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NEWARK SLIP TO AIKERSKAILL August 31st 2011

Passing over the narrow strip of land seperating St. Andrew's from Deerness at the place where the first road arc gives way to the second on the RH side at the bend is the beginning of two minor roads, taking the right fork (Geo Road) takes you past Delday to the 'new' Newark jetty. Near the fork the remains on your left are of the 19thC farmhouse of Cellardyke [cellar=siller 'silver', as in Siller-a-geo, but could be named for the Fife village] with its barn. We got out at the tiny car park high up above the beach.

Everyone but me stepped gingerly over the rock formation down to the beach. I took the path instead until I came to a rivulet in full spate that brooked no crossing by only inches - the present 1:25,000 shows a ford here but the 1882 25" only shows a watery alembic shape appearing from nothing, no burn or wellspring to mark its start. Trowietown above post-dates the first O.S. and is a 'greenfield' site. The stream flows onto the beach, where it finally became passable by rushing it.

Catching up to the rest as Newark came into view I mentioned that Norse skelly-wegs had been found here. So it was decided to leave the beach and get up onto the track so as to avoid any possibility of seeing the human bones that not infrequently erode out of the cliff-face above the taing of Lee Hamar. I would have loved to find something myself but I am not sure that we could have continued safely over the rocks anyway. The track passes between the buildings that make up the present farm. Just past the ones on the south side are the archaeological remains of a "manor house" and a chapel, including what is described as a souterrain. Unfortunately since my last visit nature has rather taken over the site, so I think my fellow walkers were a little underwhelmed when I pointed it out. It is mostly below ground level and yet stands well, however vegetation now covers the floors and climbs half-way up the walls (whose tops blend into their surroundings a little too well now).
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained" I also pointed out the mound of Quoyburing 'broch enclosure' a.k.a. Howie o' Backland (Backland is the name given to the taing next to Lee Hamar, possibly evidence for greater erosion than currently known of from the Newark chapel - the old Work was perhaps located at the taing) that is split by a farmtrack from Skea to the shore, though this now mostly 'drain' above there. Even on it there is little to see. The biggest piece, and the tallest surviving part, is by the west side of the track. I assume that this is where the excavation of a 3m high wall took place and the broch tower stands. There is a ditch by the north side of this. As the site covers some 0.65 hectares outbuildings are suspected, and I would place these on that part near the east side of the track where there is a pool (though this lowering could always be due to earlier excavation).
I expected us to be going on to the Point of Ayre, but our itinerary was a circular route rather than the linear walk of other guides. And since my last visit a metal gate has been installed across the track by the end of the Aikerskaill Road to control entry to the last section of the latter. Beyond here there are the scant remains of an early mediaeval settlement at Howe Geo. On the 1882 map a very thin nearly N/S rectangle is drawn and a little further east an almost E/W aligned oblong enclosure. Alas the first is much destroyed and the second has become incorporated within the broad track (which surely came after). When I went I took no notice of a line of stones across the track. Then a few yards further on another turned the lightbulb on over my head, so I turned around and the building foundations were very then much evidence, though only one of the walls stood clearly still vertical and several courses high. I could make out the doorway and discern the interior. But could I do so still or has climate change exacted its toll of the stones, obscured by turf as with many another formerly visible site ? In which case even more underwhelming to those I wished to show it, so mebbe best left to my solitary investigations alas.

Instead our route turned left up Aikerskaill Road. Barely have you started on this than it feels as if the road has reared up in front of you like a wall of tarmac. Quite steep then. Once surmounted I realised that this led to Lighthouse, the last stop of the Deerness buses. Hadn't realised Lighthouse corner lay that near. Fortunately before then we turned right onto Quoys Road past Oback (when a 19thC cottage was demolished at Quoys in 1974 very strong evidence for a Norse settlement came to light). To me my first view of Oback looked like a typical old Orcadian school, or at least the building at the western end had that architectural look. In 1882 the track preceding the road went west only went as far as entering Oback, a track coming the other way stopping well short of Oback before both were joined to make the modern road. As I looke along the road I noticed a series of hills on the twilit horizon, drawing my attention. A must-have camera moment. We continued up to the junction with the road from Glenavon and then turned right again, back to Newark. Along the way we were much taken by the array of plants filling a garden fence and growing against it. One some of us felt we recognised, with many-fingered leaves most pleasant to gaze upon, but without flowers we could not put a name to it.

As we headed down the road I saw a large dun bird flying amongst the hollows and hillocks behind Newark. My first thought was whaup. Too dark a brown for curlew though, as though the bird had been dipped in various bark mulches is the best I can describe the plumage. And again the flight wasn't that upward whippoorwhill accompanied rise and long slow glide typical of a whaup. Instead it rose in short flights and then dropped down. Finally I realised this bird was a long-eared owl looking for prey and at last finding it. I have vague recollections that these undulating features covered a settlement. CANMAP only shows the chapel site but Canmore Mapping does have a record 'dot' in the right area. Unfortunately the beta does not have an info button to direct us to that road - I wonder if this could be the 'mystery' dig I was taken to in 1986, would be so good to finally put a name to it. There is a possible mound recorded near Little Cottage, and there are similar features to those behind Newark a little east of south of Little Cottage (in a smaller area though). Could all simply be buried dunes though.

After a slight detour I joined the rest of the party on the beach. The sea had well receded now and I scurried through left behind pools to reach the new tideline. To me this is always the best part of a beach, the limin of old tide and new, province of seabirds and scatty dogs and me (and the occasional shellfisherman oot for spoots [razorshells] ). The jetty is more complicated than I thought. My attempts to climb up it were thwarted by slippery seaweeds. As I went over to a corner I spotted hard into it a small arrangement of triangular stones that must have been put there for just such a predicament. Some followed in my steps whilst others crawled over the batter of the seawall flags. On the cliff there is an art installation comprising two pieces of old machinery. Their shadowed shapes brought to mind an antique Springer sewing machine.
Back in the minibus we decided to go ahead with a meal at the Quoyburray Inn over in Tankerness (close to the St Andrew's Community Centre and the 'Mine Howe road' - I am not sure Mine Howe is open even in the tourist season except by prior arrangement now if a tourist is correct). As evening meals had only just started we had the eating section to ourselves throughout. The cauliflower I found cooked right, neither turned to mush like mine often is or nor barely cooked as at the last place we had been. The windows here provide an unusual view as the inn is sunk into the ground behind so that their bottoms are level with the track.

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wideford Posted by wideford
12th September 2011ce
Edited 12th September 2011ce


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