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Henge in name only ?

Ah, alone at last. Some time ago a friend informed me that Andrew Appleby (the Harray Potter, once an excavator of cists) had found a possible circle of stones between the Grimeston and Stoneyhill roads. Which is what sparked my interest in the 'Vola' mound. But then earlier this year I attended an Orkney Archaeological Society talk by an Orkney College student [forgive me for not remembering his name, hopefully it will come up in their next newslwetter] on a site called Henge, 80m diameter and cut across one end by the road. Described as little known either it has a different name for the NMRS or another antiquarian one as it rings no bells. Unfortunately I could not identify the place from either photo shown. One of these was of a putative entrance, though without scale the devil's advocate saw a passage into a field across a ditch. If I remember correctly geophysics had located several other interesting features round about.
Luckily my friend Dave Lynn [an ex-Director of the CSA] came to see me a few weeks ago and had visited the site which is where the legend Staney Hill is shown on the 1:25,000 - he said it is by Henge Cottage. When he went water inside clearly defined the ditch, but as to the possible entrance he was of the opinion that this is due to one of the two tracks shown here on the first O.S. [when the present road did not exist].
Armed with the new information I walked the Grimeston road, which is basically a broad U-shape. Coming up the northern leg you come to a T-junction. Here a short stretch of road goes north to the Stoneyhill Road. At the end of it is the field of the 'Feolquoy' mounds with another such to its north and that containing the Staney Hill long cairn to thats north. The field above this short piece [i.e to its east] has the Staney Hill standing stone itself. At this junction the main portion of Henge is in the field on the right, though of course this would have been one with the standing stone field before the'modern' road.
In the near (SW) corner I could see a very well defined feature, a circular bank not many yards across around a flat depression full up with flat stones or slabs. When you are almost at the highest point of Staney Hill there is a very large curving ridge running across, with the supposed entrance a few yards wide clear to see. It is most definitely the line of an old track. Which isn't to say that this could not have been placed along a causeway which its construction destroyed. Turn your eyes to the other side of the road and at the highest point there is a distinct low mound that Dave said would originally have been the place to which all eyes were drawn, rather than the common idea that such heights are for looking down on folk and other sites. Looking downhill/W I could now make out another ridge. This is lower to the ground. Which is another reason to suspect we are dealing with natural features, for one would expect this to be the henge's higher standing section of bank (as with, say, the Hillhead enclosure). The whole of the Staney Hill and Grimeston area is covered with the likes of surviving and dead burns, rocky outcrops, marshy bits. Which would explain why the tracks shown in 1882 are very far from straight. Unfortunately there were several pockets of sheep preventing my closer viewing of the uphill part, and if there is archaeology here it would probably need pointing out by those with the knowledge. At least I now know why there were so few photos - even my sites have to have something to them !
I did, however, investigate the [as it were] 'ringwork'. Definitely in need of a tidy up. As well as the slabs a lot of the central depression is taken up by a part-buried piece of modern machinery. There are a few visible voids, including one I could see inside. Kneeling down for a closer look in this latter there is about a foot of space into which a short piece of the machinery's cable projects. There was a possible large stone forming the bottom. Sticking my hand inside I unprofessionally tried to lift this. It broke in two and seems to be simply a clump of earth.

wideford Posted by wideford
5th June 2009ce
Edited 5th June 2009ce

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