. Throughout my travel I saw several different species in combinations such that I could go on to take pics of several 'pairings' at each place after
snapping the initial grouping. The first patch lay on the verge ; orchids, daisies, trefoil, kidney vetch and buttercups. Ragged Robin pierced the bog cotton with its pink ribbons sometimes. The WWII structures came further up the Harray Road than I thought, having remembered them as much nearer the stuff by the junction whereas actually they are near the southern end of the Grimeston Road, opposite Duntroon. They're still standing several courses high. There is still no record for them, but knowing their whereabouts I can read their locations from CANMAP as being at HY33741431 and 33801439, by the north side of the track show running around the southern end of the loch and up to the farmtrack.

At the crossroads with the Stoneyhill Road instead of going straight over the Howe road to Winksetter I reversed last August journey by continuing up the Harray Road then turning right onto the Lyde road and thence down the Manse Road to reach Howe and Geroin. Where this straightens out looking to the east I could clearly see what had been a fairly broad farmtrack running through a roadside field alongside the northern fieldwall. It presents like an old farmroad but comes to a halt where it meets other fields at a tear-shaped enclosure. On the map it points meannglessly north of Trattlaquoy, but then I remember the mound I found where the Trattlaquoy road meets the Lyde Road, and that seems a likely fit for a terminus whatever it used to be. From modern Nettletar about half to two-thirds of the way to the Geroin farmtrack if you look NW of road to about halfway between that and Burn of Nettleton there is a cist site, HY31NW 109 at HY3283017460, which contained a crouched inhumation with a calibrated date of 3030~2620. Continuing this line quickly brings you to another cist site, HY31NW 102 at HY32881751, on the southern side of a hillock - one can imagine that this grassy knoll once extended as far as the first cist. The 2004 excavation found the second cist to be made up of four interconnected side slabs with horizontal base slabs at the centre. This dates later, to the Bronze Age (calibrated dates of 1880~1690 and 1740~1530). On the central floor they found copper-alloy, burnt bone and pottery. Where the road bends again a short track leads to Geroin Cottage - in "Harray - Orkney's Inland Parish" the Germiston tunship map places the Fa'an Stane O'How's position prior to break up and removal at the point of the field below the cottage i.e. HY33151705. A track by the western fieldwall goes to the point (and there is/was a nearby well/wellspring, which may be a connection with the stone). I had hoped to find another candidate for the mound Howe had been named for but coming from this direction there are so many possible mounds either side of the road and nothing to the undulating landscape that looks other than natural.

Some rain came to try dampen my spirits. I had opted to take a packamac (rather than my nowadays uncloseable lightest jacket). Which kept the water out only to hold the heat in ! At least full blazing sun never came out this day. Still tempting to cut my walk short at the next junction. However I can be unbelievably stubborn and needed to place things accurately so I didn't make a major boo-boo in the blog. When the showers finally left I then 'hit' clouds of midges, my flailing hands mostly to no account. Became even worse when I turned right at the junction, not stopping until almost at the farm. In a field south of the road are the remains of a large quarry. On the opposite side of the farmtrack a field at HY338167 is associated with the names Howinawheel and Howinalinda in the Harray book. The first element appears to denote a larger mound like the sixty-footer Howana Gruna. Wheel could refer to resting e.g. the pausing of a funeral cortege or a herders rest. Howinalidna, Heuon a Lidna in the 1790's, means 'mound in the slope'. Which is a pity as I can see at least three suspect bumps in the field, no hill-slope in my sight. This hasn't always been a rectilinear field - in the earlier maps a very roughly circular piece of land is shown instead. Could it be that rather than being the name of a mound Howina-wheel refers to a circular enclosure containing Howinalidna ? For some reason my memory had placed my putative unrecorded Winksetter mound where the quarry is, rather than at HY343167 behind Winksetter. This is oh so not a quarry, there are oodles of these depicted on the maps elsewhere and none of them anywhere near - all I could find nearby having been a small triangular body of water. This is a very busy area archaeologically, one of dozens on Orkney Mainland.
From the modern buildings look south to the earlier Winksetter and then some 200 yards to the east of that Howan mound (HY31NW 17 at HY34211652) sits at ~250' OD close to the W end of a prominent ridge. The barrow's grass covers an earthen mound mixed with small stones. Before parts were removed (at the end of the 19thC or start of the 20th) this tumulus was much bigger than its present 39'D and 2.5-3' height. 250-300 yards SW of the farmhouse used to be a very large burnt mound, HY31NW 21, with a bit of a hollow on one side. It sat in a field corner with a dyke running across it and in tight association with a well at its SW side. Of course burnt materials do not only a burnt mound make, pity we don't know what they were. Roughly 500 yards east of Winksetter two mounds 12~15' are reported close together on the hill (and that is all that is known of them). Yet further away there might be settlement remains, HY31NW 19, on a piece of marshy ground periodically damp enough to be called the Loch of Shunan [not to be confused with The Shunan, a full-time loch further north]. The original report is that the scant remains of a stone structure at the foot of a hill were spread over a large area, with flint arrowheads and tools found on adjacent lands. The only stones now found, at HY34191610, don't resemble anything (they are "on a slight eminence" anyway). Going north of the track I was on the south outlier of Knowes of Trotty is no great distance HY34201727 .

Having placed 'my' mound on the map as best I could I turned around to head straight back. I thought I would quickly draw level with a couple coming back from the Knowes of Trotty barrow cemetery. Then Flora called. Several more of those flower groupings, only in miniature. Cinquefoil dominated, then tiny white cross-shaped flowers and almost equally small pale purple flowers with light violet honey-guides and stamens like long eyelashes (a speedwell ?). Spent some time trying for the right shots. On the way back to the Harray Road located and placed on the map the kiln-barn and adjacent mound (HY32931635 and HY330163). Wonder if Bruntquina 'burnt enclosure' field is a reference to (what had been) the 'collection of ancient buildings' that Tufta next door owed its name to. Thought about following the Tufta road up around but opted for the straight deal instead - enough excitement for one day, uncertain weather etc.

Tempted to have another peek at the high point of Germiston. Thought I could add nothing more. Only afterwards, on using CANMAP another time, did I find that Henge now has an NMRS record and an aerial view that shows it to be further upfield than I realised, so that rather than the summit looking westwards over Henge it is almost directly due east !! Because both features are visible. Germiston top is a rough irregular oval whilst Henge is an almost too perfect circle delineated by bright arcs (?water). The photo shows Henge perimeter clipped by the road, but before this road a track ran through the circle. Is it a coincidence that the Sandwick Road formerly ran through the Ring of Brodgar or could there have been a reason to drive animals this way, a fireless Beltane ?? Archaeological research has no finality.

Down at the Refuge junction I turned off into Wasdale. The Slap of Setter was the opening in the boundary dyke seperating Firth from Harray and there are a few interesting erect stones both sides of the road until you get to the end of the Seatter farmroad. Still can't find a name for the ruin at the junction, most annoying. Birds pleeping at me as I neared the loch shore, then one perched on a nearby post. Thought this an over-sized plover at first but soon realsed that it wasnae - something about the beak. Later worked out it were a sandpiper, but even a bird book stuffed full of photos couldn't help me narrow it down and no-one on Orkney Live has said owt. The good thing about the nesting season is that as I walked along the sandpiper let me get quite close before flying off a few more posts away. In fact this was a pair of birds - mostly one parent flirting with me on the roadside fence whilst another one held the shore. Continued in this fashion for a fair while before they left me alone. It seemed to me that the islet was the most exposed I had ever seen it. Remembering that an archaeologist reckoned on there having been an 'apron' it suddenly occured to me that perhaps causeways and 'aprons' go together the way that a broch tower entrance and its guard-cells do. Looking at a photo later the face of a stone in the causeway looked to have moulding. Next photo showed several more, but appearing more geological in appearance, thin strata layers. Not the kind of stones I have come across in Orkney if they are. So are they natural and brought here or are they from the former kirk on the island. Please, oh pretty please.

A gate sits across the next bit of track but the large stone block at the wall end is above this. Obviously meant for a larger, perhaps more ornamental, gate, but could have been re-used from another place it seems to me. Took a few more pictures of the Howe Harper cairn on the hillside above. Still of the opinion that where it is and how it sits very like Cuween or Whiteford Hill tombs. Probably someone else thought that too, hence the ? excavation scar. Though the trail is still deeply rutted at least today the water did not fill them in. Below the low trees there were beautifully underlit clumps of fern with a topping of sunlight. Didn't go through the wood as I had to confirm that there are no signs to prohibit vehicles parking at this end when kie occupy the field by the other. There aren't. Just be sensible. Anyways the farm is a very interesting mix of styles and structiures. From this direction the first thing that hits you is a blue-tinged corrugated iron pyramidion topping a square tower with doorways (I take it) top and bottom. Come to the top of the road and there is another such structure without the blue hue. At the top this one has a small window or slide surmounted by a decorative slab arch. Then comes the long building I noticed before. Below the eaves are two rows of projecting horizontal slabs. Central to these is a blocked-off window, the thin slabs at its bottom 'breaking into' the lower row and having an extra-long lintel across the top. Below all these is a large sliding wood door. Downhill has more normal window spaces and doorways.The downhill end forms part of the entrance into the farm. The end of this building has a a big wide round arched doorway with damn thick walls. And above an oriel window. First thought is stables. The other side of the entrance is a smaller building with a hgh hipped corner which, IIRC, makes it easier for carriages to turn round. Eighteenth or nineteenth century I'd hazard. These are only some of the buildings here. Having taken the edge off my curiosity I continued to the main road and turned left. I reached the bus shelter opposite Baikie's Stores with time to spare.

wideford Posted by wideford
24th July 2013ce

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